Ag Today August 31, 2018

Canada must decide: It’s either a NAFTA deal or a smaller economy [Wall Street Journal]

The consensus is unequivocal: Canada can’t afford to be shut out from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Uncertainty over the future of the three-nation trade pact has already taken a toll on the country’s economy and contributed to the Bank of Canada’s cautious approach to raising interest rates. Business investment slowed in the second quarter, according to data released this week, a move analysts partly attribute to potential trade disruptions. Bank of Canada Gov. Stephen Poloz has warned that some domestic companies are dialing back investment plans, while those with U.S. operations are choosing to expand in that country to hedge against Nafta risks. After more than a year of negotiations, Nafta talks are coming to a head this week, with Canadian and U.S. negotiators rushing toward a U.S.-imposed Friday deadline. As of Friday morning, officials remained apart on some key issues, such as agriculture and how to resolve disputes over tariffs. The risk of being shut out of Nafta comes as Canada’s economy was starting to hit its stride after dealing with a painful slowdown in recent years that was fueled by the slump in global commodity prices.


Trump makes clear European Union won’t escape his ire over trade [San Francisco Chronicle]

The European Union’s Jean-Claude Juncker left Washington, D.C., in late July with a White House truce – a handshake trade agreement he had good reason to believe would spare the continent from President Donald Trump’s wrath. It didn’t last. In a Bloomberg interview on Thursday the U.S. president spoke of the E.U. as if it’s likely to be his next target. “Almost as bad as China, just smaller,” he declared. Trump’s remarks cast doubt on the longevity of his agreement with Juncker, intended to stave off a broader trade war between the U.S. and Europe after the president imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum earlier this year. The trans-Atlantic dispute has rattled markets and shaken the international order created after World War II. They also illustrate why Trump is still seen as a fickle dealmaker internationally and raise questions about his ability to ever negotiate with China, or whether a deal with Canada and Mexico to revise Nafta that appears close will endure.


California’s $1 billion plan to reduce wildfire risk [Bay Area News Group]

As California suffers through one of its worst fire seasons in recent history, state lawmakers are closing in on a final vote Friday night on a sweeping package to provide $1 billion over the next five years to reduce the risk of wildfires across the state. The proposal, drawn up by state lawmakers this week, would fund grants to fire departments, cities, counties and non-profit organizations to thin brush, cut fuel breaks and reduce fire danger in hundreds of communities around the state in high-risk areas, from the Santa Cruz Mountains and Oakland Hills to the Sierra Nevada and Southern California. If the plan is approved Friday evening, as many Sacramento observers are expecting, Cal Fire, the state’s primary firefighting agency, will distribute $200 million a year through 2024. The money will come from California’s greenhouse gas reduction fund, made up of money that oil refineries, large factories and other polluters pay to buy credits at state auctions permitting them to emit greenhouse gases.


New air pollution plan ready for public scrutiny. This is no time to breathe easy [Fresno Bee]

There is nothing more personal, or universal, than the air we breathe. We all process oxygen into carbon dioxide individually (yes, I know that’s an oversimplification), but ensuring this basic life process doesn’t make us sick or subject us to long-term maladies like asthma or emphysema needs to be a collective effort. That’s where you come in. Yes, you. You have to care. You have to be adamant about your basic human right to clean air. For those of us living in the nation’s dirtiest air basin (it’s either the San Joaquin Valley or Los Angeles, depending on what form of pollution is measured), bad air is a way of life. We subject ourselves, and our children, to conditions that routinely fail to meet federal health standards, that force us into emergency rooms, keep us indoors and make us dependent on inhalers because … well, that’s just the way it is.


Is your drinking water dangerous? In some parts of California, it could be [Orange County Register]

Five years ago, California became the first state in the nation to recognize the human right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water. Today, we look at how the state is working to ensure that right and where the biggest concerns for Californians are. The California Water Resources Control Board’s records show more than 266 water suppliers were not in compliance with drinking-water standards as of May 2018. Most of the violations were in the rural agricultural regions of the state. “The central part of the state has many more water systems,” said Robert Brownwood, a deputy director for the State Water Resources Control Board. “In California, any supply system that supplies five or more homes is a public water system. There are many small water systems in agricultural lands where pesticides, chemicals and organic compounds are often found in the water.” The state’s Division of Drinking Water has about 260 engineers checking water quality throughout the state. Some cities have their own engineers. Los Angeles’ engineers conducts hundreds of tests daily. Orange County has about 50 water systems serving 3 million people, while Tulare County has 356 water systems serving less than 500,000 people.


Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs [Associated Press]

A warmer world likely means more and hungrier insects chomping on crops and less food on dinner plates, a new study suggests. Insects now consume about 10 percent of the globe’s food, but that will increase to 15 to 20 percent by the end of the century if climate change isn’t stopped, said study lead author Curtis Deutsch, a University of Washington climate scientist. The study looked at the damage bugs like the European corn borer and the Asiatic rice borer could do as temperatures rise. It found that many of them will increase in number at key times for crops. The hotter weather will also speed up their metabolism so they’ll eat more, the researchers report in Thursday’s journal Science . Their predictions are based on computer simulations of bug and weather activity.