March 20, 2020
Farmers work as the rest of California takes shelter
In a press conference yesterday, Gov. Newsom said his administration projects more than half of all Californians, 25.5 million people, could become infected with the COVID-19 virus over the next two months. He said some estimates are as high as 70% of the state.
Newsom then issued a statewide order for all Californians to stay home, but said he hoped not to have to enforce the measure.
In a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Newsom requested the president send in the Navy. Specifically, he asked to send a hospital ship to Los Angeles to ease the workload of hospitals. Newsom said the metropolitan area will be “disproportionately impacted” in its number of cases.
L.A. and its low-income workers will also be hit hard by a subsequent recession, according to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California yesterday. It showed L.A. has the largest number of poor or near-poor Californians.
Homeland Security acts to protect ag
Farm groups are welcoming new criteria from the Department of Homeland Security for designating the agriculture and food sector as “critical infrastructure” in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Employees who count as essential run the gamut from those in grocery stores and restaurant carry-out to processing plants, farms, food testing labs, government agencies and chemical and equipment manufacturers and distributors.
Why it matters: Among other things, this will help ensure these employees can get to their jobs during shelter-in-place orders. Read more here.
Ag groups push for authorization of direct aid
Negotiations on a massive new stimulus package are taking a new step today after Senate Republicans released their legislative proposal late Thursday evening. Democrats were quick to criticize the plan as inadequate.
The centerpiece of the GOP package is the promise of $1,200 per-person payments that phase out after $75,000 of income.
Keep in mind: There’s little in the plan specifically for agriculture. But with market prices continuing to decline for some commodities, pressure is growing on Congress to clear the way for another round of Market Facilitation Program payments or other aid.
Sources tell Agri-Pulse that lawmakers are working with USDA on a temporary increase in its Commodity Credit Corp. spending limit to $50 billion, up from $30 billion, which would enable another round of MFP payments.
But that limit increase is more likely to be included in a supplemental appropriations bill coming down the pike, rather than the stimulus package, sources say.
Farm groups ranging from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to the National Cotton Council support raising the CCC limit.
Take note: The scale of what Congress is being asked to do cannot be overstated. A separate request from business groups, including many in ag, is calling for the government to extend unsecured credit to businesses of all sizes – and to suspend all business tax collections.
Read the GOP plan here.
Restaurant industry warns of $225B in potential losses
The National Restaurant Association is warning that a quarter of the industry’s entire revenue, about $225 billion, will be lost if establishments close for three months. The association was requesting aid from the $1 trillion economic stimulus package under discussion in Congress.
It also estimates 5 million to 7 million jobs will be lost because of the restaurant shutdown, which could have a broader impact of $675 billion on the U.S. economy.
Shuttering food markets may cost up to $700 million
Local and regional food markets stand to lose up to $688.7 million in sales through May because of the shutdowns. A reduction in sales of that magnitude would lead to a payroll decline of $103.3 million, and a total loss to the economy of up to $1.32 billion, according to a paper prepared by the analysts and circulated on Capitol Hill.
Keep in mind: In the Bay Area, which initiated the first shelter-in-place order, all 12 farmers’ markets have remained open for business, according to the California Farmers' Markets Association.
“Our association is taking many safety measures and we are seeing a good turnout of people,” said Savanah Slover, the association’s marketing director.
He said it:
“If we’re going to be criticized, let’s be criticized for taking this seriously.” – Gov. Newsom, in his press conference yesterday.
Ben Nuelle, Sara Wyant, Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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