January 6, 2020
Newsom administration releases long-awaited Water Resilience Portfolio
Three months later than promised, California agencies published the first draft on Friday afternoon of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio. The report details more than 100 policy actions for agencies to take to help the state adapt to changing climates and aging infrastructure.
CDFA, for example, is rebranding its climate-smart programs to help disadvantaged farmers adapt to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and to fund projects to improve soil health for better water retention.
Read our full report on the portfolio at Agri-Pulse.com.
Next: The portfolio’s working group will be taking comments until Feb. 7 (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org) with a final draft released soon thereafter.
Remember: Newsom’s first budget draft is due Friday. This will indicate how the administration will be prioritizing the portfolio’s many potentially costly proposals.
Judge exempts truckers for now from AB 5
A federal judge issued a temporary order on New Year’s Eve, blocking the state from enforcing the new gig-worker law on truck drivers. Passed last year in Assembly Bill 5, the law was to go into effect on Jan. 1 and would have reclassified thousands of independent agricultural haulers as regular farm employees.
The order is the result of an ongoing lawsuit filed in November by the California Truckers Association. The district court will make a decision next week on CTA’s request for a preliminary injunction to continue blocking enforcement while the case is heard.
Western Grower’s Jason Resnick notes that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez wrote that CTA “is likely to prevail” in its argument that AB 5 harms truckers.
DPR offers research grants on chlorpyrifos alternatives
The Department of Pesticide Regulation has set aside more than $1 million to fund up to four projects that can seek out “safer, more sustainable” pest management alternatives to chlorpyrifos. It is taking applications through Feb. 7.
Remember: This is the second round of funding from DPR, a pot totaling $2.1 million altogether. CDFA has also been allocating more than $3 million in grants for IPM strategies.
DPR may not be able to block Malibu’s ban on all pesticides
The city of Malibu approved last month a ban on all pesticides. The city council was seizing on a growing momentum in the state to ban rodenticides to protect coastal mountain lions.
The city cannot preempt the state’s authority to regulate pesticides. Yet activists are seizing on a loophole by engaging the California Coastal Commission on the issue, reports the LA Times. The commission is expected to take up the matter this year.
Remember: DPR is currently reevaluating second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, or SGARs. A bill in the Legislature proposing a statewide ban on SGARs is also expected to return this month. Senator Henry Stern, who represents the Malibu region and co-authored the bill, sent a letter of support for the citywide ban on pesticides.
Senate set to move USMCA
The new year is starting the way the old one wrapped up in the nation’s capital – with trade policy at the top of the agenda for U.S. agriculture.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is set to take another step toward ratification Tuesday morning when the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the House-passed implementing bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hasn’t said when the USMCA measure will be on the Senate floor. But White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday on Fox Business that the full Senate could pass the measure before the end of the week.
"Possibly this week we could actually do some great people's business. Dairy farmers in Wisconsin will rejoice, auto workers in Detroit, everyone in between,” Navarro said.
Take note: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed tough new requirements for trade agreements in her effort to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, expressed strong support for USMCA in an interview with the Boston CBS affiliate station. That’s a sharp break from Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent also vying for the Democratic nomination.
For more about USMCA and what’s on this week’s agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead.
Farm groups appeal to Senate for H-2A fix
A coalition of farm groups is pleading with Senate leaders to take up legislation to slow down increases in H-2A wage rates and to make H-2A workers eligible for year-round employment.
A letter that the Agriculture Workforce Coalition sent to Senate leaders makes no mention of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which the House passed in December. That bill would freeze H-2A wage rates for one year and cap subsequent increases. But the American Farm Bureau Federation is a member of the Ag Workforce coalition and didn’t support the House bill, in part because of provisions that would allow H-2A workers to challenge their employers in court.
Keep in mind: Senators say a standalone ag labor bill has little chance of getting anywhere in that chamber. But Paul Schlegel, vice president of public affairs for AFBF, says there could be a path to passing ag labor legislation depending on how the Supreme Court rules in a pending case involving the Trump administration’s effort to shut down the DACA program.
Schlegel thinks the ruling could spur Senate interest in finding a compromise on the DACA issue and provide a legislative vehicle for passing an ag labor bill. The Obama-era DACA program allows people who were brought to the country illegally as children to stay in the U.S.
USDA sets changes in easement program
USDA has made a series of changes in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to implement new requirements of the 2018 farm bill. The modifications include provisions allowing USDA to waive the $900,000 adjusted gross income limit for participation in the program.
A waiver from the means test was written into the program in the 2008 farm bill but removed by Congress in 2014.
Other changes include allowing water management practices on wetlands easements enrolled through ACEP. And landowners who want to graze cattle on a wetlands easement will have to follow a grazing management plan.
An interim final rule implementing the changes in ACEP is being published in the Federal Register today, kicking off a 60-day comment period.
He said it:
“Globally, sustainability discussions do not start in California.” – UC Davis Professor Frank Mitloehner in an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview.
Mitloehner explained he has seen many initiatives start in Northern Europe and spread across the continent before jumping to California and then to Washington, Oregon and eventually to the nation’s capital.
Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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