December 13, 2019
US and China reportedly reach trade deal
Farmers across the country today will be eagerly looking for details of the partial trade agreement President Donald Trump has reached with China. “We’re having a very exciting month in Washington D.C.,” the president said as he arrived at a congressional ball Thursday night shortly after he reportedly signed off on the deal.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was in the White House Thursday to talk to President Trump about China, just hours after Trump tweeted that the two countries were “very close” to a deal.
The White House had been pressuring China to make hard commitments to substantially increase purchases of U.S. farm commodities, but there was no word from the White House on what the Chinese had agreed to.
John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association, issued a statement calling news of the deal “a welcome sign of progress as we continue to build and strengthen trade equitable relationships across the globe.”
The advocacy group Farmers for Free Trade greeted the news cautiously.
“For farmers this could either be the first ray of hope or another empty promise. Farmers want sustained access to China’s market, not one-time purchases, so it will be critical to see how the retaliatory tariffs that have crippled farm exports are treated in this agreement,” said Brian Kuehl, the group’s co-executive director.
Keep in mind: Trump said in October that China had promised to buy as much as $50 billion in U.S. farm commodities.
FDA traces romaine outbreak to one Salinas grower
A widespread E.coli outbreak in romaine lettuce that sickened 102 people in 23 states has been traced back to a grower in Salinas, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA, along with California agencies and the Centers for Disease Control, are now investigating several ranches used by the grower to identify the source of contamination. It has not released the name of the grower.
Outbreaks from different E.coli strains have also occurred in Washington state from romaine lettuce and in both the U.S. and Canada from chopped salad kits.
CDFA sued over dairy quotas
A group called STOP QIP filed a lawsuit in state court last week requesting a halt to fee collections for CDFA’s Quota Implementation Program (QIP). The suit claims CDFA cannot collect the taxes because it did not hold a public hearing before adopting the program.
Remember: In July, STOP QIP had begun a collaborative process with the industry to find a solution. The goal was a new system that would neither interfere with the federal order nor make the current quota obsolete.
In 2018, as the state joined the Federal Milk Marketing Order, QIP replaced the original program begun 50 years ago.
California farmers get USDA funding for solar, biogas
USDA has awarded $7.6 million to farmers, producers and other rural businesses through its Rural Energy for American Program.
The program funded 12 projects in California, including more than $200,000 each to Alamo Farms in Modesto and David Santos Farming in Banos to install solar arrays. Loma Linda Vineyards received $25,000 for a solar project.
More than $230,000 is going to Five H Dairy Biogas for a biogas facility with an anerobic digester. In January, CDFA funded $1.9 million for a pipeline to deliver biomethane from the Five H digester to a natural gas fueling station and a PG&E network.
Almond work group revises forecasting
Earlier in the growing year, an industry estimate predicted an almond crop as high as 2.6 billion in pounds. In July, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported it would be closer to 2.2 billion pounds. Blue Diamond Vice President of International Sales Warren Cohen said the variance was a “surprise to the industry” and “the largest we’ve seen.”
The discrepancy impacted prices, and Almond Board CEO Richard Waycott said it had caused a lot of consternation in the marketplace. The most recent report puts the number somewhere in between the two estimates, he said.
To tackle the problem, ABC assembled a work group to collaborate with NASS experts on improving the methodology, sampling size and practices. This week, the board approved three recommendations to improve the accuracy and transparency of the process for next year.
Oncologist Hahn gets nod as FDA commissioner
Cancer doctor Stephen Hahn has sailed to confirmation as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration by a 72-18 vote.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Hahn offered few clues as to where he would land as commissioner on products such as e-cigarettes and CBD, but did commit to being guided in his decisions by “data, science and law.”
Read more about Hahn's confirmation on the Agri-Pulse website.
Skipwith confirmed to USFWS
A former Monsanto scientist has been confirmed as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, despite opposition from most Democrats.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is currently the deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Interior Department, served as a sustainable agriculture partnership manager and as a molecular analyst at Monsanto from 2006 to 2012.
Her confirmation by a 52-39 vote was met with praise from ag groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NCBA President Jennifer Houston said Skipwith “possesses a keen understanding of industry and science and recognizes the value ranching brings to wildlife conservation.”
But the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Tom Carper, said Skipwith refused to provide him information about her work at Interior. Her “lack of candor has elevated questions that already existed about her qualifications and her commitment to environmental conservation,” he said.
FCC backs mental health crisis hotline
Stressed farmers will soon have a number to call when seeking help for mental health.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to move forward Thursday with a proposed rule to designate the 3-digit number 988 as the new nationwide number for a mental health crisis hotline.
She said it:
“Farmers face uncertainty due to ridiculous laws being passed by Democrats in Sacramento, unreasonable lawsuits between Gov. Newsom and the federal administration and activists pushing fake facts about the food we eat.” – State Sen. Shannon Grove in an op-ed for the Bakersfield Californian advocating for USMCA.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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