July 30, 2020
Newsom rejects suspension of minimum wage hike
Despite the recession, in January the minimum wage rate will increase as planned, according to a statement yesterday by Gov. Newsom. Small businesses will face a $1 per hour raise in wages and others a $2 per hour increase.
Agricultural and business groups have been lobbying the governor and lawmakers to pause the wage hike until the economy has fully reopened and businesses are able to get back on their feet.
The California Restaurant Association listed this as a priority in a letter to the administration in March. The industry group said the situation could lead to a third of all restaurants in the state closing forever.
While the budget passed last month already rejected the proposal, the Legislature had already granted the governor the authority to suspend the hike during an economic downturn.
“Not allowing this increase to go forward will only make life harder for those Californians who have already borne a disproportionate share of the economic hardship caused by this pandemic,” said Newsom.
He added this would benefit food and agriculture workers, among other frontline workers.
Keep in mind: Assembly Bill 2956, which would relieve farmers of some of the burden for paying overtime wage premiums, has stalled in the Legislature since March.
Sec. Crowfoot in 2019
Crowfoot: Water Portfolio will ‘accelerate’ storage projects
Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot yesterday elaborated on the top 10 priorities for the finalized Water Resilience Portfolio over the next two and a half years of the administration. At the summer conference for the Association of California Water Agencies, Crowfoot said the portfolio must be a multi-decadal effort to be successful.
One goal is to supply reliable water for agriculture and other communities by accelerating “smart” storage projects like the Sites Reservoir or groundwater storage. The 2014 Prop. 1 water bond delivered $2 billion for eight storage projects, but much of that money has yet to be delivered, delaying development. Crowfoot said Portfolio Director Nancy Vogel has been tasked with “getting these online.”
On voluntary agreements: Crowfoot said he is “eager” to work with the parties not currently wrapped up in the many lawsuits related the federal biological opinions. He reiterated the administration hopes to settle its own lawsuit soon and restart negotiations with the rest of the parties.
Lawsuit says NEPA rewrite ‘eviscerates’ environmental analysis
The Trump administration’s rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act regulations “upends virtually every aspect of NEPA and its longstanding practice, contradicts decades of court interpretations of NEPA’s mandates, and undercuts the reliance placed on NEPA by the public, decisionmakers, and project proponents,” a lawsuit filed Wednesday says.
In their complaint filed in San Francisco, 20 plaintiff environmental groups said the July 16 rule “limits the scope of actions to which NEPA applies, eviscerates the thorough environmental analysis that lies at the heart of the statute, reduces the ability of the public to participate in federal agency decision-making, and seeks to limit judicial review of agency NEPA compliance.”
Among the plaintiffs: Alaska Community Action on Toxics, National Wildlife Federation and Environmental Defense Fund.
Keep in mind: Litigation may not be opponents’ only avenue of attack. The rule could be subject to reversal through the Congressional Review Act. Read our story here.
US-China tensions edge toward ‘tipping point’: business official
Building tensions between the U.S. and China have yet to stop agricultural trade between the countries, but that time could come, says Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.
China’s increased militarization in the South China Sea, the shuttering of consulates over U.S. spying allegations, China’s constriction of Hong Kong freedoms, and U.S. accusations over the spread of COVID-19 “are just adding fuel to what was already a raging fire,” Allen said in a Wednesday presentation to the U.S. Grains Council.
“Trade officials are telling us that despite the geopolitical tensions between the two countries, negotiations are going well,” Allen said. “At the same time, there may be a geopolitical tipping point and I do worry about it.”
Roberts: Specificity on ag provisions in coronavirus relief up to Perdue
Some ag groups and other lawmakers would like to see more specificity in the agriculture provisions in the latest coronavirus relief bill, but Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts tells Agri-Pulse that should be left up to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“I think that’s probably a place where it should be, given the amount of money,” Roberts said. The HEALS Act introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week would provide $20.5 billion to help support agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by the coronavirus.
By the way: Agri-Pulse’s Ben Nuelle caught President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on his way to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday afternoon. He said talks are going very slowly. After the meeting, Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin both said the talks were still very far apart.
House passes inland waterway funding legislation
The Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which passed the House by voice vote Wednesday afternoon, would increase the federal government’s cost-share for inland waterways projects to 65%, with the rest coming from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The current cost-share is 50-50.
“This adjustment will ensure that projects like the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program can begin sooner, be completed sooner, and provide our agriculture sector the benefits of more efficient river transportation,” Waterways Council President and CEO Tracy Zea told Agri-Pulse.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved its WRDA bill May 6. EPW Chair John Barrasso said he looks forward to working with the House when the bill goes to conference.
For California, Rep. John Garamendi said the legislation supports levee, flood protection and ecosystem restoration projects in the Sacramento Valley, the region he represents.
Perdue slams EU environmental farming plan
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue went on the offensive Wednesday against the European Union’s new plans to slash farmers’ use of pesticides, fertilizer, antibiotics and medicated feed, calling the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies dangerous to the profitability of farmers and their ability to be competitive in the global market.
In a webinar that also featured European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, Perdue said he’s worried the strategies “will be extremely trade-prohibitive and jeopardize agricultural output. If I was an EU farmer, I’d be very concerned about this strategy and the policies that will follow. When innovative tools are taken away from a farmer, the only choice is protectionism, which isn’t healthy for Europe or the United States.”
But Wojciechowski stressed that European farms are generally smaller than those in the U.S., and its new proposals will “strengthen the resiliency” of that land and protect it for the next generation of farmers.
He said it:
“With this strategy, it appears that Europe has forgotten the farm in Farm to Fork.” — Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue criticizing the EU’s new proposal to boost organic farming and slash agricultural use of antibiotics and other technologies that U.S. producers use.
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