April 17, 2020

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Wine losses could total $6 billion
The COVID-19 crisis will likely hit U.S. wineries and winegrape growers with nearly $6 billion in revenue losses this year, according to Jon Moramarco, an industry analyst. The closure of tasting rooms and decline in direct-to-consumer sales “will offset any short-term sales gains” from increased retail purchases, he added.
About 97% of the wineries will see losses from 36% to 66%, with smaller wineries hit hardest. Markets for on-premise sales and direct-to-consumer sales will each experience 80% losses.
Moramarco does not anticipate full revenue recovery until three to six months after a vaccine is widely available. Public health officials have estimated a vaccine could take 18 months or more to develop. Wine Institute CEO Robert Koch said he anticipates a long recovery period.
John Aguirre, President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said: “There is a direct link between the success of tourism, hospitality, events and restaurants and the financial health of the many growers who supply grapes for wines sold in those segments of the wine market.”

(Image: bw166, Wine Institute)
Newsom extends paid sick leave to more food workers
Gov. Newsom yesterday issued yet another executive order, this time to extend paid sick leave benefits to farmworkers, grocery employees and others in the food supply chain from three days to two weeks. This allows them to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19.
“These workers on the front lines of this crisis are our unsung heroes for continuing to work to ensure that Californians have food on their tables during these challenging times,” said Newsom.
This adds to a federal act covering businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Newsom’s order aims to fill the gap for businesses with more employees. The order caps the pay at $500 per day and $5,000 in aggregate.
Newsom said he made the decision with the help of the state’s Latino caucus, the California Grocers Association and the regional chapter of a food workers union.
Keep in mind: The federal action, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, does exempt businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Fish and Game approves mountain lions for protection
In a marathon hearing by phone yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission approved a contentious petition to list two subgroups of mountain lions as protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
Opposing the measure, the California Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s Association have argued that removing predation permits would leave livestock unprotected and hurt ranching businesses in the regions.
The commission also approved a petition for listing the Shasta snow-wreath. The listing could impact the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s efforts to raise Shasta Dam, which has stalled under legal opposition by the state.
Fun fact: The commission is now 150 years old. But commissioners will have to hold their breath until summer to blow out those birthday candles, as they can only exist digitally for now.
Biden calls for protecting workers
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday called for providing essential industry workers, including grocery store employees, priority access to personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing based upon their risk of exposure.
Biden also called for better enforcement of worker protections and premium pay for frontline workers.
USDA, inspectors discuss testing
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has discussed a possible testing program with its inspector’s union, said Paula Schelling, acting chairman of the American Federation of Government Employees’ local, which represents about 6,500 FSIS inspectors. But she said she still wants to see what the plan will be.
While FSIS is not providing facial masks to inspectors, the agency is reimbursing them up to $50 for masks they buy or make themselves, she said.
More than 100 FSIS inspectors have contracted COVID-19, she said. One inspector, in New York City, has died.
Out of money: PPP suspended as funding lapses
Banks and Farm Credit associations have had to suspend filing applications for the Paycheck Protection Program after the Small Business Administration ran out of money to fund the highly popular forgivable loans. President Trump called on congressional Democrats to support replenishing the PPP with another $250 billion.
Keep in mind: It’s not a matter of if, but when Congress replenishes the PPP. And how long it takes. Democrats support the program, but are using the issue to get money for other priorities as well.
Take note: According to a Bloomberg News analysis, the Plains and upper Midwest states have been the most successful in securing PPP funding. Nebraska has received loans covering 75% of the eligible payroll. North Dakota got 71%, Kansas 69%.
One view from farm country: It took some Farm Credit System associations a week or more to get approved to participate in the program. While awaiting approval, Fargo, N.D.-based AgCountry Farm Credit contacted its 18,000 customers and advised them to apply for PPP through the association’s competitors, said CEO Marc Knisley.
“To us it was more important that our customers get access to the program than who administered the program,” he said. He thinks there’s still a lot of demand among farmers for PPP funding.

Frank Yiannas 

Top FDA official: Pandemic permanently changing buying habits
FDA’s top food safety official, Frank Yiannas, says the dramatic shift to online food shopping underscores the need to modernize food safety tracking and regulation.
Yiannas, who has been overseeing development of a more data- and technology-driven approach to regulating food safety, says the project assumed that 20% of food would be bought online by 2023. “That benchmark may have been blown out of the water by consumers sheltering in place,” Yiannas writes in a Q&A. “I don’t see that trend reversing when the crisis has passed.”
The COVID-19 crisis also demonstrates the need to protect farm and food processing workers from illnesses, he says.
He said it:
“What happens when the ability of farmers to feed the nation is suppressed by policies that inhibit the certainty of domestic food production? Shockingly, California’s San Joaquin Valley…has been facing that very battle for decades.” – William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms, urging federal and state cooperation on water policies in an op-ed for CalMatters.

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

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