December 7, 2020
CDFA alert: This fertilizer isn’t all organic
An organic fertilizer known as Agro Gold WS has been contaminated with conventional herbicides, cautioned CDFA in issuing a quarantine order on the product.
A state lab analysis detected the presence of glyphosate and diquat, which are prohibited by the USDA National Organic Program. Growers could jeopardize their organic status through continued use.
Stanford researchers and groundwater managers are leading airborne surveys to search for groundwater recharge areas in California’s Central Valley.
Becerra tapped as Health and Human Services secretary
President-elect Joe Biden has selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Becerra played a prominent role in crafting the Affordable Care Act as a congressman and has been a staunch defender of it as attorney general.
He has also supported environmental justice advocates on farmworker rights, anti-pesticide groups in challenging federal regulations and environmental organizations in lawsuits against agricultural interests.
Broadband bills return today
Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Winters announced at the California Economic Summit on Friday that she will reintroduce her broadband bill today. Senator Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach will bring back her counterpart measure as well.
Aguiar-Curry said her bill would “provide the necessary funding and bonding capacity to pave the way for the statewide investments in future-proof infrastructure and high-speed internet access.” It would do this by authorizing grants through the California Advanced Services Fund.
Remember: As negotiations between the two houses fell apart in the final hours of session last summer, both bills were pulled. Gonzalez blamed Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood for the action.
The two authors disagreed on the basic approach to broadband. Aguiar-Curry favored expanding access, especially in rural regions, while Gonzalez favored improving existing connection speeds in urban areas.
Farmworkers at the frontline of climate change
Farmworkers are being disproportionately impacted by climate change and are the least prepared for the extreme weather events already taking place. That is according to labor advocate Maricela Morales, who heads the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, speaking at a CalEPA research symposium on climate change last week.
Morales said language remains a barrier for farmworkers, who often speak indigenous languages and struggle with Spanish as well as English.
They work outside under poor air quality during wildfires, she added. They are also vulnerable to heat illness with the rise in temperatures.
Drinking water in farmworker communities is impacted due to less rain flushing out contaminants in the soil. Because of the long hours of work, they have difficulty connecting with disaster aid offices as well. Road closures from wildfires or floods can cut off the communities from essential supplies.
Ag leaders meet with Biden team to explain priorities
Leaders of the nation's farm organizations met with the Biden transition team Friday to discuss a host of ag issues and offer priorities for the incoming administration to address.
"As part of a continuing dialogue around the needs of farmers and rural communities, several agricultural leaders met today with leaders from President-Elect Biden’s USDA transition team," the group said Friday in a statement. "We appreciate the transition team’s interest in hearing from farm and agricultural organizations as they work to build a foundation for agriculture within the Biden Administration."
The group shared a white paper of priorities with the Biden campaign this summer. Its top three priorities included COVID testing and vaccinations for processing/supply chain workers; "sustained, well-funded, effective and predictable" language in the upcoming farm bill; and ratifying trade agreements with new and existing markets.
Read our full report at Agri-Pulse.com.
Scoop: Boozman taps Poindexter for Senate Ag
Martha Scott Poindexter will be returning to the Senate Agriculture Committee as staff director for GOP Sen. John Boozman, according to sources close to the Arkansas senator.
Poindexter previously led the committee staff from 2005 to 2010 under Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss. She moved on to the Senate Intelligence Committee for four years and most recently was vice president for government and industry affairs for Bunge.
The outcome of the Senate races in Georgia will determine whether Boozman is chairman or ranking member.
Sen. Bill Cassidy and colleagues announcing their bipartisan aid package last week.
Senators look to nail down COVID aid deal
Optimism abounds on Capitol Hill that lawmakers will reach a deal in the coming days on a big new coronavirus relief package, probably around $900 billion. A group of 10 senators, five from each party, has been leading the talks. One of the senators, Bill Cassidy, R-La., said there are lingering disagreements over business liability protections and a moratorium on evictions.
The bipartisan proposal includes $26 billion for agriculture and nutrition spending and $10 billion for broadband expansion.
If a deal can be finalized, the package would be wrapped together with a massive fiscal 2021 spending bill.
For more read our Washington Week Ahead.
Operation Warp Speed's Moncef Slaoui
Ag groups push for vaccine priority
With the FDA nearing approval this week of the first COVID-19 vaccine, farm and food industry groups are pushing to make sure industry workers are next in line for immunization after health care workers and residents of long-term health residents.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged making those two groups the top priority in the first phase and plan to make recommendations for further vaccine allocations after a vaccine gets approval from FDA.
“With COVID cases on the rise in many states, vaccinations will play a key role in protecting essential workers, such as those in the food sector,” the National Pork Producers Council said in a letter to the CDC advisory committee. “It is imperative that on-farm and in-plant workers, who are integral to keeping Americans fed, have early access to COVID-19 vaccines.”
Take note: An FDA review committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider recommending approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The first immunizations should start within 36 hours of the agency’s approval, said Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the government-led effort to develop vaccines for COVID-19.
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, he said it would probably be April or May before vaccines are available widely enough for life to get back to normal.
He said it:
“Challenges facing farmers here can have an outsized impact on the availability of food and farm products for all Americans.” — California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson, in a lukewarm welcome to Rep. David Scott as the new House Ag Chair, after CFBF’s California pick failed to gain the seat
Sara Wyant, Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.