January 31, 2020

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Calling pesticides cancerous, Becerra criticizes EPA change to exclusion zones
The U.S. EPA announced in October a proposal to limit application exclusion zones (AEZs) to the farmer’s property.
Yesterday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined six other states in a comment letter to EPA, arguing the policy change would have disproportionate and adverse effects on minority and low-income populations. In his statement, Becerra said agriculture is “among the most hazardous industries” and blamed pesticides for a long list of ailments, from birth defects to skin irritation and blood cancers.
The AEZs include buffers of 100 feet for aerial spraying and 25 feet for ground applications. EPA said it was too difficult for growers to ascertain who might be affected off of their property.
Keep in mind: Becerra said he was seeking to protect California farmworkers. Yet the Department of Pesticide Regulations already enforces the state’s own AEZ regulations, regardless of federal policy.

Corcoran suit against dairy for $65 million draws pleas from farmers
The San Joaquin Valley city of Corcoran alleges Curtimade Dairy has been leeching nitrates into the groundwater from its unlined lagoons. Corcoran filed a suit in December seeking $65 million in damages.
The legal action came as tensions escalated following the Central Valley Water Board’s attempt to moderate a compromise between the parties. Board scientists could not determine the dairy was solely responsible for nitrates in the water. The board's dairy waste discharge regulations date back to 2007.
During a city council meeting this week, more than a dozen dairy farmers defended the dairy, fearing they could be next, according to ABC 30. The Curtimade Dairy is closely tied to the community, having been founded by Italian immigrants more than a century ago. The council later released a statement saying the contamination “should not be the responsibility of the taxpayer.”
Western United Dairies CEO Anja Raudabaugh argued in an op-ed last year that litigation over this would be expensive and unnecessary. She instead pointed to the state’s new $130-million annual fund dedicated to cleaning up drinking water.
In boost to Bayer, EPA defends glyphosate safety
EPA is formally reasserting its earlier finding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is unlikely to cause cancer in humans and is, if applied according to the label, safe to use.
An interim decision issued by the agency will likely turn out to be EPA’s final word on human health and ecological effects before it officially re-registers glyphosate.
Keep in mind: The action comes at a critical point in negotiations between lawyers representing thousands of plaintiffs who allege exposure to Roundup caused their cancers and lawyers for Roundup registrant Bayer, which is defending itself from the lawsuits.
The news would appear to strengthen Bayer’s hand in negotiations. But EPA’s conclusion on glyphosate may not fit neatly into discussions over the company’s liability for Roundup exposure, which includes claims of failure-to-warn and negligence.
By the way: EPA followed up its glyphosate announcement yesterday with another one on five widely used neonicotinoid pesticides. The agency’s preliminary decisions include mitigation measures to reduce the risk to bees.

FCC adopts $20.4B funding plan to boost rural broadband
The FCC is charging ahead with a $20.4 billion plan creating a two-phase reverse auction to build out rural broadband systems over the next decade. But the agency has yet to set a firm timeline for when the first auction will take place.
All three Republican commissioners voted in favor of the plan, while the two Democrats supported it with reservations. The Democrats say they understand the need for access to rural broadband but argue the agency should move forward with the plan once the broadband data maps more accurately depict who is and who isn’t being served already.
“This is not the broadband plan we need,” said one commissioner. “It is not guided by data. It is guided by a desire to rush out the door, claim credit, and pronounce our nation’s broadband problem solved.”
Keep in mind: USDA has the ReConnect program for broadband infrastructure, which is accepting applications for another round of funding beginning today. 
New position limits divide trading commission
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is moving forward with new position limits and trader exemptions despite strong pushback from Democrats. The new proposal, which the commission’s GOP-appointed majority advanced on a 3-2 vote Thursday, reflects the sharp divisions that have surrounded the issue since passage of the Dodd-Frank law a decade ago.
He said it:
“Cattle are not and have never been the problem. It’s how people have mismanaged cattle over time that’s the real trouble.” - Eric Firpo, co-owner of an organic produce market in Stockton, arguing in an op-ed for CalMatters that ranchers should be blamed for overgrazing and climate change, instead of cows.

Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.

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