February 18, 2020
Amidst a flurry of new bills are measures on broadband, olive oil and sustainable ag
California lawmakers have begun what is sure to be another marathon round of new bills in the Legislature ahead of a Friday deadline. Among more than 700 bills introduced to date are a handful related to agriculture.
Assembly Bill 2163 proposes a grant program aimed at equipping fairgrounds with broadband infrastructure for disaster response needs. These rural facilities are increasingly used as staging grounds for fires and other disasters.
Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a coauthor on that bill, has also introduced a bill setting requirements on olive oil products claiming to be made in California. The wine industry has long maintained such truth in advertising standards to protect the California brand, and the cannabis industry last year ushered in a similar measure for the county level.
Another Northern California lawmaker, Sen. Bill Dodd has reintroduced a bill from last year to develop incentives grants for sustainable farming. He told Agri-Pulse in 2019: “It’s just really important to have an ag conservation incentive for farmers who do the right thing and provide these critical habitats to birds and fish and wildlife.”
Another grant program is being proposed in SB 1012, which is aimed at preserving agricultural lands.
Keep in mind: Last year, the “bill factory” produced nearly 2,000 bills ahead of that deadline, while introducing many more throughout the legislative year through a process known as gut and fill or by waiving the rules on popular bills.
On that note: The Legislature is expected to pass an ambitious recycling bill targeting single-use packaging, with Gov. Newsom ready to sign. Yet the fresh berry industry is staying ahead of the regulatory curve by announcing last week it plans to incorporate 100% recycle-ready packaging into its products by 2025. The coalition includes the California Strawberry Commission as well as Mexican and South American exporters.
CalEPA boosts spending by 75%, as other states trim budgets
A recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group, found that over the last decade, 30 states have reduced their funding for pollution control programs at environmental agencies. Yet California was the exception, increasing the CalEPA budget from $2.4 to $4.2 billion during that time, while adding more than 1,200 new staff.
The largest area of CalEPA growth was in recycling programs, following a sweeping new law. The report also notes the budget for the Air Resources Board grew by 10% during that time, likely due to the implementation of the state’s cap-and-trade program. The State Water Board also grew by 20% to $1.2 billion today.
CCM President Casey Creamer
Citrus industry shares grievances with Trump administration
California Citrus Mutual President Casey Creamer held meetings this month with top U.S. trade and agriculture officials to discuss challenges for the industry.
Navel orange sales were down 36% in 2019 compared to the prior three-year average, while this year is already starting much lower than in 2019, according to CCM. Grower returns are well below the cost of production.
Administration officials Creamer communicated with said they will ensure China sticks to its commitment in the new Phase 1 agreement, which became effective on Friday. China’s tariff reductions, however, amounted to just 5% for citrus, with the total from tariffs and taxes now adding up to 65%.
Conaway: Third round of MFP likely
The top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway, says that the Trump administration will likely authorize a 2020 round of Market Facilitation Program payments despite telling farmers not to count on one.
Take note: House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, who met with the industry on Friday, indicated that USDA may not have the funding authority to make another round of payments without action by Congress.
The outgoing president of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, thinks the Trump administration is likely to repeat the MFP this year for political reasons. Johnson is also betting that MFP won’t be repeated in 2021. “I doubt very much you’re going to see it next year. And that will be a really, really big challenge … for agriculture to deal with.”
Farm groups to announce climate initiative
Congress is out this week, but there will be plenty going on in the nation’s capital, starting tomorrow. The American Farm Bureau Federation and major commodity groups will be announcing the formation of Farmers for a Sustainable Future.
The initiative, which has the backing of 21 organizations, is aimed at giving farmers a voice in the development of climate policy.
Bayer facing another huge herbicide award
Bayer is vowing to appeal the $265 million jury award against it and BASF for dicamba damage to a Missouri peach farm if it cannot successfully overturn the verdict through post-trial motions.
Don Downing, who leads the plaintiff’s team in multi-district dicamba litigation, said the trial is a “good indication” of how other juries might rule in similar cases.
On that note: AG Files Amicus Brief in Monsanto Lawsuit
Taiwan trade complications show coronavirus impact
U.S. exporters are having a difficult time shipping fruit, vegetables, tree nuts, wine, meat and other commodities to Taiwan, showing how coronavirus quarantines, port closures and suspended cargo flights around the world are tying up the complex web of international trade, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.
Seven of the world’s 10 largest container ports are in China, and countries are increasingly imposing lengthy quarantines on ships that have traveled to China.
She said it:
“Stay engaged with social justice, with environmental justice…and with the farmworker community…to help all of us come to the same baseline of understanding and agreement of what we want to work for towards our future.” – CDFA Sec. Karen Ross, with advice for the ag community as it faces scrutiny over chemical pesticides. Ag Council President Emily Rooney interviewed Ross in a new episode of their podcast.
Sara Wyant (in Bonita Springs, Fla.), Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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