October 8, 2020
Newsom touts ag in largely symbolic conservation order
Two weeks after his diesel ban sent farmers reeling, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood at an organic farm yesterday and hailed agriculture’s accomplishments while signing his next climate order.
“We can't forget about our ranchers; we can't forget about our farmers; we can't forget about agriculture here in the state of California,” said Newsom. “That's California's game that we do better than anybody else.”
While the order is vague on details, it commits California to conserving 30% of its land and coastal water by 2030, joining 38 countries in the “30 by 30” pledge. Newsom tasked his resource agencies with developing policy recommendations on how to accomplish this. That report is due in the final months of Newsom’s term.
Under the guidance, CDFA will protect pollinators and native species while promoting healthy soils to farmers and ranchers, similar to programs already in place. It did not allocate any funding or call for new regulations.
“We're not going to walk away from agriculture,” said Newsom. “We're not going to dismiss or deny agriculture's future in the state—quite the contrary.”
Newsom signed the order at Sierra Orchards in Winters.
California ag exports down 9%
The ongoing impacts of the pandemic have led to a drop of nearly 9% in agricultural exports from California compared to this time last year, according to a new report from Beacon Economics. The decline was about $500 million, dropping to nearly $1.6 billion.
“While the numbers are down, on a year-over-year basis, we are doing better than earlier in the year, and much better than the nation overall,” said Christopher Thornberg, a founding partner in the consulting firm.
Thornberg noted that imports to California have recovered even faster, indicating an economy that has improved dramatically in recent months.
Pence, Harris tangle on China trade war
California Sen. Kamala Harris used a debate Wednesday night with Vice President Mike Pence to go after the Trump administration’s trade policy, an issue that was barely mentioned in last week’s debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Harris asserted that the president had lost the trade war with China, destroying thousands of American jobs in the process and pushing farmers into bankruptcy. Pence shot back, “Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it.” Pence also accused Biden of being a “cheerleader” for China.
Harris also brought up farmers during an exchange over climate change policy, and she promised that the administration would make the climate issue a top priority. “Joe has seen and talked with the farmers in Iowa, whose entire crops have been destroyed because of floods,” Harris said.
Pence, for his part, pressed the GOP claim that Biden’s plan to rejoin the Paris climate accord and move away from fossil fuels would severely damage the U.S. economy. He insisted the U.S. has made “great progress” in reducing carbon emissions through “innovation” and the use of natural gas.
CFAP-2 numbers coming today
The first wave of data from the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be out today, according to Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
He tells Agri-Pulse that FSA is “pleased with the progress of the numbers that we’re looking at” thus far.
“I don’t know that I’d want to put too much into where the applications are coming from and what-not, given that in some parts of the country, we’ve got pretty substantial harvest activity happening,” he said in an interview. “We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’ve made really good progress.”
Keep in mind: USDA is estimating that the CFAP-2 payments will eventually total about $13 billion. This first report is likely to show only a fraction of that. The first round of CFAP distributed about $10.2 billion of the $16 billion that was originally budgeted.
Charpentier and Doudna
Women honored for pioneering CRISPR
The two scientists who discovered the gene-editing tool that has revolutionized crop development have been awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Emmanuelle Charpentier of Germany and Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, developed the CRISPR-Cas9 method of precisely and relatively inexpensively altering the DNA of animals, plants and microrganisms.
“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments,” said Claes Gustafsson, who chairs the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.
Under new USDA rules, new crop traits developed with CRISPR can be exempt from regulation, but the livestock sector has largely missed the benefit of the technology so far, because of the way the Food and Drug Administration regulates gene-edited animals.
The National Pork Producers Council used the Nobel announcement to repeat its call for USDA to take over regulation of gene-edited livestock. “The FDA’s proposed regulatory framework is unjustifiably cumbersome, slow and prohibitively expensive,” the group said.
NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth, a hog farmer from Wisconsin, said, “If we don’t move oversight of gene edited livestock to the USDA, we will have ceded this promising technology to global competitors at the expense of American jobs and our nation’s global agricultural leadership position.”
He said it:
“It's around biodiversity, it's around alternatives to synthetic fertilizers and new strategies on mulching and composting.” — Gov. Gavin Newsom, describing his executive order.
Spencer Chase, Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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