April 3, 2020

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Newsom expects a barebones budget for next year
\When asked about the May revision of his budget proposal in a press conference yesterday, Gov. Newsom told reporters: “We have a workload budget, which suggests everything is on the table.” He added: “The world has radically changed since the January budget was proposed.”

Newsom did not give details but said his cabinet is working with legislative leaders on the process. A "workload budget" would cover only the currently authorized services and no new spending. 

Newsom also announced $50 million in loan guarantees for small businesses that are not eligible for the new federal loans of $10 million, which are first-come, first-serve. This includes low-wealth and undocumented immigrant communities. The state is also allowing small businesses to defer payment of sales and use taxes of up to $50,000 for up to 12 months.

He also signed an executive order restricting water shutoffs for homes to protect residents unable to pay bills during the COVID-19 crisis. The order also extends to businesses within the critical infrastructure sectors, which include agriculture and the rest of the food supply chain.

Conservation groups urge Newsom not to delay new regulations
A coalition of conservation groups says Sen. Jim Beal asked the Air Resources Board to “delay existing regulatory requirements and suspend the development of future regulations related to air quality.” The San Jose legislator chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. His office would not confirm the claim.
The coalition, which includes Restore the Delta, Defenders of Wildlife and the Pesticide Action Network, is worried state and regional water boards will also delay new regulatory processes during the public health crisis. Their argument to the administration is this “lax oversight” would impact drinking water quality.
Remember: Farm groups have been working with the agencies to push back timelines for major new regulatory procedures that would impact the food supply chain, which has been deemed critical infrastructure during the crisis. They hope Newsom will order a moratorium until at least 30 days after the state of emergency is over.
DWR: No ‘appreciable change’ on water deliveries from new plan
With its new environmental permit, the Department of Water Resources is immediately implementing its adjusted plan for long-term operations of the State Water Project (SWP).
Yet a DWR spokesperson told Agri-Pulse that simulation modeling suggests “SWP exports overall will not appreciably change” – either positively or negatively – on both a long-term average and for this year, despite the reduced snowpack this winter.
Remember: A central aim of the plan is to counterbalance additional pumping from the Central Valley Project (CVP) facilities.
Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Phillips said this week that its current 15% allocation from the CVP would likely have been zero if not for the new biological opinions and other actions by the Trump administration over the past two years.
Confusion reigns over COVID-19 relief
Today is supposed to be the first day that farms and other small businesses can start applying for those forgivable loans that are intended to help employers cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Small Business Administration released an interim final rule for the Paycheck Protection Program on Thursday. Some experts are raising concerns that revenue limits could exclude many farmers from participating.
There has been confusion around the country about whether farmers were even eligible at all for PPP. Agri-Pulse continued to get reports that some SBA field offices were telling farmers they are ineligible.
Keep in mind: SBA hasn’t responded to Agri-Pulse questions, but the president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, Todd Van Hoose, says SBA officials have confirmed in briefings that farms will be eligible for the money.
Take note: Veronica Nigh, an economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, has posted an analysis of PPP that suggests the value of the program to farms will be limited depending on how it implements eligibility limits. Read her analysis here.
Cut them some slack: In SBA’s defense, the agency has had exactly one week to get the $349 billion program up and running.
Lawmakers, groups press SBA on second program
More than 80 House members and a coalition of farm groups are pushing SBA and the Treasury Department to allow farms to participate in a second, more conventional loan program, called Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or EIDL.
A form for the program excludes farms. But in separate letters, the lawmakers and farm groups say Congress clearly intended to make the 3% loans available to farmers.
“Many agricultural producers need access to this critical source of financing to help preserve their businesses and avoid further disruptions to our economy and food systems,” the farm groups wrote.
Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency, talks to employees from his farm shed in Missouri.
Dairy presses for expanded signup
With farmers dumping their milk, Wisconsin’s agriculture department is pleading with USDA to purchase dairy products and reopen enrollment for 2020 Dairy Margin Coverage.
After nearly four years of low prices, 2020 was supposed to be a rebound year for dairy producers as prices began to rise earlier this fall. But Randy Romanski, interim secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, tells Agri-Pulse that isn’t the case anymore.
“The prices dropped substantially and now is the time where the Dairy Margin Coverage program would be an optimal tool to help mitigate some of those losses,” Romanski said.
Romanski urged Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to reopen 2020 enrollment for DMC in a phone call with state ag directors Thursday. He said Perdue told him he would inquire about it.
Keep in mind: It’s not just Wisconsin. The National Milk Producers Federation also is urging USDA to purchase dairy products and to reopen DMC enrollment.
FDA seeks to reassure public
The Food and Drug Administration has released a 30-second Public Service Announcement telling Americans there is plenty of food, it’s safe, and there is no evidence to link food or food packaging with transmission of the coronavirus.
Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, is featured in the PSA.
Take note: Food and beverage industry groups have issued a six-page guide for how companies should respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
The bottom line: Any employee that has COVID-19 symptoms should be sent home and monitored, parts of the facility should be cleaned and disinfected, but operations do not need to come to a halt and food products do not need to be recalled.
The document leans heavily on CDC and FDA guidelines.
Industry drafts coronavirus credentials
Shelter in place orders are popping up all across the country to restrict movement, but agricultural workers and those who transport grains and other commodities need to get where they’re going. That’s why the National Grain and Feed Association, together with the American Railroads Association and the American Trucking Association, crafted a “standardized access credentials letter” for their members, NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon said Thursday.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to put its logo on the letterhead, but did give its tacit approval to the document and state agriculture departments are being lobbied for their stamp of approval, Gordon said.

EPA defends enforcement policy
EPA officials say their decision to temporarily ease environmental enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic has been misconstrued.
In a letter to lawmakers Thursday, EPA Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine said that “contrary to allegations you may have read, EPA continues to enforce the environmental laws.”
Under the policy released last month, EPA said it did not expect to seek fines for violations of routine monitoring and reporting requirements where EPA determines that COVID-19 caused the noncompliance.
Bodine’s letter comes the day after environmental groups petitioned EPA to issue an emergency rule protecting public health. “EPA is using an unprecedented public health crisis to justify allowing polluters to put our health at even greater risk — at a time when we most need their protection,” said Natural Resources Defense Council President and CEO Gina McCarthy.
He said it:
“The pandemic’s impact on agriculture is coming in waves due to dramatic changes in demand, falling commodity prices and supply challenges.” – Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, arguing that farms should be eligible for SBA’s Emergency Injury Disaster Loans.

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

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