August 26, 2020
California Democrats ask Pence for N95s for farmers
Nearly half of California’s congressional representatives signed a letter yesterday to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The bipartisan group asked for help in securing N95 masks for farmers and farmworkers performing their jobs in unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke.
“Given the ongoing pandemic, securing N95 masks has been near impossible for employers,” said Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa of Northern California.
The letter notes the state requirement to supply workers with N95 masks when intense wildfire smoke is present. The lawmakers add that agricultural workers have endured extreme heat and living conditions that have left them vulnerable during the pandemic.
“That’s why we must take every step possible to protect those workers and provide them with the necessary protective gear,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta of the Central Coast.
Chlorpyrifos bill clears Assembly floor
The Assembly yesterday passed Senate Bill 86, a measure requiring quarterly reporting on the use of the granular form of chlorpyrifos.
Assemblymember Laura Friedman of Los Angeles County introduced the measure as a “data collection bill” that would monitor the chlorpyrifos products and their effects on children.
Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia countered that the “the timing of this bill could not be worse, with the budget cuts and everything else.” He argued that while the insecticide is known to be dangerous, the pelletized granular form is safer.
“To say that workers are carrying this back into their homes is basically calling the workers incompetent, which we all know isn't true,” he added.
Both Friedman and Assemblymember Mark Stone of Scotts Valley said they would rather see a ban on all forms of chlorpyrifos than this measure.
(Department of Water Resources)
Water experts call for new action on Delta flows and tunnel
Flows going into the Sacramento Delta should not be static, but change with the seasons as they once did in nature, according to researchers at Public Policy Institute of California in a paper published yesterday.
“A new approach to managing environmental water is needed,” they write.
This runs counter to the approach of the State Water Board. Its regulations have favored minimum flow requirements throughout the year. The researchers note that Gov. Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio, on the other hand, calls for more dynamic variability in those flows. The approach to the voluntary agreements negotiations for flows has also favored this “functional flows” approach.
Meanwhile, Bruce Babbitt, the Interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, is arguing Newsom must take decisive action over just how much the proposed Delta tunnel will export to cities and farms further south.
In an op-ed for CalMatters yesterday, Babbit said this would require a “grand bargain” and a bold step politically for Newsom to address such a toxic subject.
“This political culture of deferral, intended to finesse controversy, has only heightened the level of mistrust and contention,” he writes, adding that this has made water deliveries unreliable and led to lawsuits.
GOP makes case for Trump trade policies
Republicans used Day Two of their convention to make a full-throated defense of President Trump’s trade policies with testimonials of a dairy farmer and others.
Cris Peterson, who runs a dairy operation with her husband in Grantsburg, Wis., said Trump understands that “farming is a complicated, capital-intensive and risky business” and that his trade policy gave the Petersons the confidence they needed to rebuild their operation.
She also praised Trump for his administration’s response to the market disruptions that followed the COVID-19 shutdowns in March. “Our entire economy, and dairy farming, are once again roaring back,” she said.
By the way: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will be speaking at the convention tonight. Her campaign tells Agri-Pulse she will highlight American farmers and their mission to feed and fuel the world. The theme of night three is “Land of Heroes.”
Climate will be ‘top priority’ for Democratic Senate
Senate Democrats are promising that they will move swiftly to pass climate legislation next year if they win control of the chamber. But a plan they released Tuesday leaves open the toughest question: What mechanism, such as a carbon tax or federal emissions limits, would be needed to meet their goal of making the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050.
“When Democrats retake the majority in the Senate we will be unified to move swiftly on legislation to tackle the climate crisis,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “Passing climate legislation will be a top priority for Senate Democrats and for me if we gain the majority and I become the majority leader.”
Schumer declined to commit to ending the filibuster to pass a climate bill, but he expressed confidence he could keep Democrats unified. “Our caucus from one end to the other is committed to strong and bold action on climate,” he said.
Keep in mind: Democrats controlled the Senate back in 2009 and couldn’t agree among themselves on President Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade plan.
The easiest way for Democrats to pass a climate bill next year would be to use the budget reconciliation process – a reconciliation bill can pass the Senate with a simple majority – but rules limit what could be included in the legislation.
Take note: The Senate Democratic plan is in line with ones put out by House Democrats and by presidential nominee Joe Biden in outlining a voluntary approach to reducing agriculture’s greenhouse emissions.
“Farmers and ranchers have been sequestering carbon for a long time as part of the practices that keep their soil healthy and productive,” the plan says. “Given the beneficial impact these practices provide in the fight against climate change, farmers should be directly compensated for this ecosystem service.”
House Democrats probe Food Box management
House Democrats are demanding answers from USDA on its management of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, which was created this spring to distribute surplus food to needy Americans.
In a nine-page letter to Secretary Perdue, the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, James Clyburn, argues that the department granted large contracts to middlemen lacking the ability to deliver food they agreed to provide.
The letter demands USDA turn over documents on contracts involving 12 senate companies, ranging from agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. to CRE8AD8 (pronounced create-a-date), a small firm that became infamous after its involvement in the program became public.
“USDA reportedly awarded contracts to companies that ‘never knew about’ a required food service industry license as well as companies that lacked industry networks needed to efficiently source and deliver food,” Clyburn’s letter reads.
USDA awards first urban ag grants
Some 23 recipients from California to Connecticut will receive about $4.1 million in grants and cooperative agreements to increase urban agriculture projects and eliminate food waste.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s acting chief, Kevin Norton, told Agri-Pulse some projects will focus on improving local food access and emerging technologies like vertical production systems.
The grants are being distributed through the new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. Norton said over 500 applicants applied.
USDA finds modest growth in farmers markets
Some 85% of the food sold at farmers markets nationwide is locally grown. That’s according to a new survey of farmers market managers by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
The number of markets nationwide has remained relatively steady. In 2015, USDA reported about 8,400 markets.
About half the current markets, 4,100 in all, participate in federal nutrition programs.
They said it:
“Imagine if…one restaurant was forced to give a cut of its monthly receipts to its competitor down the street.” – three California dairy farmers, in an op-ed for Fox and Hounds, describing what they see as the state’s unjust dairy quota system
Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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