August 21, 2020
Few wins for agriculture following key hearings
Yesterday was a day many lawmakers fret each year, as appropriations committees for both houses of the Legislature decided which bills to advance and which to cut.
A number of bills passing committees would levy new regulations on agriculture — from a measure on chlorpyrifos to expansions on workers’ comp and family leave time.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment for the San Joaquin Valley was that the Assembly amended SB 559 to strip funding for fixing the Friant-Kern Canal. If the author accepts the changes, the bill would instead propose a study on the issue.
Also left on the cutting room floor were incentives programs to help famers adapt to climate change, to help displaced farmworkers and to restore habitats on farmland.
The Senate did withhold AB 2954, a bill that divided Democrats and ag groups over carbon sequestration on working lands.
Free N95 masks for ag employers to comply with smoke regulation
County agricultural commissioners are distributing a limited supply of N95 respirators to ag businesses to protect workers from wildfire smoke, according to the Western Agricultural Processors Association.
CDFA helped commissioners procure the masks last month to use for pesticide applications.
Keep in mind: Cal/OSHA has stood behind its new regulation requiring employers to supply N95s when wildfire smoke is present, despite a worldwide mask shortage due to the pandemic.
Attorney General takes egg farmers to court over price gouging
Attorney General Xavier Becerra yesterday requested a state court order an egg farm and its distributer to comply with an investigation into price gouging.
Becerra believes California Farms LLC and its South Dakota parent company may have charged excessive prices during a state of emergency for the pandemic. The companies failed to respond to the AG’s subpoenas.
“We have reason to suspect that these egg distributing companies have violated California’s laws, contributing to this problem,” said Becerra in a statement. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
The AG’s office has been investigating pricing practices following consumer complaints over the cost of grocery staples. California’s anti–price gouging law caps price increases at 10% during emergencies.
H-2A approvals up despite pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have had little impact on the operation of the H-2A farm labor program.
There were initial concerns about delays in getting workers. But the Labor Department certified more than 86,000 positions during the quarter that ended June 30. That is a 4% increase over the same quarter in 2019, according to an analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
By comparison, the number of certified positions grew just 2% from 2018 to 2019 over the same period.
The Labor Department reported that 96% of the applications were processed in a timely manner during the latest quarter. That makes it the best processing rate for that quarter since 2017.
Bottom line: More than 220,000 H-2A positions have been approved through the first three quarters of fiscal 2020, including 21,000 in California, according to DOL's quarterly report. Florida leads the nation with 28,005.
Organic group says its climate efforts need support
Federal policies that help advance organic agriculture will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, the Organic Trade Association said in a paper released Thursday.
The organic sector “represents the best option in agriculture to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects, while still delivering a suite of other benefits to people and the planet,” the white paper says.
“Researchers at the National Soil Project at Northeastern University, in collaboration with The Organic Center, have shown that soils from organic farms sequester 26% more carbon than soils from non-organic farms,” the paper says.
In June, OTA’s board of directors unanimously adopted 10 principles for climate policy, including incentivizing farmers and businesses: “Farmers should not have to bear the brunt when making transformational changes. Public and private sector programs should provide tools and resources to achieve outcomes through market-based incentives or financial payments that encourage conservation practices or ecosystem services.”
Will others copy Mexico’s glyphosate ban?
Vietnam, Austria, Germany and now Mexico have announced plans to ban the glyphosate herbicide and now CropLife America is concerned more will follow.
“And the drumbeats against glyphosate use around the globe continue . . .” CropLife said in a post on its website Thursday, following Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s announcement last week that the country would phase out the use of glyphosate by the end of 2024.
CropLife America President and CEO Christopher Novak told Agri-Pulse in a recent interview that Mexico’s promised glyphosate ban is a bad sign for the future of U.S.-Mexico agriculture trade.
“That decision moves us in the wrong direction,” he said.
He said it
“Maybe we're just going to have to make them pay for it, because they don't listen to us. We say you got to get rid of the leaves.” – President Trump, threatening again to pull emergency funds because he disagrees with California’s approach to wildfire management. Trump made a similar threat during the 2018 Camp Fire.
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