April 9, 2020

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Food banks reach out to farmers for more donations
In partnership with CDFA, the California Association of Food Banks is reaching out to farmers who may be facing oversupply issues as restaurants and much of the food service industry have closed.
Steve Linkhart, who runs the association’s Farm to Family program, said in a webinar yesterday that he has been seeing demand at rural foodbanks increase by 60%, while lines outside urban locations are double the usual size.
“Cars are lining up like I’ve never seen before,” he said.
Linkhart also said the National Guard has been helping with “all these things that the local food banks really couldn’t go out and hire for,” including pickups from farms.

(photo: USDA)
Judge rejects injunction on Trump’s biological opinions
A federal judge this week denied a request by environmental groups to delay new federal pumping operations in the Delta as they pursue a lawsuit against the biological opinions.
The judge found that the incidental take of endangered fish during the recent pumping operations was not more than usual. He wrote in his ruling that the argument “is largely untethered from any sense of the magnitude of that impact to the overall population of that species.”

Peterson and Perdue

Farm aid could total $15.5 billion
Farmers could be getting close to $15.5 billion in aid to offset the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. That total includes the $9.5 billion in aid earmarked in the Phase 3 economic stimulus bill, plus an additional $6 billion that USDA has remaining in its Commodity Credit Corp. account, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
An additional $14 billion the stimulus bill provided for replenishing the CCC account can’t be distributed until at least July, according to a statement that USDA provided to Agri-Pulse.
“We’re in the process right now of collecting proposals and ideas from every sector affected so we can be ... balanced and fair in the allocation of the $9.5 billion, as well as what we have currently in CCC, which is approximately $6 billion,” Perdue told reporters Wednesday.
The $14 billion “replenishment will not come until later, so we are limited right now on the CCC to what our cash flow is, which is about $6 billion,” he added.
Take note: House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, who talked to Perdue on Sunday, says there should be an announcement in the next week or two about the payments. “They’re trying to do this relatively quick,” Peterson told constituents in a telephone town hall Wednesday.
Keep in mind: The stimulus bill requires the $9.5 billion to be spent on livestock producers, specialty crop growers and local ag systems. Perdue has more leeway with the CCC account.
USDA posts PPP guidance
USDA has posted answers to questions about the hugely popular $349 billion forgivable loan program being run by the Small Business Administration.
There have been continued reports of farmers being denied access to the Paycheck Protection Program. But USDA’s FAQ makes clear that farmers can apply: “Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers with 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States are eligible.”
GOP senators seek H-2A relief
Fourteen GOP senators are urging the Trump administration to ease restrictions on H-2A farmworkers.
In a letter, the senators ask the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to allow farms to share available H-2A workers and to increase the length of time the workers can stay in the country. The senators also say H-2A workers should be allowed to extend their contracts if they are affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
TSA OKs hazmat exemption for current CDL holders
Current Commercial Driver’s License holders who have not been able to complete a required federal threat assessment will still be able to transport hazardous materials under an exemption granted by the Transportation Security Administration Wednesday.
TSA will allow states to extend the hazmat endorsements (HMEs) for current CDL holders until July 31. The agency said it will use previously submitted data to continue to vet drivers.
Keep in mind: Richard Gupton of the Agricultural Retailers Association says the TSA action doesn’t help new drivers or seasonal drivers obtain CDL endorsements. ARA has been told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “is working to address the new driver issue but we do not have any firm timeline on when anything will be issued,” he said.
He said it:
“I really miss face-to-face, real human communication.” - Michael Miller, government relations director for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, describing the challenges of online regulatory hearings in an op-ed for CalMatters.

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

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