May 11, 2020
CalEPA’s crisis response is ‘vague,’ but stricter than U.S. EPA
CalEPA’s new policy allowing limited regulatory relief strays from U.S. EPA “both in its lack of specificity and its approach to the regulated community,” according to the environmental law firm Kings and Spaulding.
The firm points out that CalEPA’s April 15 statement said regulated stakeholders could seek specific deadline extensions, but does not offer guidance on requesting relief. U.S. EPA, on the other hand, provides clear steps. CalEPA also vowed to continue investigating even "routine" requirements and prosecute when necessary.
CalEPA has also not elaborated on how it promises to “fill any enforcement gaps left by EPA’s decision to reduce environmental oversight,” according to the firm.
Newsom held a press briefing at one of many florists reopening for business on Friday.
CDFA reschedules hearing on stopping dairy quota
After postponing an April hearing due to COVID, CDFA will now hold a meeting next month to consider the immediate suspension of its dairy Quota Incentive Program (QIP). The meetings are set for June 9 and 10.
The group STOP QIP had gathered enough signatures on its petition for the hearing. An administrative law judge will preside over the hearing and recommend whether CDFA should hold a referendum or not.
United Dairy Families of California argues the group is exploiting a loophole to suspend QIP on a technicality.
“We do not think this is fair to the industry and takes away producers' voices and actual opinions,” the group said in a statement.
CDFA offers guidance for farmers’ markets, u-pick farms
With the warming weather this time of year, consumers are typically flocking to farmers’ markets, pick-your-own operations and other direct sales outlets. In the era of COVID, CDFA has now released guidance on how those managers can meet CDC guidelines and reduce exposure risks.
Many of the steps are now commonplace in grocery stores and other retail locations: limit the amount of consumers and space them out while maintaining strict hygiene and sanitation practices.
The department also suggests to “remind customers: you touch it, you take it.”
USDA awards $1.2B in Food Box contracts
The Agriculture Department on Friday awarded $1.2 billion in contracts to distributors, processors and non-profit organizations to deliver fresh produce, milk, dairy products and pork and chicken directly to needy Americans.
The unprecedented Farmers to Families Food Box Program is an effort to both shore up commodity prices while addressing the sharp growth in food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. The contracts will cover the cost of buying and distributing the food, which is to be delivered in family-size boxes to pickup sites starting next Friday.
The program will provide $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million of the combination boxes.
Key Dem: ‘Have to do more’ for farmers
USDA is gearing up to start dispensing the first round of coronavirus relief payments to farmers, even as lawmakers struggle to agree on a Phase 4 stimulus bill that ag groups hope will provide additional funding for more aid.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency late last week sent a directive to field offices on steps they will need to take to get ready to process applications. The document doesn’t disclose the rules for the payments, including the individual limits.
Read more about the struggle over the Phase 4 bill in this week’s Washington Week Ahead.
Take note: A key House Democrat, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, tells Agri-Pulse Democrats “we know we have to do more and we will work our hardest to make sure we get more funding for our family farmers.” Bustos chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spearheads Democrats’ effort to retain control of the House.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News on Sunday President Donald Trump wanted to be cautious about enacting another stimulus bill until the impact on the economy is better known. “What the president and I are now saying is we’ve spent a lot of money, a lot of this money is not even into the economy yet, " he said.
Watch our full Washington Week in Review interview with Bustos here.
Democrats demand SBA open program to non-farm applicants
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is angry that the Small Business Administration started restricting the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to farms. SBA made the decision last week as the program, which offers grants of up to $10,000 as well as low-interest loans, was starting to run low on money again. Farms hadn’t had a chance to apply for the program until last week.
In a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza, Schumer and fellow Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire complain about the exclusion of non-farm applications as well as the agency’s decision to cap loans at $150,000, instead of the normal $2 million limit. “If SBA is concerned about opening up EIDL due to a lack of funds, the administration should send Congress a request with a funding level they need to do so,” the letter says.
Trump adds new uncertainty to China trade pact
President Trump is still upset and undecided on punishing China for its role in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview on Fox & Friends, Trump suggested that his excitement over the “phase one” trade deal has waned since the virus originated in China and then spread throughout the world.
He acknowledged an upbeat call between U.S. and Chinese trade officials, but stressed that he feels “differently” than he did before and sidestepped a question about whether the trade pact would dissolve.
“I’m very torn as to — I have not decided yet, if you want to know the truth,” he said.
She said it:
“I'm happy that the state is beginning to open up a bit. But – especially with the positive asymptomatics – I'm just worried that that will escalate significantly.” – Kim Beck, chair of Ruiz Foods and daughter of founder Fred Ruiz, during a State Food and Ag Board meeting last week.
More than 100 employees of Ruiz Foods have tested positive for COVID-19 at its plants in Tulare and Dinuba.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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