September 10, 2020

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House reps want wine grapes in CFAP
Dozens of House representatives are asking USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to include wine grapes on the list of specialty crops eligible for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
The congressmembers cited findings from an industry analyst that the growers stand to lose nearly $6 billion due to closures related to the pandemic.
“We believe the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) narrow, retrospective timeframe unfairly denies support to a vitally important sector of the agricultural community, one that is responsible for an enormous amount of economic activity,” argue the lawmakers. They point out that FSA added aloe leaves, bananas, maple sap and pumpkins in August, but not wine grapes.
On that note: The Wine Institute joined with several other trade groups in the alcoholic beverage sector yesterday in urging Congress to pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act.
The tax relief proposal would allow these businesses “to recover from the harsh economic impacts of COVID-19,” the groups argued.

Newsom signs bills at at Solomon’s Delicatessen in Sacramento with Asm. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas
Newsom signs bills to boost small businesses
Newsom signed his second round of new bills yesterday and granted some relief to small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
One bill grants a $100 million tax credit for small businesses. Another waives state taxes for money gained through federal paycheck protection loans.
During a press conference yesterday, Newsom called it “jaw dropping” that 44% of small businesses are concerned they may have to close due to the pandemic.
“We have much more work to do together, but I know these bills will make a big difference for small businesses,” he said.
CDFA to review human-wildlife conflicts
USDA and CDFA will review wildlife damage management in California in a joint Environmental Impact Statement/Review, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a Federal Register notice yesterday.
The analysis will look at APHIS's cooperative activities with federal and state agencies, counties, tribes and local governments to manage human-wildlife conflicts caused by birds and mammals. Damage to agricultural resources will be considered.  

A low-dust almond harvester at the Almond Festival in 2019
Air district asks farmers to keep the dust down
As winds whipped dust up from the valley floor and combined with wildfire smoke, air quality plummeted to hazardous levels earlier this week. The index for PM10 particulates soared beyond 500 in places. In response, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District asked farmers to delay dust-generating activities until the winds decreased yesterday.
Remember: Dust has been a growing issue in the valley. The almond industry has been investing in low-dust and off-ground harvesters to minimize their impacts.
Senate voting on GOP COVID aid
The Senate is set to vote today on a coronavirus aid package that Republicans acknowledge is intended to give vulnerable GOP senators something to talk about on the campaign trail. The bill, which includes $20 billion in ag funding, has no chance of passing the Senate since it doesn’t appear to have any Democratic support.
Meanwhile, GOP senators appear pessimistic that there will be a deal on COVID aid before the election. “Unless something really broke through, that’s not going to happen,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters when asked about the prospects of a deal.
What Congress is going to pass this month is a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. The text of the continuing resolution hasn’t been released yet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants to keep the government operating until December.
CFTC report warns financial system on climate risks
A report released by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission warns that drought and extreme weather events related to climate change in major ag states could lead to more volatility in the futures markets.
CFTC Commissioner Rostin Behnam, who sponsored the report developed by a panel of advisers, said events such as last month’s Iowa derecho will likely worsen in frequency and intensity.
The report says traders will have to “adapt to this wide range of physical risks by devising new ways to value, price, and manage climate risk," the report says. 
Good timing: USDA is asking for comments on its Agriculture Innovation Agenda “on the most innovative technologies, practices, and management tools that can be readily deployed through one or more USDA programs.”

COVID hunger may be easing
We have some new numbers on U.S. food insecurity, both current as well as before the COVID-19 crisis. About 22.4 million American adults reported in August that they had trouble finding enough to eat in the previous seven days, according to a new Census Bureau survey.
That number is down from more than 29 million in July. However, analysts at the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities caution that the numbers may not be entirely comparable because of survey changes that significantly reduced the response rate.
Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and the Miami metropolitan area all have “food scarcity” rates above 14%, well above the national rate of about 10%, according to the Census data.
Separately, USDA released its assessment of U.S. food insecurity in 2019, ahead of the pandemic. According to that survey, 10.5% of all U.S. households were food insecure during 2019, a lower rate than before the 2008-2009 recession. USDA considers a family food insecure if their access to food was limited by lack of money and other resources.
She said it:
“$50 billion is a lot. But it feels like it’s flattening a bit.” — CDFA Sec. Karen Ross
Ross was discussing preliminary numbers released this week that show just a slight increase last year in the farm gate value of California ag products. She was speaking at the Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Policy Summit West yesterday.

Ben Nuelle, Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.

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