Ag Today April 17, 2020

Cut farmworker pay during the crisis? Don’t do it, California growers say [Salinas Californian/CalMatters]

The Trump administration is considering cutting the pay of guest visa farmworkers during the coronavirus pandemic to help the farm industry. But California growers aren’t thrilled: They say it won’t help them much with their financial crisis. And they worry that it might even hurt them by creating uncertainty for their essential employees, prompting them to look elsewhere for work once the pandemic ends. … Agricultural industry representatives and workers’ advocates alike say the move to cut worker pay won’t solve the food-supply-chain crisis. “To see wages being depressed would be reason for concern and evaluation,” said Chris Valadez, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California.


California food workers will get extra paid sick leave amid coronavirus crisis [Los Angeles Times]

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Thursday requiring companies in the food sector that employ 500 or more people to provide two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for full-time workers who contract COVID-19 or are exposed to the virus and need to isolate themselves. … The supplemental paid sick leave would be offered in addition to any existing benefits employees receive and applies across the food sector, to businesses including grocery stores, restaurants, fast-food chains, food processing and packaging plants, agriculture and delivery services.


Opinion: As pandemic rages, it’s time to embrace farm workers as legal part of our future [Fresno Bee]

… A recent news report suggests that the Trump Administration wants to reduce the wages paid to immigrant farm workers under the H2A program. I have a better solution to help struggling farmers: recognize the value and hard work of farm workers, and provide aid to unemployed and hungry families. … Creating a pathway to legal residency for tens of thousands of farm workers is imperative to harness this human capital at a moment of crisis. … Replacing the H-2A program with a plan to legalize undocumented farm workers in the United States would remedy the severe social impacts that the H2-A program causes to the communities that host the workers.


US wine industry could lose $6 billion as a result of the coronavirus [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

The U.S. wine industry could lose up to $6 billion over the next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis released Thursday. … Roughly 97% of all U.S. wineries produce less than 50,000  cases a year and they are estimated to experience annual revenue losses between 36% and 66%, Moramarco said. … The sales plunge will have an effect on wine grape sales going into the 2020 fall harvest, especially for those vintners who don’t have contracts to sell their grapes to wineries. That will result in an excess supply of wine grapes with those sales projected to decline nationwide about 25%.


Some San Joaquin Valley small farmers, food makers overwhelmed with consumer demand [Fresno Bee]

At a time when farmers are losing customers because of the crackdown related to the coronavirus pandemic, some San Joaquin Valley food makers are seeing a boost in business as people search for alternatives to the grocery store. From a drive-thru egg ranch to a homemade bread maker, small-scale producers have been flooded with new customers wanting convenience and fresh, quality products. … Small farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard sees the potential of more consumers making long lasting connections with small farmers and other food producers that they may not have been familiar with before the pandemic.


State panel grants temporary endangered species status to Southern California cougars [Los Angeles Times]

The state Fish and Game Commission on Thursday set the stage for a fierce environmental battle by granting temporary endangered species status to the several hundred cougars still roaming Southern California and the Central Coast. … The move is considered preliminary under terms of the state Endangered Species Act. Next, the commission will hold public hearings. … Before the panel voted, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham urged them to overlook objections from critics including the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Cattlemen’s Assn. and accept the petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation.


California and West suffering worst ‘megadrought’ in centuries, study of tree rings shows [Sacramento Bee]

Officially, California’s most recent drought lasted five painful years and ended in 2017. But a new study released Thursday says California and the rest of the West are enduring a continuing megadrought that ranks among the worst on record. Despite the occasional wet year, researchers at Columbia University said the period starting in 2000 has been about as bad as any of four lengthy droughts recorded since the late 800s. While the study period ended in 2018, researchers said the West remains trapped in what they called a historic megadrought.