May 8, 2020
Some dine-in restaurants may reopen next week
Restaurants in some counties could be opening as early as next week, said Gov. Newsom in his press briefing yesterday.
The administration will put out new guidelines for dine-in restaurants on Tuesday. To reopen restaurants, counties will first have to meet certain metrics, such as low case numbers of COVID-19.
“The likelihood of some counties meeting all the criteria,” he said, “is very high in certain parts of the state.”
Newsom did caution that “there are conditions that persist in the state, in this nation, that make reopening very, very challenging as it relates to the specifics of restaurants.”
The state also released new industry guidance for reducing exposure risk. It includes revised recommendations for “agriculture and livestock” as well as food packing and processing.
Newsom’s workers’ comp policy hurts a ‘struggling’ industry, say ag groups
The state’s largest farm groups yesterday responded to Newsom’s directive on workers’ compensation benefits for COVID, saying it “will add more financial weight at a very difficult time.”
The joint statement was issued by the Agricultural Council of California, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Fresh Fruit Association and Western Growers.
“The added economic burden of medical claims related to COVID-19 should be borne by the government, not the essential industries providing a public good during a global pandemic,” the groups argued.
CalEPA reminds ag it is still enforcing restrictions on pesticides near schools
Under the direct involvement of Gov. Newsom, CalEPA yesterday issued guidance directing county ag commissioners to continue enforcing pesticide restrictions near schools.
The state has restricted applications within a quarter mile of schools when children are present, requiring as well notifications to schools for each spray. While schools are “physically closed” during the stay-at-home order, the administration remained concerned.
“Schools are being used for all kinds of things: food pantries, emergency shelters, places where residents are gathering, for instance, homeless residents,” CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld told Agri-Pulse.
Blumenfeld said the administration wanted to “really prioritize enforcement in this area” and “notify the public of applications with enough time.” He added the order had stemmed from Ventura County residents who had voiced concern to Newsom last month.
DPR Director Val Dolcini framed the issue around air quality, with the state facing “not just a pandemic” but “the most serious respiratory health crisis we've seen in decades.” He said communication is critical at this time and commissioners should maintain dialogue with communities like this.
Perdue: Payment limits increased on COVID-1
The Trump administration has bowed to concerns from livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers and will modify the payment limits for the upcoming COVID-19 relief payments, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in an interview with Brownfield Ag News.
Perdue said USDA had been trying to “mimic” the payment limits on farm bill commodity programs. But he said he agreed with farm groups that the limits were too low at $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 in total per person. “We’ve adjusted those payment limits and we’ll see those when the rules come out,” he said.
Take note: Farm bankruptcy filings were up 23% for the 12-month period that ended in March, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The 627 Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases filed during the 12-month period were the third most in the last 20 years, behind the 743 in 2011 and 632 in 2013.
Wisconsin continues to lead the nation with 78 filings during the latest 12-month period.
GOP leaders join Trump in targeting China
President Trump has made it clear that he blames China for the COVID-19 pandemic to the point where he’s considering new tariffs as punishment, and now House Republicans are jumping into the fray with a new task force to investigate China’s role.
“As we learn more about COVID-19, one thing, has become clear; China’s coverup directly led to this crisis,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Thursday. "The Communist Party of China hid the seriousness of the disease, led a propaganda campaign blaming the U.S., used their supplies to exert influence, and continue to refuse international experts to investigate what happened.”
It’s unclear if new U.S. tariffs or any other punishment would blow apart the “phase one” trade deal with China that is responsible for boosting exports of U.S. soybean, corn, wheat, beef, but the U.S. ag sector appears to be increasingly wary of upsetting the détente.
Global food prices continue decline amid pandemic
Food prices worldwide have declined for a third consecutive month because of the ripple effects of the COVID-19 crisis. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 165.5 points in April 2020, down 5.7 points, or 3.4%, from March and the lowest level since January 2019.
The biggest declines last month were in sugar, vegetable oil and dairy.
EIDL aid restricted to farms, businesses
The Small Business Administration has stopped taking applications for its highly popular Economic Injury Disaster Loan program from anyone but farms and other agricultural employers. The program offers grants of up to $10,000 as well as low-interest loans. SBA only started taking applications from farms this week.
A notice on the SBA website says, “At this time, only agricultural business applications will be accepted due to limitations in funding availability and the unprecedented submission of applications already received.”
Companies report strong farm demand
Farm input giants Corteva and Nutrien reported vastly different results in first-quarter earnings released Thursday, but both said COVID-19 so far hasn’t had major impacts on its operations.
Corteva Agriscience beat analysts’ expectations in its quarterly earnings report, reporting $4 billion in net sales, a 16% jump above last year’s first quarter, and earnings per share of 36 cents.
The seed and pesticide company said increased sales were driven in part by favorable planting weather in North America and producers’ desire to get corn seed early “due to perceived supply concerns from COVID-19.”
Nutrien reported a $35 million drop in earnings, or 12 cents per share, partly due to lower prices for potash and nitrogen. The first quarter is typically a weaker earnings period for the company, but CEO Chuck Magro said Nutrien is “seeing strong spring demand for all crop inputs and services” as farmers make up for last year’s weather-related problems.
He said it:
“To be able to get from the testing site in Sonoma County to the closest testing site up north, it's a four-hour drive on Highway 101.” – Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, decrying the lack of rural testing facilities for COVID-19.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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