October 30, 2020

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Join us at noon Wednesday, Nov. 4, for a webinar with long-time lobbyist Randy Russell and National Farmers Union President Rob Larew to discuss the results of the election, the role that rural voters played in the outcome, and the potential impact on farm policy. Agri-Pulse Executive Editor Philip Brasher and Managing Editor Spencer Chase will host the discussion. Register here.

Report: Crop losses from wildfires are largely untracked
new report assesses wildfire losses across key sectors in California and identifies where knowledge gaps need to be filled. While agriculture has not seemed to face significant losses, the report finds only anecdotal evidence to show this.
Southern California wildfires in 2007 burned nearly 1,000 acres of farmland, with about $42 million in crop damage and $1.5 billion in overall property losses.
The 2017 Sonoma County wildfires, on the other hand, threatened substantial losses to the wine industry. Yet a follow-up study found less than 1% of vineyard acreage and 7% of the region’s wineries were affected. And a 71% drop in tasting room visits was short-lived. The 2020 wildfires have presented greater concerns about losses to smoke taint.
The 2013 Rim Fire cost the ranching sector millions of dollars from lost grazing and killed livestock.
Crop losses are not systematically tracked across the state for wildfires and no studies have shown the broad economic impacts, according to the report. The researchers also found that only half of agricultural producers have insurance coverage, though that information is from 2007. “Most high value crops in California are not covered by federal crop insurance programs,” they write.
The report, produced by the California Council on Science and Technology, offers policymakers a framework, with more work to be done.
“A more accurate accounting may result in more than double the currently reported costs,” the researchers caution.

PPIC: Farmers should partner with cities to survive SGMA
report by the Public Policy Institute of California finds that Southern California cities have been successful at reducing water use. This creates room for partnerships with irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley as they adapt to new constraints under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. That relationship could benefit cities in planning for extended droughts.
“By diversifying water supplies, building connections to share water more flexibly, and preparing for the extreme events to come, such partnerships would support Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio,” the researchers note.

Jamie Johansson: State budget is a 'crisis for all of us'
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said Thursday to expect the state to balance its $54 billion budget deficit through taxes, fees and regulation. Speaking at a meeting for California farm appraisers, Johansson tallied up the many added costs to farmers this year.
“At some point—and we’re seeing it—it breaks,” he said, adding that processors and some commodities are already moving to Mexico, Colorado and Georgia.
“It's simply becoming too expensive to do business and too unpredictable,” he added.
USDA ordered to restore wage survey
There are new questions about what farmers will have to pay foreign workers next year under the H-2A program. A federal judge’s ruling has barred USDA from suspending its annual farm wage survey that is used to calculate H-2A wage rates.
USDA did not immediately respond Thursday when asked whether the government planned to appeal U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd’s order. Drozd called the decision to kill the survey “cursory” and “conclusory.” Without the USDA survey, farm labor groups fear growers will be able to cut H-2A wages in 2021.
Keep in mind: The Labor Department, which administers the H-2A program, has proposed major changes that could be finalized in the next month or so. The final rule is now under review at the Office of Management and Budget.
The DOL rule – and any significant changes to the H-2A wage rules – are likely to be challenged in court.
Read our full report at Agri-Pulse.com.
Pre-election regulatory relief on pesticides and wolves
In a pair of major actions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delisted the gray wolf, and the EPA has eased requirements for pesticide application exclusion zones, those areas where people are not supposed to be when pesticides are sprayed.
Instead of a 100-foot exclusion zone for ground sprays containing fine droplets, EPA has decided on a 25-foot zone for all ground sprays and 100 feet for aerial applications. The agency also is allowing farm owners and family members to stay in their homes while applications are taking place. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said the rule provides needed clarity for farmers.
Meanwhile: Environmental groups are vowing legal challenges to the USFWS to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list early next year. Those groups say FWS failed to adequately consider the status of wolves in states such as Oregon, Washington and California, where numbers are much lower than the Great Lakes and some of the Rocky Mountain states.
Ag groups welcomed the delisting. Washington Farm Bureau President Mike LaPlant said “it’s time to end the federal-state split management of wolves in Washington and allow our state wildlife managers to manage wolves in conjunction with all other species.”
Read our full report at Agri-Pulse.com.

Grassley urges ag groups to reject gas car ban
Ahead of the election, Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is calling on farm organizations to push back against a new Senate bill that would ban gas-powered cars after 2035 in favor of electric vehicles.
“It’s really an extreme government overreach that would strip away consumer choice and freedom while destroying opportunities for rural Americans,” Grassley told reporters.
Grassley pointed to a University of Tennessee study commissioned by the Agricultural Retailers Association that says net farm income would drop by as much as $27 billion under an all-EV mandate.
Keep in mind: Joe Biden isn’t proposing to mandate EVs, but he does want motorists to shift to them. He wants to fund the installation of 500,000 charging stations nationwide.
He said it:
“Agricultural workers need more protections, not less. That’s why today’s announcement is particularly appalling.” — Attorney General Xavier Becerra on EPA narrowing pesticide protections.


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

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