November 2, 2020

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Join us at noon Wednesday on our Facebook page 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 for a reminder email here.
DPR and Becerra take helicopter business to court over spray drift
The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a legal complaint against Alpine Helicopter Service last week over three alleged spray drift incidents.
The state argues the company has repeatedly violated pesticide regulations since 2013. Two of the incidents of concern occurred in San Joaquin County, when aerial applications allegedly drifted onto a nearby sports complex. Children were playing soccer one of those times. The third drift complaint came from a woman in Sacramento County.
“Today’s action demonstrates DPR’s seriousness to protecting California’s people and the environment,” said DPR Assistant Director Ken Everett.
Becerra argued the consequences for violating health and safety should be substantial.
“Who would choose to run their business with such callous disregard for the safety of our children and families nearby?” he said.

Wealthy are fleeing cities for vineyard estates
As the pandemic settled in, a “truly amazing” phenomenon took hold along the California coast, according to farm appraiser Tony Correia.
“Folks with money were fleeing the big cities, the virus cities, and a vineyard estate was an attractive home in the country,” he said, during a presentation last week for the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA).
The market for those country estates “blew up,” with cash sales on turnkey homes closing in 15 days. And it includes rentals: Correia knew a family that was paying $60,000 per month to rent a vineyard home.
Cattleman calls for more grazing on public lands to prevent fires
Beef cattle grazing plays an important role in reducing fuel loads to prevent wildfires, argued ag appraiser Tony Toso at the ASFMRA meeting of the California chapter, of which he is past president.
He described how the industry is pushing for a process of managing for fires through prescribed burning first, followed by mechanical thinning and then regular grazing.
To do this, he argued, the state would need to overhaul regulatory impediments, like state and federal environmental protection laws. Toso called for liability insurance protections for private burn bosses. These CalFire certifications would allow for more range-improvement burns. He added that environmental lawsuits can be impediments to wildfire management.
“How do we get ahead of the game?” he asked. “Grazing, prescribed fire, mechanical thinning are resources that we just haven't been utilizing to the full extent over the last hundred years.”

Wheeler bullish on green pesticide options
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is optimistic that new and greener alternatives are on the way to help farmers to protect their pests. During an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview, Wheeler didn’t offer specifics on new products or a timeline.
But he said, “there’s a lot of different new pesticides coming on line that we’re being asked to review and register. The science is really incredible here.”
He said EPA is working to streamline the regulatory process to ensure products can get to the market more quickly, including gene-edited crops that contain their own pesticidal properties, traits known as “plant-incorporated protectants,” or PIPs. EPA in September proposed new regulations to accelerate regulatory reviews for PIPs.
Wheeler said senior management personnel at EPA are now being evaluated on how well they have implemented improvements to regulatory and decision-making processes.
Listen to the interview here. He also discusses the agency’s recent dicamba decision as well as the PFAS issue.
EPA challenged over atrazine OK
Environmental groups are suing EPA over the recent approval of popular weedkiller atrazine, alleging the agency failed to adequately protect human health and the environment.
EPA reapproved atrazine, along with propazine and simazine, in September, announcing that it was lowering the limit on the amount of atrazine that could be applied and requiring additional personal protective equipment to reduce workers’ risks.
But the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety allege EPA “dismissed extensive evidence showing that [PPE] intended to reduce farmworkers’ exposure to atrazine is ineffective and infeasible, putting the health of this highly exposed group at risk.”
The groups’ petition was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Keep in mind: Some of the same groups behind this lawsuit successfully challenged EPA’s oversight of dicamba earlier.
Trump cuts duty-free access for some foreign rice
U.S. rice farmers are applauding the Trump administration for removing rice from the Generalized System of Preferences program, which exempts developing nations from some tariffs in order to help boost their economies.
The U.S. Rice Federation and some lawmakers have been asking for rice to be removed from the program because of the impact on domestic producers and the U.S. International Trade Commission announced last month that it was considering the request.
“This step in the right direction is a win for American rice producers,” said Arkansas GOP Sen. John Boozman. “Our rice farmers can compete with anyone on the world stage. This update will help level the playing field to ensure our American farmers are not being undercut by international growers. 
Wyden demands action on USMCA commitments
Canada and Mexico are not living up to key promises under the new North American Free Trade Agreement, and Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is demanding the Trump administration pressure the two countries to follow through on their pledges.
Mexico has been inexplicably failing to approve any new genetically modified seed traits despite a new biotech chapter in the USMCA that was expected to bring the three countries closer on acceptance of the technology. And U.S. dairy farmers are accusing Canada of “playing games” with a promise to implement new tariff rate quotas by limiting which U.S. products qualify.
“It is critical that Mexico and Canada meet their obligations if American workers, farmers, businesses, and consumers are to reap the full benefits you promised they would receive from USMCA,” Wyden wrote in a letter to Trump.
If the USMCA is implemented as negotiated, U.S. dairy exports would increase by more than $314 million a year, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
He said it:
“It will only allow more competition for cost in this space, more choice, reduced stress for agricultural workers…and ultimately reduce costs across the spectrum.” – Gov. Newsom on new state partnerships to boost COVID-19 testing, at a press conference Friday

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

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