Ag Today August 30, 2018

U.S., Canada say NAFTA talks on track [Wall Street Journal]

Trade ties between the U.S. and Canada took a sudden optimistic turn on Wednesday as the two countries signaled they were on track to meet a tight Friday deadline to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada very much wants to make the deal,” President Trump said at the White House Wednesday. He added a deal would be “very good” for Canada and talks are “on track” to conclude by Friday. The Trump administration had set that deadline for Canada to join a preliminary accord the U.S. and Mexico had achieved on Monday or risk being left out. Mr. Trump said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him about the talks on Tuesday, a day after those threats, and “was very nice—couldn’t have been nicer.” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada was “optimistic about having some good productive discussions this week” after the U.S. and Mexico resolved their issues. But it was unclear if progress was made on two contentious issues: Canada’s effort to preserve Nafta’s existing dispute-resolution system and the Trump administration’s goal to gain more access to Canada’s dairy market. Neither side disclosed what was discussed on Wednesday.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue lowers expectations for ending trade battle with China [Star Tribune, Minneapolis]

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday said the Trump administration is “trying to lower expectations” over reopening trade with China, even as the U.S., Mexico and Canada draw closer to a revised North American trade deal….The loss of the Chinese market for American soybeans after the imposition of dueling tariffs has helped drive soybean prices down, which has widespread effects in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Speaking at the Farm Progress Show, the largest outdoor farm-equipment show in North America, Perdue was asked how he responds to farmers who say “free trade not aid” in response to the announcement of aid packages for farmers hurt by the trade war with China.


California’s plan to rely entirely on clean energy by 2045 heads to the governor’s desk [Los Angeles Times]

California lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a plan that would put the state on a path to phase out fossil fuels by 2045. State senators voted overwhelmingly to support Senate Bill 100, which would require California to obtain 100% of its energy from clean sources within the next three decades. The bill, which has been touted by state and national political leaders as a key plank in California’s fight against climate change, now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature….The decision follows a dramatic vote Tuesday in the state Assembly to approve SB 100, which had been on hold for nearly a year amid concerns over costs and feasibility, and larger political fights over energy policy.


IID directors adopt resolution despite spat with Riverside County [Imperial Valley Press]

The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors has adopted a resolution in support of a memorandum of understanding for cooperative planning at the Salton Sea between Imperial and Riverside counties despite ongoing litigation with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors over a different matter. During their regular meeting Tuesday afternoon at the William R. Condit Auditorium in El Centro, the directors voted 3 to 0 — Directors Juanita Salas and Norma Sierra Galindo were absent — to approve the resolution, which had been considered previously during their Aug. 14 regular meeting. “Based on the discussion and some of the comments made by this board, staff prepared a resolution for your approval,” Antonio Ortega, IID government affairs and communications officer, said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We went through the MOU that has been adopted by the counties and incorporated into our resolution that IID would adopt those areas where IID has already publicly stated its support position for those projects or those priority areas.”


Deadly poultry ailment, Newcastle disease, reaches Ventura County [Ventura County Star]

A Southern California outbreak of a devastating poultry disease has reached Ventura County, prompting a warning to residents who raise chickens. A case of Newcastle disease, a potentially deadly virus for birds, was found in a private owner’s flock of chickens in Ventura County. The local case follows the May 17 discovery of the disease in Los Angeles County and its spread to San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Although not dangerous to humans, the disease is considered one of the most lethal for poultry. It’s highly contagious among birds and deadly for the ones carrying it, with no known treatment available. An outbreak in 2002 that started in a backyard flock eventually spread to 22 commercial poultry farms, resulting in the deaths of 3.2 million birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture notified Ventura County Animal Services of the local case. The organizations are working with poultry owners to respond to the findings, while state officials have euthanized potentially exposed birds to prevent the disease from spreading.


Editorial: There’s a better way to pay for California’s wildfire costs [Los Angeles Times]

A deal struck by a legislative committee as part of a wide-ranging wildfire prevention and response package late Tuesday will make no one truly happy — neither the utility companies that wanted more protection against liability for fire damage, nor the advocates who wanted ratepayers to have no financial exposure. But it is an improvement that clarifies what utilities must do to prevent fires and, if their equipment starts a fire anyway, when they may pass on wildfire costs to ratepayers. That was about all anyone could hope for this late in the session. Lawmakers will vote on SB 901 on Friday in the final hours of the current two-year legislative session. And it should pass because, as imperfect as it is, we need more clarity and fairness in dealing with the massive firestorms that have become a staple of California’s year-round wildfire season. When power company equipment starts a fire, current law requires the utility to pay for damage done to private property. If the utility was not negligent, it could easily absorb claims by passing the costs on to ratepayers or residents. But last year the California Public Utilities Commission, which reviews rate increase requests, refused to allow San Diego Gas & Electric to pass on its costs related to wildfires in 2007 that were sparked by power lines.