June 3, 2020
Appropriations passes bill on cutting ag’s climate footprint
Assembly Bill 2954 proposes a pathway for including natural and working lands in the next Scoping Plan for California’s AB 32 climate goals. Groups for sustainable farming support the bill, while several business and ag groups oppose the measure.
According to the Appropriations Committee, the bill passed muster for its potential fiscal impact on the state. The Legislative Analysts' Office found the costs for the Air Resources Board to implement AB 2954 would be “minor and absorbable.”
Yet farm groups have pointed out the state would need more funding for incentives programs “for land stewards to do even more than they're already doing.”
On that note: The committee also heard a measure on allowing wineries to fill growlers. With no opposition to the bill, Chair Lorena Gonzalez declared, “Everybody here likes wine” and passed the measure.
A protest in Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday.
Protests are disrupting farmers markets
Following protests over the weekend that turned violent, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department instated a curfew on Monday. According to Martha Montoya, who resides on the State Ag Board, the response has been disrupting small farmers.
“It's a tough situation,” said Montoya at a board meeting yesterday. “But now this one is even a little bit harder, because the supply chain is also disturbed.”
She explained that ethnic food marts and farmers' markets downtown have been “critical markets now that restaurants have shut down.” Small farmers send products here “when things are tough.”
Read more on the current challenges for small farmers in the Agri-Pulse Newsletter later this morning.
Stabenow looks to shape next aid package
Top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, tells Agri-Pulse she’s monitoring the farm economy and USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to see what additional help may be needed.
Stabenow said she’s watching “what is happening to farmers as well as what is happening to families and food access.”
She’s optimistic about getting the Food Supply Protection Act that she introduced last week included in the next big aid package, given that the bill has the support of numerous ag groups. The $8 billion FSPA includes funding for protective gear for farmworkers and processing plant employees as well as funding to facilitate the distribution of surplus commodities.
For more on the bill, plus the latest on how U.S.-China relations are impacting American producers be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.
Take note: Two thirds of farmers believe more CFAP payments will be necessary, according to the latest monthly Purdue/CME Group survey of producer sentiment.
More than 70% of the farmers surveyed are either very worried or fairly worried about pandemic’s impact on their farm’s profitability this year. Some 81% of the farmers surveyed in May said they were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the ethanol industry.
By the way: Without special government aid, a Kansas State University analysis projects net income for the average farm could plunge to just $14,358 this year, down from $110,380 in 2019. That analysis doesn’t account for USDA’s new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments. Signup started last week.
CDC, OSHA recommend protections for farmworkers
The CDC and OSHA have issued joint guidance for protecting agricultural workers form the coronavirus.
One of the key recommendations is to assign workers to groups and keep them together in order to minimize their contact with other employees. Doing so not only minimizes contact between employees, but also minimizes the number that have to be quarantined when there is an outbreak.
To the same end, workers who reside together should be transported together and assigned to the same work groups, according to the guidance.
The guidance also recommends that ill workers be kept away from livestock: “Since we don’t know for sure which animals can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, sick workers should stay away from animals, including livestock and pets, during their illness.” USDA reported Tuesday that a dog (a pet German shepherd in New York) had tested positive in the U.S. for the first time. The dog is expected to recover.
Roundup appeal closely watched as settlement nears
Lawyers for Monsanto and the first person to win a multimillion-dollar verdict for Roundup exposure made their cases before California appellate judges Tuesday at a crucial moment in negotiations over a possible $10 billion settlement for all Roundup plaintiffs.
Parent company Bayer is reportedly ready to ink a deal covering some 50,000 plaintiffs who allege Roundup exposure caused their cancers. But how appellate courts rule on judgments that have already gone against Bayer — or how observers think the courts will rule — will likely figure in the calculations of lawyers on both sides.
In this case, it wasn’t clear how the three judges of California’s First Appellate District will rule. But they did spend some time debating whether Dewayne Johnson should have been awarded $33 million in future noneconomic damages.
Monsanto’s lawyer argued that $1.5 million made more sense since Johnson’s life expectancy at the time of the 2018 trial was one and a half years. Johnson, who’s still alive, has received nothing so far.
She said it:
“[It’s been] the most unusual budget process that I've ever been through—as an observer and an advocate and now a government entity.” — Sec. Ross, explaining the May Revision and the broad elimination of new funding initiatives proposed just four months earlier.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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