Ag Today April 15, 2020

Trump administration faces pressure to buy food for the needy, avoid waste [Reuters]

The Trump administration is facing mounting pressure to buy more meat, dairy and produce for food banks as farmers destroy agricultural goods due to reduced restaurant demand during the coronavirus outbreak. … Increased food purchases by USDA can “help ensure that the production that no longer has a foodservice market can be made available to help our nation’s food banks,” said Representative Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. … Feeding America, which says it is the largest U.S. hunger-relief organization, and the American Farm Bureau Federation said in a letter last week that USDA should implement a voucher program that would allow farmers and food banks to work directly with one another.


Farms and workers trying to avoid COVID-19 in the fields and the orchards [Capital Public Radio, Sacramento]

… County health and agriculture departments are trying to make sure farms and workers know how not to spread coronavirus and what to do if they get sick. … Farmers have offered workers sick pay for which they wouldn’t ordinarily be eligible. Jamie Johansson is a citrus and olive farmer in Butte County and president of the California Farm Bureau. He says federal action makes that possible. … Both the farm bureau and the union say sick leave will allow infected workers or those with sick family members to stay home and avoid spreading the virus.


Trump administration halts wildfire prevention tool in California over coronavirus [Reuters]

The U.S. Forest Service has suspended controlled burns on public lands in wildfire-prone California because of the coronavirus pandemic, upsetting officials who see the program as key to preventing seasonal infernos like those that devastated parts of the state in 2018. The decision comes as forecasters predict yet another above-average year for wildfires in parts of the state because of dry conditions, and follows President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of California’s own forest management work following the 2018 fires. … California officials said they disagreed with the decisions and were continuing their own forest management work on state lands through the pandemic.


Coronavirus hits Bay Area’s artisan cheese industry hard [San Francisco Chronicle]

Bay Area artisan cheese makers are making tough decisions right now. Some are laying off staff. Others are switching up the cheeses they produce, hoping to wait out the coronavirus in the aging room. That’s because just about all of California’s boutique cheese makers have seen their sales drop since state and local shelter-in-place orders went into effect, forcing restaurants to close their dining rooms and suspend their typical cheese orders. … Since sales are down, creameries such as Bivalve Dairy in Point Reyes are making less fresh cheese because of its poor shelf life. Instead, they’re turning to aged cheeses … in the hopes that the economy will be stronger by the time the cheeses are ready.


There will be no San Diego County Fair this year [San Diego Union-Tribune]

The Del Mar fair board voted unanimously today to postpone this summer’s San Diego County Fair until 2021 because of the state’s prohibitions on mass gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Board President Richard Valdez said that he had planned to delay any decision for another week or more, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s news conference earlier today made it clear there will be no large gatherings this summer. … The event, which was scheduled for June 5 through July 5, will move to about the same dates next year with the same theme, “Heroes, Unite!” that was planned for this year.


Court strikes down Trump rollback of school nutrition rules [New York Times]

A federal court has struck down a 2018 Agriculture Department rule that reversed nutrition standards for sodium and whole grains in school meal programs once championed by the former first lady Michelle Obama. … The sodium and whole-grain standards were the first of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to roll back school nutrition rules implemented by the Obama administration. Another proposed rule … would weaken nutrition standards for fruits and vegetables in school and summer meal programs. In early March, the Agriculture Department extended the public comment period on that rule until April 22, citing the pandemic.