Ag Today August 29, 2018


California lawmakers finalize details of a $1-billion wildfire prevention plan, but tough votes lie ahead [Los Angeles Times]

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers proposed on Tuesday to spend $1 billion to clear fire-prone trees and brush from across the state over the next five years while providing new relief for utility companies that have said wildfire costs could lead them to bankruptcy. But critics maintained provisions in the bill offer little protection to utility customers from footing the bill, even when the companies are found at fault for some amount of a fire’s origins….The two houses of the Legislature must take up the plan before they adjourn for the year on Friday night. The ultimate fate of the proposal is uncertain.


Toxic pesticides found at most illegal California pot farms [Associated Press]

Nine of every 10 illegal marijuana farms raided in California this year contained traces of powerful and potentially lethal pesticides that are poisoning wildlife and could endanger water supplies, researchers and federal authorities said Tuesday….Federal and state officials launched a summer-long crackdown driven in part by new concern over the increase in the use of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran….The crackdown aided by $2.5 million in federal money led to 95 growing sites and the removal of more than 10 tons of fertilizer, pesticides and chemicals.


Calling 911 in rural California? Danger might be close, but the law can be hours away [Sacramento Bee]

…As urban areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno grapple with discussions about use of force and the over-policing of minority communities, the state’s rural counties face a growing and no-less-serious law enforcement crisis: a severe shortage of staff that puts the public — and deputies — in danger. A McClatchy investigation found that large stretches of rural California — where county sheriffs are the predominant law enforcement agencies and towns often run only a few blocks — do not have enough sworn deputies to provide adequate public safety for the communities they serve. Departments in multiple jurisdictions are operating with skeleton staffs, McClatchy found, pushing response times into hours, or sometimes leaving residents without a response at all.


Investigators track contaminated lettuce outbreak to a cattle feedlot [National Public Radio]

The illnesses started appearing in late March. Here and there, across the country, people were checking themselves in to hospitals, sick from toxic E. coli bacteria. At least 200 people got sick. Five of them died. Investigators quickly identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak, but have had trouble pinpointing the cause for months. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has a theory for how E. coli ended up on that lettuce. According to the FDA, it probably came from a large cattle feedlot at one end of a valley near Yuma, Ariz., which is one of the country’s biggest lettuce-growing areas.


Mollie Tibbetts case exposes farms’ worst-kept secret: hiring undocumented immigrants [USA Today]

…While presidents have approached undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in vastly different ways, Republicans and Democratic administrations – under heavy lobbying from the agricultural industry – have always treated undocumented farm workers differently….And now, many Republicans are citing Tibbetts’ death as a reason to pass a bill requiring all U.S. companies to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of all job applicants….But farmers, ranchers and other business owners who rely on undocumented immigrants say passing an E-Verify bill would cripple their industries. Already struggling to recruit enough Americans to do the back-breaking field work, and operating under the constant threat of raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they say implementing E-Verify with no other changes to the immigration system would put untold numbers of companies out of business.


Editorial: New Deal Economics [Wall Street Journal]

…Farm income nationwide is at a 12-year low due in part to soaring global production, and Chinese retaliatory tariffs have made U.S. producers less competitive while further dampening prices….A Commerce report on Tuesday showed that food, feed and beverage exports plunged 6.7% in July. California farmers last month reported that $2 billion in annual exports had been affected by retaliatory tariffs with almond shipments to China and Hong Kong falling by nearly 50% in June. Meantime, taxpayers are getting hit twice—first as consumers by the Trump Administration’s tariffs and then as financiers to mitigate the political damage.