June 10, 2020

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Lawmakers raise concerns over ballot initiative on Prop 13
During a recent Assembly hearing, legislators raised questions over the implications of a property tax initiative registered for the November ballot.
The measure would repeal parts of the tax rules established by Proposition 13 in 1978 and replace them with a split-roll tax. It would generate more property tax revenue for the state, while exempting agricultural land.
Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who represents parts of the Sacramento Valley, asked how it would impact other property, such agricultural equipment.
Brian Mueller with the Legislative Analyst’s Office explained: “If those properties have a commercial use, then this measure likely would shift those properties to a market value taxation.”
Robert Spiegel, a policy advocate for the California Farm Bureau Federation, elaborated. It could include barns, vineyards, wineries, fences, irrigation systems, milking parlors and “even our mature fruit and nut trees,” he said.
The Farm Bureau, along with Western Growers and a number of business groups, opposes the measure.

Dairy Families submits proposal to sunset quota program
United Dairy Families of California submitted a petition to CDFA this week proposing a five-year plan to sunset the beleaguered dairy quota program.
“We believe this petition represents the will of the dairy industry, and the proper course of action would be to bring it to a vote of California dairy producers,” said Dairy Families Executive Committee Member Travis Kamper in a statement.
A coalition of dairies launched the group last year as a way to steer the community toward a “producer-generated” solution.
The petition came ahead of a CDFA hearing this week to consider a proposal by a separate group to immediately suspend the program.
Two years of depressed farm profits forecast
Buckle up. A new farm economy forecast is projecting farm earnings will dive this year and again in 2021 without a big influx of additional government aid.
Net cash farm income will drop by 15% to $102.2 billion this year, even with the $16 billion in payments that USDA is distributing through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, according to the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
Net cash income is projected to fall again in 2021 to $95.1 billion.
For more on the forecast, look for this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.
Democrats raise concerns about CFAP
Top Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee led by Chairman Collin Peterson are raising objections to the way USDA designed the CFAP payments.
letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notes that commodities grown under contract such as potatoes and malting barley aren’t eligible for the payments even though that’s the way the crops are typically produced.
Among other concerns the lawmakers have: Cost premiums for organic crops weren’t included in CFAP, and USDA calculated market declines in livestock sales starting Jan. 15, even though price drops related to the pandemic didn’t start until February.
Ag dealers: EPA left us in limbo
Pesticide dealers are raising concerns about EPA’s cancellation order for three dicamba herbicides whose registrations were vacated by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week.
EPA is allowing use of existing stocks of the products by growers and commercial applicators who had “possession” of it on June 3, the day the court issued its order. But dealers holding product were not included in that group, and they are seeking further clarification from EPA.
The order “does not consider situations where a producer has pre-paid or contracted for product but not yet taken possession of it; so, it is still in the possession of the retailer,” says a letter sent Tuesday from the Agricultural Retailers Association and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives to EPA.
For more about the dicamba situation read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also look at dairy trade with China and the open U.S. House races that will bring a new crop of lawmakers who will play a role in ag policy.

Organic food sales up about 5%
Sales of organic food reached $50.1 billion in 2019, a 4.6% increase from the year before, according to the Organic Trade Association’s annual report on the industry. Total U.S. food sales, both conventional and organic, increased by 2% in 2019.
Sales of organic non-food items rose 9.2% to $5 billion in 2019.
The survey “shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

Ajit Pai
FCC sticks to rural broadband funding timeline
Despite pressure from Congress, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai doesn’t plan to move up the phase one reverse auction of the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
“We do not want to do anything that could ultimately and ironically delay the auction and distribution of funding,” Pai told reporters Tuesday.
Pai says the FCC must take several administrative steps to make sure the auction can proceed.
Phase one of RDOF will provide $16 billion over a 10-year period to eligible broadband providers who meet FCC’s service criteria. The commission will begin accepting applications July 1.
They said it:
“Even as the prices for some agricultural products rebound, longer term changes to processing practices and shifts in consumer behavior are likely to continue to impact farmer and rancher income for months to come.” – Letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue signed by top Democrats on the House Ag Committee

Steve Davies, Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.

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