Ag Today August 28, 2020

Foster Farms processing plant in California ordered to shut down over COVID-19 outbreak Fresno Bee]

The Merced County Health Department ordered the Foster Farms Livingston Facility to shut down over the largest and most severe COVID-19 outbreak in Merced County, according to a statement released on Thursday by the health department. The shutdown order came Wednesday. However, late Thursday, Mike North, Merced County’s spokesperson, said county officials issued a 48-hour stay to the shutdown order to “help facilitate logistics associated with any necessary closure.” North said the enforcement stay followed a “phone call” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s secretary for food safety.


Taiwan to ease limits on American pork and beef, smoothing path for trade talks [Wall Street Journal]

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she would ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and pork, clearing the biggest obstacle to free-trade talks with Washington….Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Friday the U.S. welcomes Taiwan’s decision to lift restrictions on imports of American pork and beef. “This move opens the door for even deeper economic and trade cooperation,” he said….The announcement came about two weeks after Ms. Tsai said she wanted to start talks on a free-trade agreement with the U.S., a key unofficial ally and a major trading partner for the island democracy. Her pursuit of closer trade links is part of an effort to strengthen ties with Washington and resist coercion from China, Taiwan’s largest trading partner and whose ruling Communist Party claims the island as its territory.


U.S. top farm negotiator tones down approach to China trade deal [Bloomberg News]

When it comes to measuring China’s compliance with promises to buy more American farm goods as part of a landmark trade pact between the world’s two biggest nations, the U.S. top agriculture negotiator seems to have mellowed out. In a speech at a U.S. Soybean Export Council webinar, Gregg Doud steered clear of comments on the binding nature of the phase-one trade deal, its enforcement mechanisms and the ability to re-impose tariffs. When asked about the sanctions for non-compliance, he stressed: “This is a two-year commitment,” referring to the duration of the agreement between the two countries, which was signed in mid-January and kicked off a month later….Thursday’s speech was in sharp contrast with previous appearances by the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual forum in February, he said both nations would meet monthly to discuss progress and that a lack of compliance could allow each of the nations to impose tariffs equivalent to the size of the damage.


Vintners explain how wildfires could affect wine grape flavors [Stockton record]

Jeff Perlegos and his family farm about 50 acres of wine grapes and eight acres of cherries. When the wildfires started raging last week in Northern California, Perlegos said smoke was in the air and ash was visible on the leaves and grape clusters, approaching ripeness a bit sooner than usual thanks to a heat spike this month. In the ensuing days, the smoke lingered but breezes and light rain knocked some of the ash off the canopies and berries in the Stampede Vineyard in Clements, which is registered by the Historic Vineyard Society, and his plots in west and east Lodi.


Napa locals go ‘cowboy,’ bulldozing firebreaks to save wineries as resources wane [San Francisco Chronicle]

Matt Weinert is used to driving a bulldozer through rugged terrain. As the owner of High Demand Earth Work in Napa Valley, he specializes in clearing land so that vineyards can be planted. But now, Weinert can add another special skill to his bulldozing resume: stopping wildfires. When the Hennessey Fire ignited in Napa’s eastern hillsides on Aug. 17, Weinert and his crew were at Ovid Vineyards, in the middle of a job clearing 25 acres of rock for a new vineyard. Suddenly, they could spot smoke rising from the other end of Pritchard Hill, behind Chappellet Winery. The Ovid team reached out to Cal Fire, but “with so many fires up and down the state, we knew they’d be stretched pretty thin,” said General Manager Jack Bittner. It soon became clear that if they wanted to keep the Hennessey Fire from advancing, they would have to fight it themselves.


Commentary: Kings County Farm Bureau: Telling the farm-to-table story [Hanford Sentinel]

…As an industry, we listen to those stories and often complain to fellow agriculturalists, then move on. We see the work in progress by industry groups like the Farm Bureau and tell ourselves that it is enough. Enough to combat the negative story seen on the news or written by an activist group. Sufficient to convince an elected official that the industry is full of good people trying to do the right thing, which it is. Where we fall short is in telling our story, not letting someone tell it for us….In the exceptional year that is 2020, the world has faced challenges never before seen. Agriculture is no exception. Food production in California has met some of the most significant obstacles to demand and resources. Unlike many industries in the state, agriculture did not have the opportunity to stop production and formulate a plan to start again. Pushing the pause button on plant and animal production is not an option. Neither is disrupting the food supply chain. So, what did the industry do? They put their heads down and kept working. They made sure food was available while consumers stalked their pantries and freezers. They created work plans to protect their employees while at work. They filed reports on water usage, pesticide applications and food safety. They worked countless hours irrigating and managing pests, feeding and milking. They did the things they do every day to ensure the rest of the world can eat. At the same time, they worried about COVID-19 and how it would affect their families, friends and employees.