January 8, 2021
Committee inundated with vaccine requests
In a meeting this week, a committee advising the Newsom administration on COVID-19 vaccine distribution described the hundreds of requests it has received. They range from individuals making their cases for priority to broad classes of workers.
The Public Health Department on Monday placed workers in the water sector within the third round of the vaccine plan. This pleased Dave Eggerton, who directs the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).
“Like the availability of food, the availability of drinking water is essential to life,” he said.
The committee has received letters from the mayors of Tulare and Watsonville urging farmworkers and others in the agriculture and dairy industries be prioritized first. Those workers are now on the list in the second round, just below healthcare workers and long-term-care residents.
More than 150 veterinarians wrote to the committee asking to be classified as healthcare workers in Phase 1A. Requests also came in from the trucking industry and Teamsters, among many others.
ACWA Director Dave Eggerton
Farm Bureau wants funds from stalled water project to go to SGMA
The California Farm Bureau expressed frustration recently with the Water Commission over the demise of the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project.
Environmental Policy Analyst Justin Fredrickson argued the commission had earlier denied construction money to the project that should have been allocated from the 2014 Proposition 1 water bond. The commission had instead allocated $172 million for continued planning. The project’s authority has now returned a portion of that money to the commission after failing to gather enough matching funds to continue.
In a letter to the commission, Fredrickson called for that money to go to regional projects in agricultural areas hit hard by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
“The original Prop. 1 awards were very urban focused…and left major unmet demands in the San Joaquin Valley conspicuously unaddressed,” he wrote.
He urged support for groundwater recharge and banking projects, even as some environmental groups may oppose them.
Friant Dam, upstream from the proposed Temperance Flat location
Pro-union mayor picked for Labor
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate a former labor leader, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, to become labor secretary. That’s a critical position for farmers and farmworkers because of the Labor Department’s regulation of labor standards and authority over the H-2A visa program.
The Trump administration tried to reduce wage increases for the H-2A program by issuing a new rule in November that would stop basing wage rates on USDA’s annual Farm Labor Survey. However, a federal judge in California on Dec. 23 blocked implementation of the rule.
Walsh is the former head of the Boston Building Trades Council.
In a statement, the Biden transition team said Walsh “has worked tirelessly to rebuild the middle class, create a more inclusive, resilient economy, and fight for workers in his hometown — including fighting for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.”
The nation’s top labor union leader says Walsh will be exceptional. “As a longtime union member, Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better by combating inequality, beating COVID-19, and expanding opportunities for immigrants, women and people of color,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
For California, Biden is passing up Julie Su, the state’s labor secretary, for the position.
After a number of California officials were initially in the running for key cabinet positions, just one has so far received a nomination. Attorney General Xavier Becerra would head Health and Human Services. Notably, the administration snubbed Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols to lead EPA.
Perdue addresses 25A amid calls for Trump removal
Congressional Democrats are demanding Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump Cabinet take action to remove President Trump from office under the 25th Amendment, but Cabinet members were for the most part silent on Thursday with the notable exception of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
During an event in Georgia on Thursday, Perdue told reporters that he “had no contact with other Cabinet members in that area, nor do I expect to have any.”
But Perdue said this when asked about Trump’s role in the mob takeover of the Capitol: “I think inciting people to not have a peaceful transition of power is not the right thing to do, and I’m disappointed in that.”
Take note: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, announced that she is resigning effective Monday, citing the events on Wednesday.
Read our report on Perdue’s remarks here.
Perdue looking forward to spending more time with family
Perdue left Georgia and returned to Washington after working on the failed Senate reelection campaign for his cousin, David Perdue. The USDA chief said he doesn’t expect to stay in Washington long before heading back again to Georgia, where he is looking forward to spending more time with family.
Perdue, who acknowledged Joe Biden won the presidential election, said: “I’ll come back home and enjoy my 14 grandchildren … Mary and I look forward to coming back and being more involved in their lives.”
Some ag groups speak out on Capitol mob
Farm groups were relatively quiet in the wake of the turmoil on Wednesday.
But Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, issued a statement Thursday, saying the “reprehensible violence was an attack on our democracy, intended to undermine the results of a free and fair election and desecrate the sovereign will of the American people.”
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew was the first to respond to the event, saying on Wednesday that “acts of intimidation and terror have no place in this country, and they cannot be condoned or brushed aside.”
In a tweet Thursday evening, the American Farm Bureau Federation said it was “saddened” by Wednesday’s events. “We must come together, not as farmers or city dwellers or suburban families, but as Americans and put aside the bitterness that has divided us and rally behind the principles that unite us.”
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said “these outrageous and inexcusable acts do not reflect our identity as a nation of laws or as a democracy.”
He said it:
“I’m sure I won’t be rocking on the porch too long.” — Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, who said he has no immediate professional plans after leaving USDA.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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