October 20, 2020

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Should the state offer incentive dollars for organic farming?
A CDFA advisory board deliberated on a new proposal that would allow the Healthy Soils Program to provide incentives for farmers who are transitioning to organic agriculture.
Up to about $4,000 would potentially help individual farmers cover the costs of technical assistance and developing a transition plan. Under CDFA’s priorities, the funding would likely benefit small or socially disadvantaged farmers who could not shoulder the costs otherwise.
Yet the current budget allocated no funding for the program this year and 2021 is likely to bring the same, according to Don Cameron, who sits on the advisory board as well as the governor’s economic task force.
The California Farm Bureau argued CDFA should instead look at “the bigger picture” of farmers dealing with climate change mitigation and resiliency. Policy advocate Taylor Roschen said CDFA should create a separate climate-smart program to incentivize planning, whether it’s for transitioning to organic or to carbon farming or planning for land conservation or nutrient management. Newsom’s executive order on biodiversity would fall under this as well, she added.
“Too often our farmers and ranchers and dairy men and women have to be reactionary, rather than proactive,” Roschen said.

GOP Whip: ‘Hard’ to pass big aid bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supposed to talk to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again today about a new coronavirus relief package. Staff work “will continue around the clock,” a Pelosi spokesman said.
But, but, but: Senate Republican Whip John Thune is casting doubt on whether an aid bill of the size Democrats want could pass the upper chamber. “It would be hard,” Thune told reporters Monday when asked whether there would be 13 GOP votes for a package that costs $1.8 trillion or more.
Even if all 47 Senate Democrats voted for the package, 13 GOP votes would be needed to pass the deal.
Perdue Farms: That’s not us
Poultry giant Perdue Farms is distancing itself from Sen. David Perdue after he was criticized for playing with the first name of Sen. Kamala Harris during a recent rally with President Donald Trump. Perdue Farms has been using its Twitter account to let angry consumers know that it’s not related to the senator or his cousin, the secretary of agriculture.
“Hi There! We are in no relation to David Perdue or Sonny Perdue. Glad we could clear that up,” said one Perdue Farms response.
AFBF: Tax break expiration could put farms at risk
Thousands of family farm operations could be at risk if Congress doesn’t do something to keep the estate tax exemption from snapping back to a lower level, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.  Under the 2017 tax law, the exemption is now $11.58 million per individual but is set to drop back to $5.8 million after 2025. Setting an expiration date for the higher exemption helped reduce the cost of the tax bill.
Based on USDA data, it would take an average of about 1,800 acres to reach the $5.8 million exemption level, according to an AFBF analysis. More than 156,000 farms accounting for more than 582 million acres nationwide could be affected, AFBF says.
The amount of acreage needed to reach the $5.8 million level in any one part of the country would vary depending on local land and asset values. In California, 580 acres would be enough. In Illinois, it would take 784 acres. In Kansas, the $5.8 million exemption could be reached at 3,053 acres.
Keep in mind: Even before the 2017 tax bill, supporters of the estate tax argued that it affected very few farms even at lower exemption levels.
Buttigieg promotes Biden, regenerative ag
Joe Biden surrogate Pete Buttigieg talked up the Biden-Harris ticket in an appearance at a Michigan farm Monday, saying “we’ve got to talk about rural America as the solution on climate change. We won’t be able to do what this country needs to do to lead the world on climate change unless rural America, and agriculture specifically, are helping lead the charge.”
In a conversation with Michigan Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin and regenerative farmer Tim Boring of O’Brien Farms, Buttigieg said Biden wants to make sure farmers are supported as they implement conservation practices that keep more carbon in the soil.
Boring said he’s trying to move away from growing soybeans because of instability and uncertainty in world markets. “I’m doing this regenerative ag thing to make more money,” he said. “It certainly decreases our susceptibility to weather risks … but we’re dramatically cutting input use, we’re getting higher yields.”
By the way: Recent polls show Biden with an average 9-point lead in Michigan over President Trump.
He said it:
“We are going to do what California is well known to do and that is to make sure that we have a redundancy and that we maintain our vigilance to have a second set of eyes on the things that are being asserted and the information that’s being provided.” — Gov. Newsom, in announcing that California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing them to the public.

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson, and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.

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