September 25, 2020
World’s top carrot producer may leave California
Grimmway Farms may be following through on a threat to leave California due to the high cost of farming in the state. Grimmway leads the world in carrot production and is one of the country’s top organic producers as well, managing 50,000 acres of vegetables.
The family-owned company is exploring opportunities to sell its operation in Kern County, which generates about $130 million in annual earnings and could be worth 10 times as much, according to business news outlet Mergermarket.
“We’re regulated to death,” Grimmway President Jeff Huckaby told Agri-Pulse last year. “California is by far the most difficult state to deal with that we farm in out of seven states.”
Huckaby said one of the biggest factors is the extra cost for bringing H-2A guestworkers to the state. In other states, the lower cost of doing business balances out the H-2A expenses. This is compounded in California by the minimum wage increase and a lack of workers. Huckaby also noted the rising cost of water due to the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Huckaby testifying to Congress in 2019.
Ross: Undocumented farmworkers must get legal status
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said immigration reform “has to happen” and undocumented farmworkers should get legal status. She made her comments in a talk yesterday for the administration’s Climate Action Day summit.
“If we don't seize this moment and build trust between the employer and worker community to really improve the economy and the diversity of our economy going forward, shame on us,” she said.
Ross said the state has been implementing stronger farmworker protections and should not return to the status quo once the pandemic is over.
She also noted that specialty crop growers have been impacted by climate change and many are interested in playing a role in mitigation.
“But at the end of the day, if farmers don't believe that they can help lead this change, and be the solution, it will be a challenge to bring all the farming community with us on this pathway,” she cautioned.
On that note: The governor’s office released a framework for investing state pension dollars into climate initiatives. Included in the report, the finance department recommends “green assets” like regenerative agriculture.
The governor also launched a volunteer climate initiative for Californians. Among the “household climate solutions,” it recommends planting trees, donating unused food and composting food waste.
Sen. Henry Stern in May.
Newsom signs bill to assess climate costs on ag
Newsom yesterday signed Senate Bill 1320. The bill aims to provide a sector-by-sector analysis of the fiscal liabilities of climate change in California.
“The mega drought is here now,” said Los Angeles Senator Henry Stern in May, in championing the bill. “Groundwater subsidence is here right now. The potential fallowing of [farmland]. It's all very scary.”
California Farm Bureau and other ag groups appeal to Pence for PPE, testing
Farmers are still struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. So, nearly 170 farm groups are calling for federal help in getting personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing resources for farmworkers “as we continue to promote the health and safety of our farm employees and rural communities.”
The pleas came in a letter Thursday to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The groups signing on include the National Council of Farm Cooperatives, the American Farm Bureau Federation, state and county Farm Bureaus, the National Farmers Union and a host of commodity organizations.
The groups want the task force to “prioritize PPE and future vaccine distribution for the food and fiber supply chain” and also ensure that testing resources - and prompt test results - are readily accessible to ag employers. Getting test results promptly also is a challenge, the groups say. “In some regions, it has taken almost two weeks for COVID-19 test results, which creates an increased risk of disease spread and potentially delays agricultural productivity,” the letter says.
Also on the group’s wish list: Alternative housing structures such as FEMA trailers to facilitate social distancing and help with COVID-19 mitigation expenses.
Dems, GOP trade barbs amid COVID aid impasse
House Democrats are moving to put a new coronavirus relief package that could be on the floor next week. It will be scaled back from the House-passed HEROES Act, which would cost more than $3 trillion, but at $2.4 trillion it will still be far too expensive for Republicans.
GOP leaders quickly denounced the Democratic move as a political stunt. “We should be helping those who really need it. The airlines need help, the schools need help, and we should be able to work together,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters Thursday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats’ goal is still to negotiate a deal with the White House. “That’s what our focus is, trying to get an agreement before we go home,” he said.
Keep in mind: The HEROES Act included $33 billion in aid for agriculture, plus another $35 billion in expanded food assistance, including a 15% increase in SNAP benefits.
EU preps public for drive to increase organic farming
The EU recently delayed the start date for its overhaul of organic farming rules until 2022, but the bloc of countries isn’t waiting to try to get the public excited about it and help farmers make the transition into organic, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.
The European Commission this month kicked off a public consultation effort to tie in the new regulations with the EU Green Deal, which aims to see at least 25% of farm land in the bloc dedicated to organic production by 2030.
Clock ticks for passage of water resources bill
Soybean industry leaders are optimistic that a water resources authorization bill will still pass this year even though lawmakers will be on an extended break ahead of the November election.
“We’re hopeful that since this is so bipartisan in nature that this will keep this bill on the docket for the end of the legislative year,” Alexa Combelic, director of government affairs for the American Soybean Association, said on an Agri-Pulse webinar Thursday.
The House version of the bill passed that chamber by a voice vote. The Senate version was approved in committee unanimously but is yet to get a floor vote.
Roundup case stays on hold for settlements
A federal judge is keeping a lid on further Roundup litigation until Nov. 2 as Bayer and plaintiffs’ lawyers work on settlements to address lawsuits alleging exposure to the herbicide caused cancer.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria held a brief case management conference Thursday where he heard Special Master Ken Feinberg, who is mediating the matter, express optimism that thousands more lawsuits would be settled by Nov. 2.
About 44,000 of approximately 125,000 lawsuits have been settled. Bayer says it’s “accelerating efforts to finalize and implement current settlements” and that it isn’t unusual for “a settlement of this size involving a large number of law firms can take months before it is finalized.”
The company announced in June it planned to spend between $8.8-$9.6 billion to settle about three-quarters of the 125,000 current claims.
He said it:
“Agriculture’s pollution, arising not just from fertilizer but pesticides, antibiotics and soil degradation, is far-reaching, and no program to reverse California’s growing environmental disarray can succeed without curbing it.” — Jacques Leslie, an LA Times columnist, promoting the Central Coast Water Board’s draft Ag Order 4.0
Steve Davies, Spencer Chase, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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