December 15, 2020
Borgeas to lead Senate Ag as Legislature’s sole Republican chair
Senator Andreas Borgeas of Fresno has become the lone Republican in either house to chair a policy committee. Reaching across the aisle, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins has selected Borgeas to head the Agriculture Committee.
“We need strong, effective advocates in Sacramento on behalf of our agricultural community,” Borgeas said in a statement. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen praised Borgeas as a lawmaker who will work “in a bipartisan manner with all stakeholders to holistically address the critical matters affecting food and fiber production.”
As one of only a handful of Republicans in the Senate, Borgeas will be stretched across seven other committees as well.
In a lesser role on the Ag Committee is Sen. Susan Eggman, who chaired Assembly Ag until terming out earlier this year and winning the open Senate seat in her Stockton district.
Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno
State Ag board to discuss carbon markets and agtech
In its monthly meeting tomorrow, the State Ag Board will host two Newsom cabinet members, an industry leader in carbon offset markets and the head of Western Growers.
“I’m hopeful that market-driven opportunities…will be a viable possibility in the not-too-distant future,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, who will join a discussion on innovation and resilience with the governor’s research director, Kate Gordon.
In a separate panel, Debbie Reed, the executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), will share how growers can benefit from carbon offset credits.
ESMC plans to launch a voluntary market to sell carbon and water quality and quantity credits for the ag sector by 2022. It is supported with more than $23 million from corporate members and USDA’s Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research. The consortium has nine regional pilot projects: four in the Corn Belt, three in the southern Plains, one in the Pacific Northwest and one in the Great Lakes region.
Several tech companies are also setting up carbon markets for ag.
Newsom inspects a new shipment of vaccines in Los Angeles as the first doses are doled out.
Newsom extends farmworker housing provision
Gov. Newsom signed an executive order Monday allowing migrant farm labor centers managed by the state to continue housing ag workers and their families during the pandemic.
The statutory occupancy period would otherwise end this month. The order suspends requirements for those workers to have lived outside of the region in recent months.
In combining several provisions, the order also extends first-quarter tax deadlines until July for small businesses.
Bipartisan proposal keeps ag funding
Time is running short for congressional leaders to announce a deal on a coronavirus relief package, but there continues to be some signs of progress.
It appears increasingly unlikely there’s going to be a deal on the two biggest outstanding issues – business liability protections and state and local aid. A bipartisan group of senators that has been negotiating a compromise stimulus package for several weeks was unable to agree on those issues and instead released a slimmed down, $748 billion plan on Monday that includes only the items on which there is agreement: Those include $13 billion in spending for agriculture, $13 billion in nutrition assistance, $10 billion for broadband, and $7 billion for rural health care providers.
The liability protections and $160 billion in state and local aid were moved into a separate bill.
Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters the $748 billion measure is “trending in the right direction.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that measure will have “a big, and a positive influence on … what will be ultimately included.”
By the way: Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois, who was part of the bipartisan negotiating group, said Democrats couldn’t accept the liability protections that Republicans wanted.
Separately, the United Farm Workers took after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Twitter to claim his business liability shields would put ag workers at risk. “Why is Mitch McConnell refusing to agree to aid without shields for corporations? Let’s reflect on why corporations don’t want to be liable.” Then, in a series of tweets, UFW described outbreaks at a major chicken processor based in California, Foster Farms.
Farm groups to Biden: Less tariffs, more trade
Farmers for Free Trade, an umbrella group including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Milk Producers Federation and other major organizations are making it clear to President-elect Joe Biden they want more trade and no more trade wars.
"The tariffs that we've all experienced had a damaging impact, not just on farmers, but on anybody who's dealing with the agricultural supply chain,” says Chuck Lippstreu, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association in the report that summarizes five Ag Talks town hall meetings during the summer. “Not just the economic side, but the inability to plan for the future."
The report, which the farm groups say lays out a “roadmap for trade, supply chains, and the future of American agriculture,” lauds the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but is highly critical of the trade war with China and advocates quickly moving to “phase two” negotiations.
NC official a potential EPA chief
A new name has emerged as a potential nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to Bloomberg, Michael Regan, currently secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. “is now among the top contenders” for the job. He previously served as a national program manager at EPA, and he has also worked for the Environmental Defense Fund, a mainstream group that has worked closely with agriculture.
Take note: Shortly after taking the state job, Regan settled environmental justice complaints that the department had previously failed to adequately regulate North Carolina hog operations. The settlements resulted in new processes for monitoring farms and investigating complaints.
California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols has fallen out of consideration for the EPA job. The New York Times reported Monday that Nichols dropped out of the running because of opposition from more than 70 environmental justice groups who “wrote to the Biden transition charging that Ms. Nichols has a ‘bleak track record in addressing environmental racism.’”
New York University law professor Richard Revesz also is said to be a possibility for the EPA job.
By the way: Other news reports say former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy could be in line for the post of “climate czar.” McCarthy is now the president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
He said it:
“Hope is here.” — Newsom in launching a statewide vaccine program for COVID-19, with more than 300,000 initial Pfizer-BioNTech doses.
Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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