November 19, 2019
State sends aid to farmworkers hit by wildfires and outages
The California Employment Department yesterday awarded $800,000 in emergency assistance to a nonprofit group to help farmworkers impacted by recent wildfires and power outages. The group, La Cooperativa Campesina de California, is targeting its outreach to 5,000 farmworkers dislocated by the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County.
The grant will “enable them to get back to work in locally in-demand industries,” according to Department Director Patrick Henning.
$7 million goes to nutrition credits for farmers markets
USDA awarded a $7.2-million grant to CDFA yesterday to fund its nutrition incentives for farmers markets, along with other small retailers. The CDFA program works through CalFresh, California’s version of a food stamp program, and offers incentives to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables. With this grant, the program will match every CalFresh dollar spent.
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said she was honored to have CDFA awarded the grant for the second time “to help continue this good work.”
On that note: USDA is also seeking to fill seats on its Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. Current members from California represent dried plums, organic vegetables, potatoes, food distributors and a diversified farm.
State committee highlights blockchain technology in food safety
A working group tasked with assessing the risks and benefits of blockchain technology is looking for “low-hanging fruit” to develop into a pilot project for the state.
Yesterday the group announced it has identified key themes for its upcoming report to the Legislature. Among them is to support current efforts in supply chain management for agriculture, particularly with organic certification and labeling.
“This is a good opportunity for California given the importance of agriculture,” the group reported in its summary of stakeholder interviews.
It cites a blockchain project by Walmart and IBM to trace leafy greens from growers to distributors to retailers. The technology has potential for the wine and cannabis industries as well, notes the group. It also acknowledges the “sheer magnitude for implementation” of a system to track contamination “may be too ambitious for an early-stage pilot.”
What is it? Blockchain is a way to securely and instantly share specific data among a number of stakeholders.
CARB's AB 617 plan has set a seven-mile protective radius around the City of Shafter.
CARB looks to Coachella Valley for next air quality project
Staff from the Air Resources Board (CARB) are recommending the eastern Coachella Valley for the next site in an ambitious environmental justice program established by AB 617. A CARB report released last week says the disadvantaged communities here suffer from “a high cumulative exposure burden.”
This comes from construction and dusty roads, as well as pesticide application and agricultural burning, according to the staff. The report notes that 27 percent of the land here is agricultural. If the board approves the recommendation, the incentives-based program would complement existing efforts to tackle the unhealthy dust emanating from the receding Salton Sea.
The report is also recommending urban communities in Stockton and Los Angeles.
Remind me: The state is expanding on targeted emission reduction programs in Shafter and Fresno. As part of this, CARB is investing $50 million annually on a broad range of incentives, which include low-dust almond harvesters and electric irrigation pumps.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren
Ag labor bill set to move
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled debate for tomorrow on the bipartisan ag labor bill that would expand the H-2A visa program to cover year-round workers and reform the wage rates.
The lead sponsor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, is expected to argue for protecting the bill from significant amendments. And there are certain to be attacks on the bill from the GOP side, since the bill would provide a path to legal status for existing farm workers.
The lead GOP sponsor, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, tells Agri-Pulse he’s working to get as much Republican support as possible in the House. He hopes that will spur the GOP-controlled Senate to take up the bill. “A lot of people (GOP House members) are very interested in it,” he said.
Keep in mind: The American Farm Bureau Federation has yet to endorse the bill, and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., is going to introduce a competing bill that could siphon off GOP support.
On Monday, more than 300 national, state and local organizations sent a letter in support of the bill to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
China calls US trade talks ‘constructive’
The U.S. and China are still negotiating a partial “phase one” trade deal after President Donald Trump had said he hoped to have the pact sewn up, but the talks are “constructive,” China’s Commerce Department said in a report from China Daily, a state-run media outlet.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, at the behest of the White House, spoke Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the phone.
Trump predicted that China will be buying $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. ag commodities annually as a result of the trade pact, but details have not yet been released.
Dem candidates to be grilled on organic ag
Democratic presidential candidates have been paying unusual attention to rural and agricultural issues during the campaign in a bid to win Iowa’s caucuses. And many of the candidates are now slated to appear at a forum focused on organic and regenerative agriculture next month near Ames, Iowa.
He said it:
“Who in the hell designed your system?” – State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, sharing his frustrations over planned power shutoffs with PG&E CEO William Johnson, in a lengthy joint legislative hearing yesterday.
Bill Tomson, Spencer Chase and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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