September 21, 2020
Wine grapes added to CFAP
In announcing the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the USDA has included wine grapes on the list of eligible commodities.
“CFAP assistance has been an important goal for CAWG for the past five months,” said John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. “Rep. Mike Thompson’s [D-Napa] leadership and the support of the California Congressional delegation proved invaluable to this effort.”
Newsom signs bill expanding tax credits to help farmworkers
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that expands access to tax credits for undocumented workers. The state expanded the tax credits from $400 million to more than $1 billion last year.
An estimated two out of three eligible workers under the new expansion are essential workers, including farmworkers, according to the governor’s office. Nearly a quarter work in the ag industry.
“These Californians are taxpayers and should be treated like taxpayers,” said Newsom.
Reclamation releases plan for fixing the Friant-Kern Canal
The Bureau of Reclamation has released the final draft of its plan to repair a 33-mile sag in the Friant-Kern Canal that has fallen to subsidence.
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said this delivers on President Trump’s February promise to modernize water infrastructure in the West.
“Restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal is critical to providing reliable water supplies to one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the nation,” she said.
Stopgap funding agreement due
The nation’s attention will be riveted this week by the Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But Congress still faces a looming deadline for keeping the government funded after the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
The text of a continuing resolution is expected to be released as soon as today. One of the last remaining issues to be resolved into this weekend was the replenishment of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. account. Aides told Agri-Pulse Sunday afternoon that Democratic congressional leaders had still not signed off on the CCC funding.
The House is supposed to vote on the CR this week.
Follow developments at Agri-Pulse.com and read our Washington Week Ahead.
Agri-Pulse Summit focus on food security
Today, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees will headline the Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit, being held online this year.
The summit will explore the links between food security and national security and will feature some top thought leaders in U.S. and global agriculture. Among the speakers: José Andrés, the chef and anti-hunger advocate; executives from companies such as Boehringer Ingelheim, Elanco and Indigo; the U.S. ambassador to the UN food and agriculture programs, Kip Tom, and retired Gen. William E. (Kip) Ward, inaugural commander of AFRICOM.
Signup starts for CFAP-2
Enrollment kicks off today for the second round of coronavirus relief payments to farmers, which is being expanded to numerous additional commodities under expanded payment rules.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., welcomed the new rules, noting that the commodities newly eligible for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program include turkey and all classes of wheat.
“There are some good things in this second CFAP plan, and the secretary should be commended for simplifying the application process for specialty crop growers and making sure livestock producers, like the turkey growers in my district, have what they need. It also expands the program to all classes of wheat and makes sure most commodities left out in the first round receive some support,” Peterson said.
He pointed out that ethanol producers and contract poultry growers remain ineligible for the program: USDA says it lacks legal authority to make payments to those sectors.
Take note: In the cost-benefit analysis of the new rules, USDA estimates the payments will eventually total $13.2 billion. The largest share of that, $5.7 billion, is expected to go to producers of row crops, with the largest amount going to corn. Another $2.5 billion is expected to be paid for beef cattle, $2.2 billion for specialty commodities, and $1.3 billion for milk.
Those estimates take into account the impact of the $250,000-per-producer payment limit.
Keep in mind: USDA had estimated the CFAP-1 payments would total $16 billion. So far, USDA has paid just under $10 billion.
Read our report on the CFAP-2 rules here.
COVID recovery for agriculture is slow
Despite recent strengthening in commodity markets, a top agricultural economist says the ag sector is recovering from COVID-19 economic hits but slowly.
But John Newton, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the challenge is not over because coronavirus is still here. “We’re not back to work, business travel has not resumed, kids aren’t in school across the country and things could go backwards,” Newton told Agri-Pulse.
Restaurant growth has slowed considerably since states reopened and will likely plateau, he said. Newton also notes that the ethanol sector is still 10% of year-ago levels on processing capacity.
Enviros decry EPA move on atrazine
Reaction to EPA’s interim decision clearing atrazine for re-registration came swiftly from environmental groups, They say the agency did not adequately take into account data showing harmful effects to the environment and human health.
The Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity, both frequent litigants in pesticide matters, says the decision puts both children and flora and fauna at risk.
Atrazine “is extremely toxic to aquatic plants, fish, and amphibians [and] has also been associated with adverse reproductive impacts and cancer,” said CFS science policy analyst Bill Freese. Both groups said the product should be banned.
By the way: Syngenta said it was reviewing the EPA decision and had no immediate comment.
Wheeler says: In announcing the interim decision in Missouri Friday, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the decision “is another example of the Trump administration taking action in support of America’s farmers — one of our strongest allies in our mission to protect public health and the environment. The benefits of atrazine in agriculture are high, so these new protections give our nation’s farmers more clarity and certainty concerning proper use.”
He said it:
“We've (got) a hero on our side. Uber has Ted Cruz.” — San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra.
Kalra was tweeting praise for farmworker rights icon Dolores Huerta announcing her opposition to Prop. 22, which would designate app-based drivers as independent contractors.
Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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