Ag Today April 10, 2020

Trump says he is speeding help to farmers hurt by coronavirus dislocation [Reuters]

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he has directed his agriculture secretary to expedite help to farmers, especially small farmers, hurt by the economic disruption caused by the new coronavirus outbreak. … Trump did not specify what he expected Perdue to do, but farmers are waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to announce how it will disburse $9.5 billion Congress set aside for the industry in the coronavirus relief bill signed by Trump last month. … The American Farm Bureau Federation said last week that farmers need immediate help … The group said certain sectors have been particularly hard-hit, including dairy farmers and specialty crop producers, such as vegetable and fruit farms.


Widespread shutdown order slams California dairy farmers, ‘You can’t turn off the cows’ [Sacramento Bee]

… When the market for dairy products in schools, restaurants and abroad disappeared amid the lockdown it left behind a void. … Creameries are telling farmers to cut back on the amount of milk they’re sending because they can’t find a buyer for it, said Anja Raudabaugh, chief executive of Western United Dairies, an industry group based in Modesto. … That means farmers will face potentially big losses by either pouring the milk out like many farmers are already doing on the Northeast. They can “dry” the cow off by no longer milking it or they can “beef” them.


Coronavirus: What’s being done to support Ventura County’s farmworkers during the outbreak [Ventura County Star]

… In a second “open letter” to the agricultural industry last week, United Farm Workers called for similar hazard pay for farmworkers, and reiterated previous calls for extended sick leave, mandatory workplace plans for social distancing, and easy access to medical services, among other things. … John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, says growers are following best practices like social distancing and keeping restrooms stocked with hand sanitizer, but says the issue of extended sick leave isn’t unique to farms. … Krist also said “you can’t equate” working in a field far from other people with working in a grocery store in close contact with strangers.


Trump administration exploring coronavirus testing for U.S. food plant workers [Wall Street Journal]

The Trump administration is weighing a plan to provide coronavirus tests and other solutions to U.S. food-processing plants, as a way to soothe workers’ fears and keep the country’s food system functioning through the pandemic. The federal Covid-19 task force headed by Vice President Mike Pence this week discussed the prospect with meatpackers and food producers, according to people involved in the talks. … Food producers are struggling as a rising number of processing-plant employees contract the coronavirus, and more stay home rather than risk catching it in the close quarters that are typical in plants.


Opinion: During COVID-19 crisis, farmworkers are ‘essential’ [San Jose Mercury News]

… Farmworkers and food-production workers continue to work at great risk. They face tough barriers in workplaces that have historically not protected workers against extreme heat, pesticide exposure and spread of infection in shoulder-to-shoulder work environments. … We must set a precedent for proper treatment and protection of low-income workers. … Everyone, regardless of class or immigration status, is susceptible to the disease, but low-income workers who struggle to survive in our economy are the least able to shelter in place and protect their families.


Editorial: Will Gov. Gavin Newsom extend coronavirus relief to California’s undocumented workers? [Sacramento Bee]

… While many farmworkers remain in the fields, risking their health to keep food on grocery store shelves, others have seen their jobs cut. … Unlike other workers, however, they can’t file for unemployment or get federal emergency relief. … The governor has a lot on his plate but, without urgent action, the people whose labor feeds us may soon be staring at empty plates. … Newsom must find a way to provide desperately needed help for undocumented immigrants who have been barred from federal relief.


For American wine producers, fear, uncertainty and hope [New York Times]

… Throughout the American winemaking business, fear and uncertainty reign. Producers, who operate on a largely predictable schedule dictated by seasons, holidays and the agricultural cycle, are suddenly facing great unknowns. Their umbilical connection to the hospitality industry — restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, tasting rooms, even airlines and cruise ships — is no more, forcing a painful reckoning with staffs, budgets and business plans … The entire wine business is affected. Big companies and corporate wineries have far more resources to face difficulties. For small family businesses, it’s potentially an existential crisis.