June 18, 2020

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Technology may be a hurdle for saving bees
In 2019 an online pesticide notification tool known as BeeWhere was launched as a way to head off accidental colony exposures. The program has nearly hit its target of registering 1.5 million honeybee colonies in the state since July, according to CDFA. The USDA estimate for colonies in California last year peaked at about 1.8 million.
Kern County tops the list, at 166,000 colonies, and Tulare, Fresno and Merced counties are close behind. More than 19,000 notifications, or “bee checks,” have been sent to applicators, growers and pest control advisors. These alert that a colony is nearby, and spraying should be postponed.
Of the bee checks, just 25% were run by farmers. This raised concerns among members of CDFA’s apiary advisory board during a meeting yesterday. Some worried that coordinating the phone app, web platform and email was too much of a technology leap for farmers.
However, Sandy Elles of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association said it could be a simple user error: “I fear that some growers and applicators may think that it's automated. It is not,” she said, explaining that users must sign up to be notified.
The coalition is looking into an update to allow it to better track the metrics based on pesticide use reports. Others suggested making BeeWhere more accessible by integrating it into widely used platforms like Agrian. For now, the answer is more outreach to growers.

Facemasks available for farmers
County ag commissioners now have about 500,000 surgical masks to be distributed at no cost. Trade groups are urging growers to contact the offices and schedule a pickup.
The masks are the result of a partnership with CDFA.
Remember: Last month Gov. Newsom said his administration was providing 4.2 million masks “to farmworkers and into our agricultural community.” This was part of an allocation of 11 million surgical masks to essential industries throughout the state.

Legislature rejects delay on truck inspections
As an item in its budget plan, the Assembly is rejecting trailer bill language that would delay implementation of a new smog check program for big rigs.
Republican Sen. Brian Dahle, who runs a seed and trucking business in Lassen County, pushed back last year on the measure establishing the program. He called it a big problem “for somebody like myself, who has never been able to afford a brand new truck.”
“It's going to be a hardship on the people trying to make a living on top of all of the other regulations that have been piled on top of us,” he said in a committee hearing. “It's going to drive the cost of freight up in California.”
The Assembly budget includes nearly $2 million for implementing the program and a related project.
Biden calls for COVID-19 safety rules for workers
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden yesterday called for the federal government to set enforceable standards for protecting workers from COVID-19. Biden also proposed guaranteeing all workers access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
He said OSHA should require social distancing, improved ventilation and sanitation procedures, and PPE for employees.
“This isn’t a debate about whether to reopen [the economy]; it’s about how we make reopening work for everyone,” he said.
Read the full report at Agri-Pulse.com.

Lighthizer denies Bolton claim
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser has dropped a bombshell with his accusation that Trump directly pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to help his re-election by purchasing U.S. farm commodities.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Bolton alleges the White House blocked him from publishing the “exact words” of what Trump said. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon, said he had no recollection of such a request of Xi, calling Bolton’s allegation “completely crazy.”
Keep in mind: Bolton’s accusation suggests the “phase one” trade deal was more about short-term political gain than any strategic trade victory.
Read our story on Bolton’s claim here.
By the way: Lighthizer told lawmakers that China will fully comply with its promises to buy U.S. farm commodities and that the United Kingdom will be required to lift barriers on American ag products in any trade deal with the U.S.
USTR: US ready for USMCA, but eyeing Canada on dairy
Lighthizer says the U.S. is “ready to go” for USMCA implementation on July 1, but stressed he will be keeping a close eye on Canada to make sure it lives up to its promise for dairy reforms.
Canada agreed in the deal to eliminate its Class 7 dairy pricing system – which U.S. producers say flooded the international market with skim milk powder – but Lighthizer said he is leery.
“If there’s any shading of the benefits of American farmers, we’re going to bring a case against them,” Lighthizer said.
But, but, but: According to the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Canada is already dissing the U.S. by allocating new tariff rate quotas that discourage “high-value” U.S. imports.
Rural broadband center stage at White House today
Trump is scheduled to talk about access to rural broadband at a White House event today.
The meeting comes as Bloomberg first reported Monday that the administration is working on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes funding for rural broadband and 5G wireless infrastructure.
EPA names 33 ag advisers
Thirty-three people have been appointed to EPA’s Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee, a federal advisory panel that “provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations” to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
Members come from academia, farm groups, food and ag companies, state, local, and tribal governments and nongovernmental organizations.
For California, Amy Wolfe of AgSafe and Jeanette Lombardo of the group California Food and Agribusiness Advocates are on the committee.
Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., praised the appointment of Michael Crowder, president-elect of the National Association of Conservation Districts and general manager of Barker Ranch in Washington.
The full list of members is here
Looking for PPP forgiveness? EZ application’s out
The Small Business Administration has released a revised application for forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans as well as a new EZ application that could be relevant to some agricultural borrowers.
Borrowers who can use the EZ version include those who are self-employed and have no workers. Others also can use the form if they didn’t reduce the wages of their employees by more than 25%, and didn’t reduce the number or hours of their employees.
He said it:
“There's no smoking gun to tell us how products are contaminated.” – Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, describing the results of an FDA investigation into the E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce last year and updates on food safety standards

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

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