March 9, 2020
Tariffs drop California shipments, as coronavirus likely adds to reductions
Agricultural shipments out of California ports were down 5% in January from the year before due to tariff impacts, according to the latest report by Beacon Economics. The state exported $3.9 billion in agricultural products that month.
The founder of the consulting firm, Christopher Thornberg, cautioned that the data precedes the panic over the COVID-19 outbreak. He said “at this point there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and frankly no clear answers,” about the full economic impact.
The bright side is that non-manufactured agricultural products and raw materials were up nearly 2%.
Import volume to Los Angeles ports, meanwhile, was down 25% last month likely due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the LAist. This led to job assignments for dock workers being cut by 50%.
Asm. Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield
New bill ties grant program to Regions Rise Together initiative
Assemblymember Rudy Salas of Bakersfield has introduced a bill aimed at helping Central Valley regions address economic challenges. Assembly Bill 3205 would offer a grant program through the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to help local government, private businesses, nonprofits and philanthropy work together on regional initiatives.
Salas said the bill would “tackle the barriers that prevent inland California from experiencing the health and prosperity our Golden State experiences in other regions.”
The bill is tied to Newsom’s Regions Rise Together initiative, while also dovetailing with Fresno’s D.R.I.V.E Initiative for local economic development.
Ashley Swearengin, president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, told the State Board of Food and Ag last month the aim is of the Fresno initiative is to build on its existing $7-billlion ag industry.
“Do we diversify away from agriculture? No,” she said, explaining how the initiative seeks to add new technologies and investments to improve these opportunities.
IN NATIONAL NEWS…
Coronavirus delays USDA trade mission
Morocco was the first of several countries that USDA Trade Undersecretary Ted McKinney rattled off recently when talking about plans for trade missions this year. Now it’s the first to be postponed due to the spread of coronavirus around the world, as plans for public gatherings and events here and abroad are being scuttled.
“Following the detection of the coronavirus in Morocco earlier this week, USDA’S Foreign Agricultural Service is postponing its scheduled March 16-19 trade mission to the country,” the agency said in a statement. “The World Health Organization is advising the public to avoid traveling to affected countries and the Moroccan government has suspended all events involving international participants.”
Advocates say coronavirus underscores need for rural broadband
As more companies, schools and government offices consider telecommuting due to the coronavirus, broadband stakeholders say it is critical, now more than ever, to have access to high-speed internet in rural areas.
“If you’re in a community that has spotty broadband, or let’s say schools wind up closing, a lot of kids in these communities don’t have broadband access at home,” NTCA – Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield tells Agri-Pulse.
By the way: The Department of Agriculture, Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration submitted a report to Congress Friday on rural broadband deployment coordination efforts, which is mandated by the 2018 farm bill.
Ex-DHS official indicted for allegedly stealing employees’ personal information
A former acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security and a former subordinate have been indicted for allegedly stealing personal information of about 250,000 DHS employees, as part of a scheme to defraud the federal government.
The Justice Department says Charles Edwards and Murali Venkata planned to use the data to enhance Homeland Security case management software, then resell it to other government agencies.
USDA’s Office of Inspector General expressed interest in the software in late 2015, but it appears from court papers the alleged co-conspirators were never able to come up with a final product to sell before Edwards’ home was searched, uncovering evidence of the scheme.
Perdue faces busy week on Hill
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has made it a major priority of his tenure to provide some flexibility in school nutrition standards imposed by the Obama administration. He’ll face an appreciative audience this afternoon when he headlines the School Nutrition Association’s annual legislative conference in Washington.
Perdue will be on Capitol Hill twice this week, where he’s likely to face a lot of questions once again about prospects for the farm economy and the administration’s Market Facilitation Program. He appears before the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday and the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday.
For more on this week’s agenda in the nation’s capital, read our Washington Week Ahead.
He said it:
“If there's a need to stimulate the economy as a result of the coronavirus, I am sure that infrastructure is a priority for the president.” - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a member of the Trump Administration's coronavirus task force.
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