Ag Today April 6, 2020

U.S. agriculture: Can it handle coronavirus, labor shortages and panic buying? [USA Today]

… U.S. agriculture is strong enough to handle it, with farmers still farming and no major shortages in sight, experts say. But because consumers recently have changed the way they buy and consume food, various snags in the food supply chain have led to disruptions … “There will be enough food produced on the farm,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. But “there’s a lot of things that happen to the food before it gets to the consumer, whether it be in processing or transportation. If this thing was to get worse, what problems come along with that? None of us really know.”


At least eight employees of Coachella packinghouse test positive for coronavirus [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

A Coachella Valley packinghouse is still open but producing fewer boxes of dates this week after at least eight employees tested positive for COVID-19 and about half of the company’s workers opted to stay home. SunDate in Coachella packages Medjool and Deglet Noor that are sold at stores nationwide. It shut down its Coachella factory on Monday after a worker tested positive … While the federal government considers the agriculture industry to be an essential service that should maintain operations during the coronavirus pandemic, SunDate informed its workers that “their jobs were not in jeopardy” if they opted to self-quarantine.


Coronavirus impact on local agricultural operations [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]

… Yuba-Sutter farmers are feeling the impacts of the unprecedented public health emergency brought about by COVID-19 and have had to make modifications to how they operate in order to keep their workers safe and on the job. “We are making sure our workers are staying farther apart and washing their hands more,” said Donald Norene, a local walnut farmer and owner of Norene Ranches. … Lisa Herbert, Sutter County agricultural commissioner, said one of the big impacts of the current public health emergency is that the farming industry is in need of personal protective equipment, like masks.


Yes, there’s an egg shortage in the Bay Area. But only for some shoppers [Bay Area News Group]
… Alongside empty toilet paper and paper towel aisles, refrigerators with barren egg shelves are a more frequent sight these days. … Dairy company Clover Sonoma says it has seen a huge increase in demand for its eggs and butter in recent weeks. While restaurant supply decreases have freed up more eggs for consumers, the company still can’t keep up with requests from stores. … Even if a number of stores aren’t experiencing an egg shortage, suppliers are hearing from a long list of others that are eager to get them in stock.


As supermarkets feel hazardous and sparse, small farms deliver [New York Times]
… For those who can afford the weekly cost of a subscription, specialized services like Narrative Food (where charges start at $43 for a box of vegetables) are increasingly popular. Farms around Los Angeles are also rising to the occasion, adopting more direct distribution models for local, seasonal foods in a time of crisis. … At the Altadena Farmers’ Market, people can place all of their orders online, picking and choosing among local cheeses, honeys and other foods from a number of vendors for curbside pickup, in a kind of custom-built, no-contact community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A.


Opinion: In California farm country, growers struggle with labor shortage [USA Today]

… As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, the necessity of sustaining the agriculture industry is even more obvious. … As California’s news media dwindles, the agriculture industry, despite its vital importance, receives less coverage. Growers also are often hesitant to talk about the challenges they face because they don’t trust journalists to understand their reality. They extend that criticism to lawmakers … But farmers, journalists and elected leaders have a responsibility to work together and encourage transparency in the interest of all Californians, especially now. Our survival depends on it.


Opinion: Collaboration is the answer to California’s fishery and water supply challenges [CalMatters]

… The effort to restore and protect salmon, Delta smelt, and other species is not going to happen overnight. Our successes in the Sacramento Valley have taken a long time and required the participation of stakeholders from farmers, water districts, wildlife officials, environmental advocates, and State and federal fishery and water management agencies. Our work isn’t done but we’ve shown that working together is a much more beneficial process than fighting our battles in the courts.