September 9, 2020
State faces tough budget decisions to come
With the Legislature wrapping up the 2020 session last week, the focus is turning to the 2021 state budget. In a press conference yesterday, Gov. Newsom mentioned his team is already at work on the initial January proposal.
According to Lauren Noland-Hajik of the ag lobbying firm Kahn, Soares & Conway, “the state will still face a projected deficit of about $8.7 billion next year, setting the stage for what could be an even more difficult budget problem.”
The current budget, passed in June, counts on $14 billion in federal funding “that may or may not come.” Congress must pass the next aid package by Oct. 15. If not, state workers will face furloughs, and courts and universities will see drastic budget cuts. The state would also defer until the next fiscal year $12 billion in payments to community colleges and public schools.
‘Learning circles’ to focus on female farmers adapting to SGMA
American Farmland Trust (AFT) is hosting virtual learning circles to engage women who farm and manage land in the San Joaquin Valley. The discussions will focus on resources for navigating the impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Less than a quarter of California’s farmers are female, according to USDA data. Just 2% are women of color. For about 1.5 million acres of ag land in three of the valley’s counties, nearly 7,000 women play a decision-making role as either a producer or the principal producer.
“Our team aims to provide a nonjudgmental setting that breaks down barriers and allows women in agriculture to expand their skills, develop new relationships and connect with valuable information,” said AFT’s Caitlin Joseph.
Register online for the events, which will be held on Sept. 17 and 24.
Vilsack and Biden in 2009
Vilsack hints that Biden might use CCC, too
Joe Biden’s farm policy relies heavily on ramping up conservation spending as a way to support farm programs. But former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells Agri-Pulse that he thinks the Biden administration, working with Congress, could act quickly next year to shore up farm income, possibly through a new stimulus bill.
Vilsack, who’s advising Biden on ag policy, notes that the Commodity Credit Corp. is now available to the secretary to make ad hoc payments to producers, something Congress blocked him from doing after 2010.
For more on how Biden and Trump could do about farm income, including Vilsack’s thoughts, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. Also in the newsletter is the results of our annual CEO salary survey.
AFBF survey spotlights Trump, Biden divide
The American Farm Bureau Federation today is releasing its survey of the Biden and Trump campaigns on a range of issues. While the survey mostly reiterates Biden’s policy proposals and Trump’s first-term record, it does highlight some sharp divisions on the candidates on a range of issues.
Take biofuels, for example: The Biden campaign highlights his push for next-generation biofuels made from plant cellulose while criticizing EPA’s refinery waivers for corn ethanol. The Trump campaign focuses on building demand for conventional ethanol, both domestically and overseas.
Take note: The Trump campaign says the next farm bill “must do a better job of sustaining” farmers “through these tough times.” No proposals are offered, but that statement obviously suggests Trump is open to some significant reforms.
We’ll have more on the survey in the newsletter and at Agri-Pulse.com.
Senate readies vote on more ag aid
Senate Republicans are moving forward this week on a new coronavirus relief package, even though it has no chance of getting the Democratic support need to pass. The new bill, unveiled Tuesday, includes $20 billion in expanded USDA spending authority that Senate Republicans proposed back in July.
Keep in mind: Negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats remain at an impasse. So, unless there is a breakthrough soon, the new GOP bill will largely serve as a talking point for Republicans in the fall campaign.
The Republican proposal also would authorize a second round of forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“We don't expect a lot of help from the Democrats, so we're not going to get 60,” the number of votes needed to advance the measure, said Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP bill “doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”
New test from Europe can detect gene-edited canola
A group that has long been critical of agricultural biotechnology, the Center for Food Safety, says a new test developed in Europe to detect gene-edited canola shows that crops developed with newer forms of genetic engineering can be detected in the food supply. The group says that means such crops should be labeled in the U.S.
The herbicide-tolerant canola was developed by the biotechnology company Cibus and is grown on a limited basis in the U.S. and Canada, CFS said.
Why this could matter: In its bioengineered food labeling rule, USDA has excluded “highly refined,” nondetectable GE ingredients found in foods such as oils and soda. CFS has sued USDA over the rule, contending that “the law demands labeling of all GMO foods, including those that are highly refined or gene-edited, and does not restrict the labeling mandate based on ‘detectability,’ ” CFS said.
He said it:
“If he can get the [California] Farm Bureau and those folks to go neutral, I’ve got to give it to him. He must have taken a heck of a lot of amendments.” — Senator Brian Dahle, a Republican from Lassen County, during debate last week over a bill proposing a ban on a class of rodenticides.
Read more on the measure in the Agri-Pulse West Newsletter later this morning. Dahle is a featured speaker today at the Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Policy Summit West, which starts at 9 a.m. and is free for subscribers.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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