August 24, 2020
Newsom signals support for reporting infections among farmworkers
Assembly Bill 685 would require employers to notify state agencies and employee unions of a COVID-19 infection within 24 hours of an outbreak. Labor unions are sponsoring the bill.
During a press conference Friday, Gov. Newsom addressed concerns that few counties are tracking occupations during outbreaks and testing.
“We’re working with the Legislature on tracking COVID infections in farmworkers,” he said, referencing AB 685. “We'll be making an announcement in that space on that issue very, very shortly.”
The bill passed Senate Appropriations on Thursday. New amendments address just a couple of the many concerns raised by a broad coalition of ag and business groups in opposition.
Ross: Ag is ‘not as diverse as it could be’
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross took part in an event last week announcing a new agreement that would welcome more minority students into ag policy careers.
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture signed the memorandum with a nonprofit committed to the pursuit known as MANRRS (pronounced "manners"), for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.
Ross said CDFA must be “intentional” about recruitment in order to “have all the best minds possible.”
She acknowledged the complexity of issues the department tends to deal with and the “lack of real agricultural knowledge” at other state agencies, like the Air Resources Board and State Water Board. Expanding the diversity and expertise at CDFA will help to break down those silos and hopefully influence the private sector as well, she said.
Diversity could help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Central Valley, she argued. Ross expressed a need to communicate to rural communities of color in culturally appropriate ways about family gatherings.
“How do we help folks understand that it seems innocent to do a big birthday party or Sunday afternoon barbecue?” she said.
DPR extends neonics comment period
The Department of Pesticide Regulation is extending the comment period for its proposed regulations on four neonicotinoids. The new deadline is October 11.
“DPR understands the complexity of the draft mitigation proposal that addresses four active ingredients over a wide range of commodities,” the department wrote in its notice.
It also acknowledged the added ramifications created by CDFA’s new economic impact analysis of the draft regulation.
USDA tightening farm eligibility rules
USDA is moving to make it tougher for members of some large family farm operations to get federal subsidies. USDA is publishing a rule in the Federal Register today that will require people trying to qualify for payments as active managers of a farm to provide either 25% of its management or 500 hours of time. The requirement already applied to members of partnerships.
Paul Neiffer, an agricultural accounting specialist for CliftonLarsonAllen, tells Agri-Pulse the requirement will mostly affect large family farming operations, a relatively “small segment of the farm population.”
Still, the change is a victory for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who have been pushing for years to tighten the rules.
Read our report on the rule here.
Trump promoting food boxes today
Trump will be in North Carolina today to call attention to USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, a project in which his daughter Ivanka Trump has been personally involved.
Flavor 1st Growers & Packers in Mills River, N.C., which Trump will visit, is working with Baptists on Mission on the food box program in the state. Baptists on Mission was awarded contracts totaling more than $5 million as part of the $3 billion food box program, which has delivered nearly 70 million boxes since it began in May.
But not without controversy: The Food Box program recently came under fire for a letter included in boxes from Trump, which says he “prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.” The letter includes COVID-19 safety tips, including a suggestion to “consider wearing a face covering when in public.”
Congressional Democrats have blasted the inclusion of the letter, calling it a violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by federal employees. The White House responded with statements from White House adviser Ivanka Trump, Ag Secretary Sony Perdue and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci supporting its inclusion.
Report: Industry, governments must take steps to slash food waste
A study by the National Academy of Sciences says that cutting restaurant portions and reforming garbage fees are some of the best ways to reduce food waste. Americans waste about 30% of what is produced.
The 265-page study released Friday calls on industry groups to push for legislation that would standardize date labeling on packages as a way to reduce consumer confusion about how long food can be safely eaten.
But the researchers warned that the problem is complicated and could be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more at Agri-Pulse.com.
Farmworkers, grower groups fight over COVID testing in Michigan
A federal judge on Friday upheld Michigan’s emergency order requiring COVID-19 testing of farmworkers. He said the requirement showed no "discriminatory intent."
The plaintiffs — six Latino farmworkers, a blueberry farm and a tree fruit grower — alleged in a complaint filed this month that the Michigan public health order discriminated against Latinos. Farmworkers must undergo COVID-19 testing by Monday, according to the order.
Peterson demands CFAP clarification
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is calling on Agriculture Sonny Perdue to provide more details about how the department determined the eligibility of crops and livestock for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
In a letter to Perdue, Peterson, D-Minn., says producers of some commodities were denied payments because of requirements that were inconsistent and unjustified.
For example, USDA allowed the use of sub-national data to justify a qualifying loss when it came to apples but not when it came to other commodities, including turkeys, alfalfa, nursery crops and cut flowers, Peterson says.
“Without consistent public clarity on what data USDA deems sufficient for use or how USDA is analyzing this data, the program is at risk of public distrust and other commodities seeking future program eligibility are placed at a disadvantage,” Peterson writes.
US cherry exports to Japan benefit from tariff reduction
U.S. cherry farmers are already benefitting from the initial tariff reductions included in the U.S.-Japan trade agreement, according to a new analysis released Friday by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
The gains are small so far, but Japan’s tariffs are scheduled to keep falling in the years to come. Japan dropped its tariffs on sweet cherries from 8.5% to just 2.5% from January through April and they will eventually be eliminated completely by 2023.
Japan is expected to import 4,200 metric tons of sweet cherries in the 2020-21 marketing year, up from 4,152 tons in 2019-20.
She said it:
“Every single one of my counties is on fire, and I’m really sad about that. … I have a half dozen good friends that don’t have a home right now.”—Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters. She spoke during a press briefing on Friday about the many wildfires currently raging across the state, which have now burned more than a million acres in less that two weeks.
Steve Davies, Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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