September 29, 2020
Newsom signs bill on enforcing COVID-19 guidance
In a slew of bills signed and vetoed late yesterday, Assembly Bill 2043 gathered the governor’s approval. The bill gives Cal/OSHA more regulatory muscle to enforce COVID-19 safety guidance for farmworkers.
AB 2043 faced fierce opposition from ag groups. Cal/OSHA is currently pursuing similar provisions in a new regulation. The author of the bill is the new Assembly Ag chair, Asm. Robert Rivas of the Salinas Valley.
Newsom vetoes bills on fixing Friant-Kern Canal, H-2A rights
After a two-year endeavor to pass Senate Bill 559, the governor vetoed the measure yesterday. The bill initially proposed $400 million for repairing the Friant-Kern Canal, until Assembly Appropriations Committee slashed the funding and reduced SB 559 to a proposal for further studying the issue.
“We need to evaluate, develop and identify solutions and funding that provide water supply and conveyance for the entirety of the state, not one project at a time,” Newsom wrote in his veto statement.
He added that his Water Resilience Portfolio is already “holistically assessing” all of the state’s water problems.
Newsom also vetoed SB 1102. The bill would have required agricultural employers to notify H-2A guestworkers of their labor and housing rights. The bill later added provisions for paid travel time, lighting requirements and tenancy rights.
In his veto message, Newsom applauded the bill for attempting to create “accessible and easy to understand notifications.” He complained that it departs from previous H-2A notice requirements and locks in standards for the labor department. Newsom shared that he would instead direct the department to “develop and maintain a template contemplated in this bill” for H-2A employers.
State sends $2M to house homeless people on a farm
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a third round of funding for Project Homekey on Monday. The state is dedicating $137 million for housing people faced with homelessness. The money will go towards 19 projects throughout the state.
Of note, Tehama County will get more than $2 million to acquire a property on a working farm. This will preserve 10 housing units and add six more. The farm, which is the only one participating in the program, will also provide job training, according to the governor’s office.
In all, the state has a pot of $600 million to spend on the housing projects. Newsom is requesting the Legislature approve an additional $200 million.
Current drought conditions in the West
Drought deepens in California
Most of the state is currently experiencing drought conditions, with 84% in the abnormally dry category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The northern third of California, where the wildfire situation continues to escalate, is in severe drought.
Climatologists are predicting a high chance for a La Niña event this year. This would lead to some relief for Northern California with wetter conditions, but the southern half of the state would experience drier weather this fall and winter.
California Farm Bureau takes positions on ballot measures
The California Farm Bureau, along with most ag groups, has shown strong opposition to Proposition 15, a split-roll measure on property taxes. The November ballot will offer voters a dozen measures, with the Farm Bureau taking positions on all but five.
The bureau supports Prop. 20 on increasing penalties for certain theft-related crimes and opposes Prop. 25 to abolish the state’s cash-bail system. Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said the measures would “reinforce protection for rural and urban communities alike.”
“Theft, vandalism, trespassing and other crimes remain chronic and growing problems in rural California,” he said.
The bureau is opposing measures to allow felons on parole to vote and 17 year olds to vote in primaries. It is also encouraging farmers to vote against an expansion on rent control.
House Dems roll out new COVID aid bill
House Democrats are moving ahead with a new coronavirus aid bill despite failing to reach a deal with the White House. The new measure is scaled back from the HEROES Act that passed the House in May but would still cost $2.2 trillion, which is well above the amount Republicans say they could support.
The new bill contains numerous ag provisions that were in the earlier bill, including payments to contract poultry growers, new aid to dairy producers, and an expansion of the Soil Health and Income Protection program, a pilot set-aside program created by the 2018 farm bill.
The new version also includes a 15% increase in SNAP benefits as well as other nutrition assistance.
Take note: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked by phone with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Monday evening after the bill was released, and the two planned to talk again this morning, a Pelosi spokesman said.
Webinar puts focus on rural America and manufacturing
Join us at noon EST today for a preview of election issues that affect rural America and manufacturing. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. and Kip Eideberg of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers will be participating.
Register for the webinar here.
Censky confirms: No MFP
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky says USDA sees no need to do another round of Market Facilitation Program payments on top of the additional coronavirus relief that producers will be collecting this fall.
The MFP was created in 2018 and repeated in 2019 to compensate farmers for losses due to China’s retaliatory tariffs and other trade barriers. “We have our exports that have been growing, and we expect to see those continue to grow, and we see no need” for more MFP payments, Censky said at the annual Ag Outlook Forum hosted Monday in Kansas City by Agri-Pulse.
USDA economist: CFAP will support farmers in early 2021
USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson says the new round of coronavirus relief payments will help shore up farm income heading into 2021.
Speaking at the Kansas City forum, he said about $6 billion in payments from the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program would reach farmers in the first part of 2021. The enrollment deadline is Dec. 11.
Johansson expects higher revenue next year for livestock producers, but net farm income is expected to be down because of an overall decline in government payments.
He said it:
“If I was a thrip insect, I'd be really excited to be hearing about a proposal like that.” — Salinas Valley farmer David Costa, in discussing requirements for vegetation buffers under the proposed Ag Order 4.0.
In the Agri-Pulse West Newsletter on Wednesday, read more about the challenges for pest control management that the buffers requirement could bring for Central Coast growers.
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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