June 23, 2020
Deal reached on state budget
Gov. Newsom and legislative leaders announced yesterday they have reached a budget deal, but released almost no details just yet.
Newsom is reportedly agreeing to postpone some of his proposed spending cuts—particularly for social services programs—until the fall. Yet the Legislature is conceding immediate reductions to programs where adequate federal aid has failed to materialize.
“We made compromises across the spectrum,” said Newsom at a press briefing.
A joint statement by Newsom and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said the deal “required some tough decisions and more work remains ahead.”
Next: Newsom said the administration would be “putting out more details in the coming hours and days.” The Senate Budget Committee plans to meet Wednesday.
Senate passes bill on H-2A worker rights
The Senate yesterday advanced a bill requiring ag employers to notify H-2A guestworkers of their rights when it comes to labor, housing, health and safety. Asm. Bill Monning of Carmel said the visa program echoes “the abuses” of the postwar bracero program with Mexico and allows employers to take advantage of farmworkers.
“If they are fired for any reason, they're subject to immediate deportation,” he said, “which is a powerful disincentive to complain about any abusive workplace conditions that they may be subjected to.”
No other senator stood in opposition. The bill passed along party lines, with several moderate Democrats avoiding an immediate vote. The Assembly will take up the bill in July.
Keep in mind: The Saqui Law Group has singled out another concerning provision that was recently added to the measure. Senate Bill 1102 would also require employers to pay regular wages for travel time to the job site. H-2A employers are already responsible for providing both the transportation and housing.
“The industry needs to make its voice heard in opposition to this bill,” the firm argues in a recent blog post. “It adds more red tape and confusion to an already heavily regulated system and will provide fodder for more plaintiffs’ actions against employers.”
Judge blocks Roundup warning
In a big win for farm groups, a federal judge has issued a permanent injunction barring the state of California from placing a cancer warning on Roundup products, determining it would be “misleading” to do so.
U.S. District Judge William Shubb had issued a preliminary injunction blocking the warning label in February 2018.
“The court’s initial conclusion remains the same,” the judge said in a decision Monday.
Notwithstanding the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s determination in 2015 that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen, Shubb said “the statement that glyphosate is ‘known to the state of California to cause cancer’ is misleading. Every regulator of which the court is aware, with the sole exception of the IARC, has found that glyphosate does not cause cancer or that there is insufficient evidence to show that it does.”
IARC is part of the World Health Organization and is not a regulatory body.
Grower groups led by the National Association of Wheat Growers as well as Monsanto filed suit to block the warning label.
Why it matters: Prop 65 labeling could have further raised consumer concerns about glyphosate, and some extra-cautious companies are putting the warnings on products even if they aren’t intended for sale in California.
CFAP payments reach $4 billion
USDA has now distributed one-quarter of the $16 billion in CFAP payments. Livestock producers (cattle, hogs and sheep) continue to dominate the payments with just under $2 billion of the $4 billion that has been allocated so far, according to USDA’s latest weekly report.
Soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton and other row crops have received just over $1 billion. Dairy producers have received $895 million. The remaining $84 million has gone to growers of fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.
Iowa farmers have received $424 million so far – nearly 11% of the total payments nationwide – and far more than producers in any other state. Wisconsin is second with $286 million in payments, the bulk of which have gone to dairy producers.
New shadow over China trade deal
The U.S.-China “phase one” trade agreement continues to take hits. The latest, according to an Axios report, is President Donald Trump’s admission that he agreed not to hit China with sanctions over Beijing’s use of detention camps for Uyghurs – a Muslim minority in China – while the negotiations were ongoing.
The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, said Monday that the trade deal “failed to deliver results for American farmers and workers, sold out American values and once again proved Trump is an easy mark for China’s leaders.”
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s new book accuses Trump of asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to help his re-election by purchasing U.S. soybeans and other farm commodities.
Conservation easements pitched as farm economy fix
An influential liberal think tank is calling on Congress to sharply expand conservation easement programs as a way of helping farmers cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Center for American Progress says the emergency “Rush for Nature” spending plan being released today should be included in the next coronavirus relief bill. The funding would go to programs at USDA as well as the departments of Interior and Defense.
CAP also wants Congress to set goals for increasing land conservation, starting with 3 million acres in 2021 and then increasing amounts after that to reach a goal of protecting 55 million acres of private lands by 2030,
Keep in mind: The idea of expanding conservation easements and spending is in line with Democratic proposals to help address climate change by increasing soil carbon levels and taking land out of production.
Challenges to new WOTUS continue
Another lawsuit has been filed challenging the Navigable Waters Protection Rule that went into effect Monday, three days after courts issued different decisions on the rule’s legality.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Idaho Conservation League and Mi Familia Vota filed a complaint Monday in federal court in Seattle, alleging that both the government’s rule repealing the Obama Administration’s 2015 “waters of the U.S.” rule and the NWPR, which was published this year, are illegal.
Both rules “are contrary to the evidence” before the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, “including vast volumes of science and technical evidence in the administrative record,” the groups said.
Background: Two courts ruled Friday on challenges to the NWPR. In California, a federal judge soundly rejected a request for an injunction from more than a dozen states, while in Colorado, a judge stopped the federal government’s 404 rule from going into effect. See our coverage here.
Lawyer pleads guilty in Roundup case
A Virginia lawyer who was heavily involved in Roundup litigation before being fired in 2019 by his law firm has pleaded guilty to trying to extort $200 million from an unnamed chemical company.
Timothy Litzenburg pled guilty to one count of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort the company in exchange for not filing litigation against it. The company was described in the criminal complaint against Litzenburg and another attorney, Daniel Kincheloe, as a supplier of chemical compounds to Monsanto to make Roundup.
They said it:
“The next time you snack on almonds, add blueberries to your smoothie or eat pumpkin pie, thank a pollinator and thank farmers, ranchers and private forestland owners who work hard to create and maintain their habitat.” — NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez and FSA State Executive Director Conny Conway, in an op-ed yesterday celebrating the launch of Pollinator Week
Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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