July 28, 2020
Central Valley gets $52 million and focus on outbreaks among farmworkers
Standing at a food packaging facility in Stockton yesterday, Gov. Newsom announced the state will send $52 million to Central Valley counties for combating a spike in COVID-19 cases. The money will go to testing, contact tracing and isolation housing.
“The rising community transmission rates we are seeing, particularly among Latinos in the Central Valley, are concerning,” said Newsom.
Public health agencies will also be deploying strike teams to investigate outbreaks at agricultural workplaces, high-density housing developments and factories, among other sites. The state has already seen success with this strategy in the Imperial Valley.
Newsom said he will be naming a COVID-19 task force to focus specifically on the Central Valley.
While Newsom spoke on Friday of ratcheting up enforcement of coronavirus safety standards, he said yesterday that the Central Valley effort will instead be engaging employers in a “supportive mindset,” rather than punitive.
Newsom at a Diamond of California facility in Stockton.
Assembly and Senate announce $100 billion stimulus plan
Working groups from both branches of the Legislature plan to spend $100 billion to stimulate the economy without raising taxes.
The plan would draw instead on previously allocated funding for transportation, broadband and infrastructure, which could include Prop 1 funding for water projects. It would also borrow from the federal government, expand tax credits for low-income individuals and offer tax breaks to small businesses.
Investing in the green economy: The plan relies on future cap-and-trade funds “to backfill lost revenues due to the downturn and ensure critical programs remain funded.” This was a sticking point with many lawmakers during budget negotiations in June. Ag industry advocates fear this change in rulemaking for the cap-and-trade market could lead to higher costs on farmers and take funding away from critical incentives programs.
Assemblymember Adam Gray of Merced said the plan “must prioritize small and rural communities, which lack the local resources and reserves to mitigate the worst impacts of this pandemic.”
Republicans, who did not participate in the working groups, cautioned the plan may sound appealing in its broad strokes, but “the devil is always in the details.”
Keep in mind: The Legislature has five weeks left in its session to wrap up budget measures and other bills. Yet leaders could call for a special session to further debate any of the hundreds of bills still on the table.
Senate GOP unveils relief package with $20B in ag aid
We’ve been telling you for days that Senate Republicans want to give USDA maximum flexibility in how to do the next round of coronavirus relief. And that’s exactly what the new GOP proposal would do.
The GOP bill authorizes $20 billion that can be used by farmers as well as processors “to prevent, prepare for, and respond” to the pandemic. The eligible commodities include “specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry, including livestock and poultry depopulated due to insufficient processing access and growers who produce livestock or poultry under a contract for another entity.”
Including “processors” among the eligible recipients would cover ethanol producers, a Senate aide says.
What’s next: Senate Republicans now have to get a deal with congressional Democrats, and there is a long list of items to be negotiated.
The top Democrat on the Senate Ag Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, declined to comment on the GOP ag provisions. But Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., says Stabenow’s “big ask” has been a 15% increase in SNAP benefits.
Take note: The bill has a number of provisions making it easier for farms and other businesses to get forgiveness on Paycheck Protection Program loans. Loans of less than $150,000 can qualify for automatic forgiveness.
Download the text of the ag provisions and other appropriations measures here and a summary of the Paycheck Protection Program provisions here.
CFAP total grows slowly, up 5%
USDA has now paid out $6.55 billion, an increase of about $300 million, or about 5%, over the past week, according to the latest USDA data. With one month to the signup deadline, USDA is nowhere close to distributing the full $16 billion earmarked for the program.
What’s with the slow pace? Pat Westhoff, who directs the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, says USDA is unlikely to pay out the full $16 billion at this pace. Westhoff says he isn’t sure why. “Possible explanations include difficulty in getting paperwork done given FSA constraints, less eligible production than anticipated, and impact of payment limitations, etc.,” he said in an email.
Cattle producers have received $2.9 billion so far, while dairy producers have received $1.3 billion. Among row crops, some $1.2 billion has been paid for corn and $331 million for soybeans. Hog producers have received $416 million.
Iowa continues to lead the nation with $679 million. Nebraska is second at $484 million, followed by Minnesota ($420 million), Wisconsin ($384 million), Texas ($356 million), and California ($345 million).
(Delaware Ag Department)
NASDA warns of Chinese seed smuggling scheme
Don’t plant the seeds! Don’t even open the package! That’s the warning from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to people who are getting packages of seeds in the mail from China that they did not order.
“The seeds are sent in packages usually stating that the contents are jewelry. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock,” the Washington State Department of Agriculture warned on a Facebook post. “This is known as agricultural smuggling. Report it to USDA and maintain the seeds and packaging until USDA instructs you what to do with the packages and seeds. They may be needed as evidence.”
State ag departments in Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada and Alabama are all issuing similar warnings.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement that it is working with state ag departments and Customs and Border Protection “to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds.”
She said it:
“Prop 15’s taxes on agriculture property aren’t just going to hit farmers—they’re going to land hard on California consumers, many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living in this state.” — Ag Council President Emily Rooney, in announcing a new ag coalition and campaign against Proposition 15. The industry fears the November ballot measure would lead to some ag property being taxed at fair market value.
Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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