September 1, 2020
Here’s what passed the Legislature
The Capitol wrapped up a strange legislative year yesterday, sending a slew of bills to the governor’s desk. Lawmakers could still return in a special session called up by the governor or to touch up budget bills following the outcome of a federal stimulus package, though it is too early to tell.
Unlike prior years, President Trump’s name was rarely (if at all) mentioned by lawmakers urging their colleagues to approve a measure.
Here are a few of the many bills the Newsom administration will soon decide on:
- A measure to assess the fiscal costs of climate impacts before they ‘collapse’ ag
- Following a ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos, a bill requiring quarterly reporting on the use of the granular form
- A bill charging Cal/OSHA with enforcing statewide guidance on COVID-19 precautions for farmworkers
- A bill requiring notifications of housing and labor rights and paid travel time for H-2A workers
- A ban on second-generation rodenticides, outside of ag
Heated debate ensues over notifying employees of infections
Asm. Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego lashed out at Republican Asm. Heath Flora of Ripon over Assembly Bill 685. The measure would require employers to immediately notify employees and the state of COVID-19 infections.
A labor group testifying in support of the bill referred to a recent outbreak at Foster Farms in Livingston, Calif., as an example of what the bill aims to prevent. Flora defended the company as doing everything the state asked them to do, arguing the Legislature took less action following the infection last week of senator he had shared an apartment with.
Gonzalez immediately shot back that Foster Farms was not following the rules and that’s why eight people are dead. She said that this happens “when harvest is more important” than the health of Latino workers.
Flora said he understood the challenges for immigrant workers but too much of the responsibility is put on companies. Gonzalez pushed him on that, urging him to join the Latino Caucus in inclusion efforts for bills.
Debates go late over plastic recycling
Lawmakers debated late into the night yesterday over two bills that would set aggressive goals for reducing single-use plastics for food containers, beverages and other consumer products.
This time the Assembly took up the debate, with SB 54, hours after it was pulled from the inactive file. While no members stood in opposition to the bill, Democrats struggled to gather enough votes. Gonzalez, author of a bill identical to SB 54, expressed how exhausting the two-year endeavor for the bills has been.
“I've been whipsawed on amendments since the day we introduced this,” she said. “I'm tired of making the case.”
Gonzalez was frustrated that after amending the bill to remove some farmers, ag groups remained in opposition. Several lawmakers said the bill would never be perfect, but the issue was too urgent to wait.
Asm. Laura Friedman of Glendale argued that residents are already paying higher costs for disposing of plastics and should not fear potentially higher food prices.
As far as the technology hurdles needed to meet the reduction goals, Asm. Kevin McCarthy of Sacramento said that “the Elon Musks of the world can figure it out.”
CDFA releases framework for potential carbon markets
CDFA and the Air Resources Board have developed a framework to guide partnerships for the Healthy Soils Program (HSP). The document sets the ground rules for how the department would engage with the private sector when experimenting with new funding mechanisms for HSP.
A CDFA advisory panel has been discussing ways to monetize the program’s climate benefits through a carbon offset market. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross called this “a perfect time” to explore cost-share programs that could expand the amount of farmers and acreage within the incentives program.
CDFA staff will discuss the new framework in a workshop today.
House Ag chair: CR possible for COVID relief
The impasse over coronavirus relief continues on Capitol Hill. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson doesn’t think a deal is going to be reached this month, but he tells Agri-Pulse he’s watching to see if some ag provisions could be included in a continuing resolution that will be needed to keep the government running after the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
“I’ve kind of had my eye on that because having been around for a while that might be where this ends up, so we’ll see,” he told Agri-Pulse.
The GOP view: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells Agri-Pulse that he plans to put a GOP aid bill on the floor that will include $20 billion for agriculture. But he acknowledged the bill likely won’t get the support it needs from Democrats.
He said he still hopes that Democrats can reach a deal with the White House when lawmakers return to Washington after Labor Day. So far, Democrats are insisting that the White House agree to spend at least $2.2 trillion.
“I hope we can get past all this and do one more” aid bill, McConnell said. “If we do it’s obviously going to be in September.”
Keep in mind: Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue reiterated to members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Monday that USDA is gearing up to announce a second round of payments to farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. USDA will be using money it already has on hand.
Farm Bureau: USDA failed to provide conservation relief
The American Farm Bureau Federation says a new USDA rule for defining wetlands and highly erodible land falls doesn’t go far enough to help farmers who have trouble meeting their conservation compliance requirements for farm programs.
AFBF said it “advocated for clear rules and safeguards to ensure fair treatment of farmers in conservation compliance, but the final rule does not remedy unfair enforcement” actions by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Farmers “deserve to be protected from repeated, unjustified, costly decisions,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Although we appreciate recent actions by USDA to rectify historic wrongs, this was a missed opportunity to ensure fairness going forward.”
The rule, published Aug. 28, attempts to clarify how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture, among other provisions.
Perdue: China ‘saying all the right things’
China is still a long way from meeting its pledge under the “phase one” trade agreement to buy $80 billion in U.S. ag exports over this year and next. But Perdue insists China is “saying all the right things about their desire to fulfill the commitment.”
Perdue told NASDA members Monday he expects China to continue buying heavily from the U.S. until the Brazilian crops come in early next year.
Keep in mind: Despite the widespread storm damage in Iowa last month, Perdue says U.S. farmers will have plenty of corn to sell. “With the crop that’s coming on, it looks like we’re going to need a strong export run,” he said.
They said it:
“Are you familiar with the Asian Citrus Psyllidid [sic]?”—Fresno Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas asked Sen. Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles, who later responded: “I am not familiar with that chemical.”
They were discussing Durazo’s bill on granular chlorpyrifos.
Ben Nuelle, Jeff Nalley, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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