Ag Today April 24, 2020

Plan to change workers’ comp rules for employees with COVID-19 angers business, ag groups [Fresno Bee]

A proposed executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to substantially expand protections for coronavirus-infected employees who qualify for workers’ compensation insurance is raising concerns among leaders in the agriculture and business communities, who say it could cost billions of dollars. … What many are opposed to is a recommendation that any essential employee who becomes infected with the coronavirus during the stay at home order will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. … Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said he first heard of the proposal a few days ago and he didn’t like what he learned.


Opinion: Assemblymember Robert Rivas: California farmworkers need protection amid COVID-19 crisis [Salinas Californian]

… Now is the time to expand protections for vulnerable farmworkers, not dial them back. … Together with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, I recently introduced the first COVID-19 relief package in the nation focused on farmworkers. … This package of legislation needs urgent consideration. … The Trump effort to single out vulnerable farmworkers for less pay during the current health crisis is a call to action. I hope my colleagues in the California Legislature will join me in answering that call and protect this critical workforce.


Farmers are worried about going under. That could put fruit and vegetables in short supply [CNN Business]

… Some fear government stimulus won’t be enough to save many farmers. “We don’t believe that the allocation that will come out via this package will make any farmer whole,” said Veronica Nigh, an economist with the Farm Bureau, which represents U.S. farmers. “Hopefully it will keep the largest number of farms from going under in the short term.” … The government has started doling out relief funds to all Americans, including small businesses. But the process has been messy. … “The SBA Paycheck Protection Program has been particularly challenging for farmers and ranchers,” said Nigh.


San Diego County farmers see big drop In flower sales [Medill News Service]

San Diego County farmers who grow cut flowers and ornamental plants have seen their sales decline, while other farmers who sell produce are taking less of a hit. Agriculture in the county is a $1.8 billion industry, according to Hannah Gbeh, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. … Gbeh surveyed San Diego County Farm Bureau members in March. Of the 29 survey respondents, 31% had stopped their operations. The survey also found that 62% of the respondents had decreased their workforce.


Your local farm in a box: How farmers are coping with the crisis [Los Angeles Times]

… The idea of getting your just-picked farm produce in a cardboard box was popularized in the 1980s, when European farmers brought the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model to this country. The box model is one that has particular significance now: It’s a safe way for shoppers, self-quarantined at home, to get fresh produce and farmers can sell what most needs to be picked in larger amounts. … One advantage of the boxes for farmers is that they can pick, quite literally, and choose what goes into them, packing the produce that needs to move, which helps keep down costs. But boxes are much more work and, for most farmers, nowhere near make up for the lost sales.


Clean Water Act applies to discharges into groundwater, Supreme Court rules [Wall Street Journal]

In a ruling that favored environmentalists, the Supreme Court said Thursday the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution sources like pipes and wells when their discharges are essentially equivalent to polluting directly into rivers, lakes or oceans. … The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, rejected arguments by Maui and the Trump administration that the Clean Water Act doesn’t apply when pollution is discharged first into the ground before reaching navigable bodies of water. … The majority faulted the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration for interpreting the act narrowly, saying such an approach broke with longstanding agency practice and was “neither persuasive nor reasonable.”


Just as Newsom and Trump were getting along, California escalates the Delta water wars [Fresno Bee]

The Newsom administration has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against increased water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, arguing that current water diversions “will cause imminent and irreparable harm to species protected under the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act.” … Amidst a crisis over the coronavirus where it appears tensions between Newsom and President Trump have cooled, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Central Valley Project, had some sharp words in response to the suit.