October 16, 2020
Industries plead for more time on COVID-19 regulations
The Cal/OSHA standards board will consider new COVID-19 regulations for employers in November. Yet industry groups asked the board yesterday to slow down and allow more time for stakeholders to add their input for the process.
The California Farm Bureau’s Bryan Little pointed to the board’s regulation last year requiring masks for employees coping with smoke haze as a case in point of the pitfalls when the process is rushed. Employers have been required to provide N95s despite a nationwide shortage due to the pandemic.
“Something as widely sweeping as a COVID-19 regulation should go through the regulatory process,” he said.
Rob Moutrie, a policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, argued that more regulations are not needed. Rather, more enforcement is needed for existing regulations. Construction groups added that “there’s no reason to think the existing regulations aren't working.”
State advances its plan for protecting fish
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is taking the lead in implementing “one of the most complex endangered species permits in California history,” according to a statement.
Following the federal government’s new environmental plan for the Central Valley Project earlier this year, the state went its own way with the State Water Project. But now DWR is working with those federal agencies to protect endangered fish species through a slightly more protective plan for operating the State Water Project.
With a new permit in hand, DWR reports it is taking the first steps to work in close collaboration with water contractors, many of which represent irrigation districts. To build more trust along those lines, the department has launched a new website "for increased communication and transparency.”
USDA to distribute $1.68B in CRP payments
Landowners and producers enrolled in 21.9 million acres of the Conservation Reserve Program should begin receiving $1.68 billion in annual rental payments, the Department of Agriculture said Thursday.
The CRP program became law in 1985 to control soil erosion and stabilize commodity prices. It provides an annual rent payment for land set aside for qualified conservation practices, with contracts lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
“Lands enrolled in this program conserve soil, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, and benefit agricultural operations,” Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce said.
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Chile prepares for bumper almond and walnut crops
USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is predicting a big jump in Chile’s almond and walnut crops this year, just in time to benefit from “a recovery in export markets from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The FAS, in a new report out of Santiago, is now predicting Chile will export 9,500 metric tons of almonds and 155 tons of walnuts in the 2020-21 marketing year. That would be a 35% increase for almonds and a 30% increase for walnuts over 2019-20.
Chilean walnut acreage has steadily increased over the past decade and the country has more trees than ever this year. There were just 37,000 acres of walnut groves in 2010. This year there are about 116,000 acres, according to USDA data.
New group wants to promote agroecology in US and abroad
A new organization being announced today – the World AgroEcology Alliance – wants to promote a system of agriculture that has recently been panned on the international stage for its potential to hamper production.
Karla Klingner, a founding member of the WAEA, tells Agri-Pulse the group wants to focus on bringing agroecology into a developed nation like the U.S. and promoting its seven principles, which include things like “Localization & Diversification” and “Fairness to Farmers.” But she says farmer profitability will be paramount in WAEA’s agronomic efforts.
“When you can transition food supply into a more localized approach, when you can diversify and move away from these crop monocultures … we think we can revive rural communities under this, we believe that we can get a high-quality, nutrient-rich product at a price that consumers can afford and access,” she said.
A farmer’s thought: Kip Tom, an Indiana farmer and the U.S. representative to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome, decried the spread of agroecology around the world in his recent remarks at the Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit. He called an agroecology platform in the European Union “indefensible scientifically and indefensible morally.”
Farm Bureau convention in January will be virtual
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention is going virtual, following the cancellation of all events at the San Diego Convention Center through Jan. 31, 2021.
The event is slated for Jan. 10-13 and will feature discussions on the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture, sustainability and the future of the supply chain.
“Our top priority at every Farm Bureau gathering is the safety of our attendees and staff,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “While we are saddened to not meet in person for this convention, we are eager to bring this event safely to farm and ranch homes across the country and excited to offer the same top-level content our members have come to expect from our in-person events.”
Ag Marketing Service plans to survey hemp growers
The Agricultural Marketing Service plans to survey hemp growers to gain a better understanding of the industry.
“The data obtained from the survey will be used for forecasting hemp activity and to develop a representative understanding of hemp production practices and costs at national, regional, and state levels,” AMS said in a Federal Register notice expected to be published today.
Questions will go to an estimated 18,000 producers and address current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices, AMS said.
USTR looking for members of ag advisory committees
USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) are looking for new members for seven agricultural trade advisory committees.
The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee advises the agencies on the operation of existing U.S. trade agreements, on negotiation of new agreements, and on other trade policy matters. Members of six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees “provide technical advice and guidance on international trade issues that affect both domestic and foreign production in specific commodity sectors,” USDA and USTR said.
The technical committees focus on trade in animals and animal products; fruits and vegetables; grains, feed, oilseeds, and planting seeds; processed foods; sweeteners and sweetener products; and tobacco, cotton and peanuts.
He said it:
“Even with doing 15% productivity, we have to recognize we’re still doing really well.” — Central Valley Water Board Executive Director Patrick Pulupa, discussing how staff are “doing less with less” in the face of work and family pressure due the pandemic and now extended furloughs.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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