June 2, 2020
California is free of virulent Newcastle disease
Poultry can move freely across the state again. With no new detections, CDFA announced yesterday it was ending a quarantine for virulent Newcastle disease (VND) in Southern California.
“This is the day many of us have been looking to for over two years,” said State Veterinarian Annette Jones.
VND was first detected in May 2018 in Los Angeles County and eventually spread through backyards to commercial flocks. The disease poses no food safety concern, and no human cases have ever occurred from eating poultry products.
A report in August 2019 found about 1.2 million birds were eradicated to prevent the spread of the disease.
Food safety efforts focus on nearby grazing
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) yesterday launched a new subcommittee to investigate the role of adjacent lands in outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
The action was an immediate response to an FDA report last month. It showed that cattle grazing near romaine lettuce fields was “the most likely contributing factor associated with” E. coli outbreaks last fall. The three outbreaks, traced to lettuce from the Salinas Valley, sickened 188 people.
LGMA has been performing a comprehensive review of the food safety practices required of its growers.
“Current requirements under the LGMA call for assessments of environmental conditions in and around leafy greens fields,” said LGMA CEO Scott Horsfall in a statement. “But it’s clear more can to be done to keep pathogens out of our farms.”
The subcommittee will investigate factors like distance, barriers, weather and ‘good neighbor’ policies.
Ag Order 4.0 under discussion today
The Central Coast Water Board is holding the first of three workshops today to discuss a draft regulation known as Ag Order 4.0 for the first time. The regional meetings allow board staff to present the recommendations and answer questions. The board will continue taking comments through June 20.
The board raised eyebrows among local farm groups in February, when it released the proposed regulatory requirements. Growers fear the order will reduce the region’s year-round lettuce and berry production to just one season. They argue it will also have spiraling impacts on the local economy, including widespread job losses among farmworkers.
The board is racing to approve the regulation by January 2021, when the current order expires. It has had to delay the workshops and extend the public comment period, however, due to stay-at-home orders and the industry operating in crisis mode.
CBO puts price tag on HEROES Act
The provisions for farmers in that massive House-passed coronavirus relief bill would total $33 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s newly released cost estimates for the measure. That will set a relatively high bar for the Senate to match when it considers its own COVID-19 aid bill.
The provisions in the House’s HEROES Act include $16.5 billion in direct payments to farmers, plus $10 billion that CBO estimates USDA would spend authorizing it to pay for disposal of livestock and poultry that are destroyed because of supply chain disruptions.
The bill’s dairy provisions, which include a dairy donation program and enhancements to the Dairy Margin Coverage program, would cost an estimated $2 billion.
That $33 billion doesn’t include the bill’s food assistance provisions, which are estimated to cost $35 billion over 10 years, primarily because of a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Take note: The bill as a whole would increase the federal budget deficit by more than $3.4 trillion.
Mask shortage prompts EPA guidance
Pesticide handlers may have to use expired respirators or reuse N95 respirators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to temporary guidance issued by EPA Monday.
Addressing the shortage of respirators, the agency said that before considering those options, growers or applicators must exhaust other options, including the use of alternative NIOSH-approved respirators that offer equivalent or greater respiratory protection than those required on the pesticide label.
Growers also should look to hire commercial applicator services that have enough respirators; try to use pesticides that do not require respirators; or delay pesticide applications “until another compliant option is available,” EPA said.
“It is imperative that pesticide applicators wear respiratory protection to protect their health when required by the pesticide product label,” the guidance says. “Use of respiratory protection is particularly important when mixing, loading and applying pesticides, because those occupational scenarios typically have the highest exposure potential.”
USDA sets reopening plan
USDA agencies are looking at how to reopen their facilities, based on a department plan that emphasizes cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing, and the use of personal protective equipment.
Decisions to reopen haven’t been made yet, but they should be “informed by whether the state or community in which the facility is located has met the federal gating criteria, begun phased reopening, implemented phased reopening of public and commercial activities, and lifted mandatory travel and closure restrictions,” the May 19 “framework” document says.
The White House’s criteria recommends states or regions experience a “downward trajectory” in COVID-19 cases over a two-week period before beginning phased reopening.
In its own strategy based on the departmental document, the Forest Service said it would be using telework through the three phases of reopening. “It is quite clear that it will be some time before all of our employees are reporting to facilities as they did prior to the beginning of this pandemic,” said Rick Cooksey, the acting USFS national pandemic coordinator.
During the first phase, the USDA plan suggests staggering schedules and says common areas and break rooms should be closed. In addition, no commercial food service or retail vendors will be allowed. “Employees who have self-certified to their higher risk for COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines” can continue to telework. Visitors are “strongly discouraged.”
She tweeted it:
"'I can’t breathe’ speaks to police violence, but it also applies to the struggle for clean air. Environmental racism is just one form of racism. It’s all toxic. Government needs to clean it up in word and deed. We who do climate and environmental policy can and must do more.” – Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, in a tweet Monday
To which Asm. Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, a former police captain, replied: “How dare you take this moment of pain and anguish our nation is facing to discus your crooked Enviro policies.”
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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