November 8, 2019
Daybreak will not be published on Monday in observance of Veteran’s Day.
Solar and wind free up more water for farmers
The tradeoff for adding more wind and solar to California’s Renewables Portfolio is that less demand for hydroelectric power means less water for those facilities and more water for irrigation. Scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis published the finding this week in Nature Communications.
That extra surface water “will enhance drought resilience and benefit groundwater sustainability and therefore will create added value to both energy and food production,” said the lead author in a news release.
Remember: Earlier this year, Sen. Anna Caballero introduced a bill to include two hydropower projects in the Portfolio. If it had passed, the measure would have removed the requirement for those districts to purchase outside solar power. Caballero argued the bill would have provided lower rates for disadvantaged communities.
“We all want to get off of dirty energy sources,” said Caballero. “But hydro is not one of those dirty energy sources.”
Feds decide not to list California spotted owl as endangered
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded yesterday the California spotted owl does not require protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. After reviewing the owl’s habitat throughout the Sierra Nevada, researchers found the species is not in danger of extinction and is not likely to be in the foreseeable future. The service said it is still partnering on habitat conservation efforts.
Responding in a statement, Pamela Flick of Defenders of Wildlife said she was disappointed in the Trump administration because “politics prevailed over science.” Susan Britting, director of Sierra Forest Legacy, said the service bowed to pressure from industry and now “this species is headed toward extinction.” The environmental groups had petitioned the service in 2015 to list the owl as endangered.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife considers the owl a species of special concern, which does not carry legal protections but does bring funding for conservation and research. The northern spotted owl, however, remains protected under federal and state Endangered Species Acts.
White House OKs 2nd round of MFP
The checks should be in the mail soon. The White House has approved another round of Market Facilitation Program payments, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the money should go out to farmers later this month or in early December.
This will be the second tranche of payments under this year’s version of MFP, which ties payments to county estimates of trade impact.
Perdue says the pending trade deal with China could make additional payments unnecessary. The amount of Chinese purchasing under discussion “would be very beneficial to agricultural producers and we’re hopeful that trade would supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020 in that regard,” Perdue told reporters Thursday.
Keep in mind: There’s new optimism coming out of Beijing that negotiators will succeed in wrapping up the proposed “phase one” deal with China. China’s Commerce Ministry said U.S. and Chinese negotiators have agreed to eliminate some tariffs as negotiations continue.
Take note: Trade barriers already are falling ahead of a deal. USDA is publishing a final rule today to allow Chinese processors to export chicken to the U.S. Meanwhile, Bloomberg is reporting that China is preparing to lift its four-year ban on U.S. chicken.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsay Graham
Graham: Ag labor can’t stand alone
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says an ag labor bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate unless it’s part of broader immigration legislation. “I don’t think you get enough buy-in” to pass a standalone bill, he tells Agri-Pulse.
That’s always been a major barrier to passing legislative fixes for the H-2A visa program: Lawmakers will want to address a range of other immigration issues, all of which carry political baggage.
Why it matters: The House is expected to take up the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the coming days, but it doesn’t have support from the White House yet, and Graham’s remark suggests it doesn’t have much of a future in the Senate either.
Billionaire Bill Gates was on Capitol Hill meeting with senators about climate change.
The climate challenge: Dramatic crop improvements needed
A report published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature warns that addressing climate change and other crop stresses will require dramatic improvements in crop breeding. And getting better crop varieties to market will mean developing and commercializing innovative technologies much the way vaccines and other innovations are developed in modern medicine.
The scientists who wrote the report lay out a variety of improvements that will be needed but warn that it takes far too long to get a new crop trait from the lab into the market.
“It is critical that the specific method used for crop improvement does not stymie the implementation of safe and effective solutions. Non-politicized regulatory systems are essential for scientific advances to scale to farmers within the timeframe needed,” the report says.
Wanted: Ag advisers for EPA
EPA is looking for 20 to 30 people to serve on its Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee.
The agency is looking for members from farm groups, rural suppliers, marketers, processors, academia/researchers; state, local, and tribal government; and nongovernmental organizations. The committee will meet twice a year and members will serve terms of two to three years.
The topics the committee could address include food waste, water or air quality issues, pesticides, toxics, enforcement and compliance and technology and innovation, according to the notice asking for submissions by Dec. 31.
The committee has been inactive since 2016.
EPA Associate Administrator and Agriculture Advisor to the Administrator Tate Bennett tells Agri-Pulse the application process is easy. All that’s needed is a statement of interest and a resume. A letter of recommendation is optional.
USDA lawyer defends hemp testing
USDA’s top attorney told an audience of lawyers the department is eager to review comments on its interim final rule on hemp. “We are not going to get everything right the first time,” said USDA General Counsel Stephen Vaden. “That’s why it’s an interim rule.”
Speaking to members of the American Agricultural Law Association on Thursday, Vaden said he thought states could meet a requirement in the rule that hemp be tested 15 days before harvest. Hemp industry advocates say that may not be enough time to get samples to laboratories for THC testing.
State testing requirements vary from two weeks to 30 days before harvest, and USDA thought 30 days was too long before harvest to do the testing. “We believe that states should be able to meet this 15-day requirement without too much difficulty,” he said.
Take note: Comments on the rule are due by Dec. 30.
He said it:
“Unless we're being limited to growing five or ten acres, growing this crop on a larger scale is going to be extremely difficult.” - Nicholas Owen, a northern California farmer, speaking at a CDFA Hemp Advisory Board meeting this week. Owen said CDFA’s current 30-day testing requirement is already difficult, since hemp is labor-intensive and labs are backed up for five days or more during harvest.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies, Ben Nuelle and Ed Maixner (in Tucson) contributed to this report.
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