May 1, 2020
Summer will start with a 37% snowpack
A few storms this spring did not make up for a dry January and February, according to the last manual snow report of the year by the Department of Water Resources.
A recent warm front has also led to “to a rapid reduction of the snowpack,” said the chief of snow surveys, Sean de Guzman.
The water year has been unusual in other ways as well. Dry conditions in October and November gave way to a December snowpack at 120% of average. By the time April came around, it was just 66% of normal.
On a positive note, the six largest reservoirs remain healthy, ranging from 83% to 126% of average.
Legislators to Newsom: Stay the course on environmental regs
A group of 37 Democratic state lawmakers representing urban regions and labor interests urged the Newsom administration this week to not delay new regulations.
“Our agencies must resist attempts by polluting industries to exploit our current crisis to loosen, rollback or delay the adoption of vital environmental regulations that protect the health and safety of Californians,” the letter reads.
The letter is a response to a steady stream of requests from a range of industries to Newsom since he issued the lockdown order in March. A coalition of ag groups, for one, asked the administration to delay major new regulations until the emergency order is lifted.
On that note: Following stakeholder input, the Air Resources Board (CARB) released for comment yesterday a revised draft of its Advanced Clean Truck regulation.
Read the full story on how the CARB rule could impact agriculture.
State Ag Board to host Newsom’s task force
After a hiatus due to the pandemic, the Board of Food and Agriculture is reconvening next week. At the top of the agenda is a conversation with eight members from Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery who represent various areas of the supply chain.
One of the members to watch is Fred Ruiz, a founder of the frozen Mexican food company Ruiz Foods. Two of his facilities were forced to temporarily shut down several production lines this week due to employees testing positive for COVID-19 and concerns about community spread.
The board will also discuss the path forward as California agriculture rebuilds. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice President Glenda Humiston will provide a research and extension perspective. Western Growers’ Dennis Donohue will talk agtech. Trish Kelley of Valley Vision will likely discuss broadband and economic development in the Central Valley (as she did at a Woodland event in January).
On that note: In a blog post yesterday, CDFA Sec. Karen Ross shares more details on the administration’s new focus on farm buys for food banks.
Newsom directs agencies to cut spending now
The Department of Finance yesterday directed departments and agencies to take actions “immediately to reduce current year expenditures, regardless of funding source.”
The agencies must avoid new purchasing contracts, cancel non-essential travel and “use discretion” when filling job vacancies. Any exceptions must be reported up the chain, along with any pots of saved funds.
A letter to the agencies warns the pandemic has led to significant and immediate decreases to state revenues that are expected to last “for several years” and will be coupled with cost increases.
AND IN NATIONAL NEWS…
Progressives: No liability protections without more rights
Advocates for agricultural workers say that Republicans have to agree to bolster worker rights before getting liability protections for farms and processors. Business groups are worried that companies will have a hard time getting back to normal if they don’t have some protection against lawsuits.
“You can’t have liability protection for business unless you can ensure that workers are being treated safely,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
Khanna and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have proposed a “bill of rights” for essential workers that includes ensuring that they have personal protective equipment at no cost, access to health care and are paid a living wage.
House Majority Whip Clyburn and Speaker Pelosi
Broadband among CARES 2 priorities for Dems
House Democrats are laying out their priorities for the next big stimulus bill, “CARES 2,” and they include rural broadband funding and additional protections for workers. Funding for COVID-19 testing also is high on the list, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi cited concerns about meatpacking employees in saying Thursday that Congress needed to do more to address the concerns employees have in going back to work during the pandemic.
On broadband: Democrats originally wanted a broad infrastructure initiative, but Pelosi suggested their wish list is being scaled back to broadband and water infrastructure.
A dozen House Democrats led by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina proposed Thursday to invest roughly $80 billion over the next five years to deploy high-speed internet in underserved rural communities.
“Just as the Great Depression made clear to all that electricity was the ‘next greatest thing’ in the 20th century, the coronavirus pandemic is making clear to all that broadband is the ‘next next greatest thing’ in the 21st century,” Clyburn said.
Keep in mind: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has resisted including infrastructure spending in the stimulus bill. But higher broadband funding is something that could appeal to Republicans, given the importance the pandemic has put on connectivity.
By the way: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai extended his Keep Americans Connected pledge beyond May 12. Pai is urging providers to continue service, waive late fees, and keep wi-fi hotpots open until June 30. Some 700 broadband and telephone providers have now signed the pledge.
Senators to Perdue: Take care of local ag
More than two dozen senators, including the top Democrats on the Agriculture and Appropriations committee, are calling on Perdue to revise the upcoming coronavirus relief program to make sure it provides payments to locally focused agriculture.
In a letter to Perdue, the senators note that local agriculture was specifically mentioned in the Phase 3 stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act. The senators’ suggestion includes changing the date, April 15, that is supposed to be used for calculating market losses.
The letter-signers include Republican Susan Collins of Maine as well as Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member on the Ag committee, and Pat Leahy, the ranking member on Appropriations.
But: Other lawmakers are appealing to Perdue not to put limits on payments to individual producers. Payment limits would especially affect dairy and pork producers, but such caps might allow the money to go further.
“Limiting assistance through entity rules and payment limits severely undermines the impact of the program for hog farmers,” write five Midwest House members, including one Democrat, Missouri Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver.
He said it:
“It is very much ‘game on’ for large food companies and retailers, as the world tilts in their favor for the first time in many years. It may be a bit of a ‘false dawn’ for these guys, but all our new shopping habits and other behavioral changes are likely to become stickier and more entrenched the longer this situation continues and the recession bites.” - Rabobank analyst Nicholas Fereday, writing about how the shift from eating out to eating at home could be long-lasting.
Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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