November 1, 2019
California organic grower stresses labor issue to Congress
During a subcommittee hearing this week, organic growers relayed the challenges they are facing with fraud, regulatory hurdles and the transition from conventional, though labor remains the top issue.
Grimmway Farms President Jeff Huckaby said, “Immigration, labor, a solid labor pool is everything for us… But that workforce is aging out and we are having a tougher time replacing those workers.” Grimmway, one of the world’s largest organic companies, farms in seven states, including 50,000 acres in California. Huckaby told Agri-Pulse in May the state regulatory costs have grown so large that the company has considered leaving California.
Huckaby also told Congress products brought into the U.S. don’t always face the same regulatory scrutiny and “have a tendency to not play by the rules.”
He urged Congress to also work with USDA to create a stronger subsidy program enticing farmers to move to organic.
Read the full report on the hearing at Agri-Pulse.com.
Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic
Food and Ag Board to discuss the future of California’s ag economy
After months on the road for listening sessions for the governor’s Water Portfolio, the State Food and Ag Board is back in Sacramento Tuesday to discuss the agricultural outlook for the next three decades. UC Davis Professor Daniel Sumner will share insights on the “the economic drivers that will help to shape the future of agriculture and what that means for our rural communities,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said in a news release.
In June, Sumner testified to the state Legislature about the deep tariff impacts on California agriculture and raised concerns about farmworkers, whom he called “the most vulnerable people in the California economy.”
The board will also hear updates to CDFA’s fraught cannabis licensing program and about potential opportunities to partner with the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance on sustainability initiatives.
CDFA will livestream the hearing.
Look to the soil, committee told
House lawmakers who are searching for ways farmers can help address climate change are focusing on the potential benefits of increasing soil carbon.
“Soils store two to three times more CO2 than the atmosphere and two to five times more carbon than that stored in vegetation,” Jennifer Moore-Kucera, a climate expert with American Farmland Trust, told the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis at a hearing.
Another witness, Tina Owens, director of agriculture at Danone North America, put it this way after the hearing: “Soil health is central to climate change mitigation.”
But the witnesses and panel members also emphasized the need for reliable metrics to accurately measure reductions in ag emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide.
What’s next: A House committee that’s focused on climate change issues is accepting comments until Nov. 22 to help it craft recommendations for Congress by March. Asked after the hearing how large a role agriculture would play in those recommendations, committee chair Kathy Castor of Florida said, “Stay tuned.”
Organic group makes case for reinstating livestock regs
The Organic Trade Association is asking a federal judge to force USDA to reinstate animal welfare standards that the Trump administration withdrew. The industry group says in a brief filed Thursday that USDA underestimated the benefits and inflated the costs of the rule that was released shortly before then-President Obama left office.
USDA “has inconsistently and opportunistically framed the costs and benefits of the OLPP” and failed to “meaningfully consider” the rule’s myriad benefits, OTA argues.
OTA also went after USDA for not consulting with the National Organic Standards Board before rescinding the rule, which was finalized the day before Donald Trump took office.
Briefing in the case is due to be completed by Jan. 28.
Keep in mind: There was significant opposition to the rule among farm groups, especially among many organic egg producers. They argued that the outdoor access requirements were impractical.
Mexico's Jesús Seade
Mexican negotiator encouraged by Pelosi
Mexico’s top North American negotiator, Jesús Seade, says he’s optimistic the White House and lawmakers can reach an agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement before Thanksgiving. Seade was basing his outlook on conversations this week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer.
Seade told reporters he sat down for two hours Thursday morning with Lighthizer and conversed privately with Pelosi Wednesday night.
Speaking about Pelosi, he said, “She gave me a positive message: ‘We hope to see this come to a conclusion soon.’”
Seade said he responded simply by saying, “That’s great to hear.”
But Seade cautions against assuming Mexico will sign off
Even after the House Democrats and the White House reach an agreement on USMCA, Canada and Mexico will still have to agree to the alterations to the deal, and that might not be a quick process.
“Whatever resolution they come to, it’s in the nature of a proposal for Canada’s and Mexico’s consideration,” Seade said. “It’s a complicated exercise.”
Getting Mexico, which has already ratified USMCA, to sign off on any changes may be quick and easy, or it may take much longer, Seade said. If something is not deemed beneficial for Mexico, the country could simply say, “No way,” he warned.
“We cannot just re-open anything that may not be acceptable,” Seade said. “We don’t want to create expectations that everything is going to happen in a few days.”
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., talks to congressional staff and media about the USMCA at a breakfast sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the National Association of Wheat Growers.
Dems urged to use USMCA to show they’re on the job
Some farm groups say Democrats should use the USMCA to show voters they can work with Republicans despite moving forward with impeachment procedures.
“In this very partisan tumultuous time, I think it’s an opportunity to demonstrate we can still govern and be a reliable trading partner to our two largest export markets, Canada and Mexico,” said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers and a former Democratic congressional staffer.
By the way: House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey broke from their party and voted Thursday not to move forward with with the impeachment process. Trump won both of their districts in 2016.
Peterson has said he’s going to run for re-election in 2020, and his races have been getting increasingly tight. Last year, he won re-election by 52% to 48%.
She said it:
“The documents haven’t disappeared. They’re just no longer on our website.” – Karen Morrison, assistant director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Morrison was answering concerns at a July meeting about regulatory documents no longer available to the public as DPR updates its website. An industry rep said he had to go through a formal public information request for each specific document. The SacBee reported yesterday that millions of documents have gone missing from other agency websites as well, as the state slowly comes into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hannah Pagel, Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.