October 2, 2020

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Farm groups say Prop. 15 would raise irrigation costs
Proposition 15, the split-roll tax initiative on the November ballot, will increase costs for irrigation systems, argues the Alliance of California Farmers and Ranchers.
The coalition of trade groups is calling Prop. 15 a “tax grab that threatens all of us with higher costs.” By taxing improvements like irrigation systems, the measure would add more expenses for farmers, leading to less business for equipment manufacturers and retailers, they argue.
Ag groups have heavily opposed the proposal for how it would reassess fixtures like barns, fences and vineyards at fair market value, in a partial repeal of the 1978 Prop. 13 ballot measure.

Harder and his stuffed nutria testified on the need to eradicate the giant swamp rats.
Nutria bill goes to presidents desk
bill reauthorizing funding for a nutria eradication program passed the Senate yesterday and advanced to President Trump. The bill would allocate $12 million to affected states, including California.
“Farmers can sleep better knowing their crops and water infrastructure are safe, and environmentalists can be happy that the native plants and animals being destroyed by these swamp rats will survive,” said Central Valley Rep. Josh Harder of his bill.

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured damage from the Glass Fire yesterday.
CDFA to award $24 million in specialty crop grants
When USDA awarded $72 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants on Wednesday, the largest portion went to California.
CDFA now plans to award nearly $24 million to 58 projects through a competitive process. The department is prioritizing disadvantaged farmers and underserved communities.
On that note: Sacramento and San Luis Obispo are the next counties to join Housing for the Harvest, CDFA’s program for isolation housing for farmworkers.
‘Hempcrete’ design gets $75,000 for UC Riverside students
EPA awarded eight college teams nearly $600,000 yesterday for research projects focused on sustainable designs. Within that, a UC Riverside team won $75,000 after pitching a design for sustainable concrete made from hemp pulp.
The concept promises a stronger, better insulated design for hempcrete, with no emissions or toxic waste products. The funding will enable the team to further develop the project and test hempcrete blocks in the field with private manufacturers.

Harris proposes heat standard for workers
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is proposing to mandate federal protections for people, including farmworkers, who have to labor outside in high temperatures. 
bill the California senator introduced with Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to set standards for measures such as paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, and limits on the time a worker can be exposed to heat. 
“It is absolutely unconscionable that workers in industries from agriculture to construction face excessive heat conditions for hours each day with no protections for their health and safety,” Harris said. 
The bill is named after a farmworker who died of heatstroke;  a similar bill was introduced in the House. 
Keep in mind: The bill is in line with Joe Biden’s plan to expand farmworker protections.
Farmworker advocates: USDA move will slash H-2A rates
Farmworker Justice, which works to protect the rights of farmworkers, says USDA’s decision to scrap its annual labor survey will effectively cut the minimum wages that farms must pay H-2A workers next year. 

Without the survey, the state or federal minimum wage farms will likely only have to pay H-2A workers the state or federal minimum wage, says FJ senior staff attorney Iris Figueroa. The Adverse Effect Wage Rate farms are now required to pay is based on that USDA survey. And Figueroa says the Labor Department can’t change the way the AEWR is calculated without going through a notice-and-comment process to alter its regulations.
The USDA action “would result in significant wage cuts for farmworkers across the country, as compared to the current AEWR,” she said. 
Keep in mind: Farm groups tell Agri-Pulse they are not certain how DOL will respond to the USDA action, and the department has not responded to a request from Agri-Pulse for comment on its plans. 
USDA said it’s ending the survey because similar data is available to the public elsewhere. USDA also killed a memorandum of understanding with DOL on use of the survey.

Lenders need to step up on climate, lawmakers told
Ag lenders need to adjust their loan practices so they can provide the financing that farmers need to become more climate resilient, a representative of the Environmental Defense Fund told lawmakers Thursday.
Highlighting a recent EDF report, Maggie Monast told the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that ag lenders “can create loan products that align with the financial needs of farmers who adopt practices that improve climate resilience. Ultimately, this will benefit both farmers and the overall risk of a lender’s portfolio.”
Her written testimony is here.
She said it:
“We all know that our planet is on fire, and the urgency of getting carbon out of the air, carbon out of the water could not be stronger. … Biden knows that. He’s put together a strong plan to do that, and a lot of us are going to help him do that and more.” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., when asked about Biden’s comment at Tuesday’s debate that the Green New Deal isn’t his plan.

Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.

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