Ag Today December 13, 2019

U.S. and China reach initial trade deal [New York Times]

The United States and China said they had agreed to an initial trade deal that would reduce tariffs on some Chinese goods and increase purchases of American farm products, a significant de-escalation in the 19-month battle that has rattled the world economy….China confirmed that the agreement includes a commitment  to buy more American agriculture products and to strengthen laws protecting foreign companies operating in China, as well as beefing up intellectual property rules and providing more transparency around currency movements….But both countries were coy about the quantity of American farm products that China would buy, with the office of the United States trade representative only describing China’s commitment as “substantial.”


Workforce act ‘good news’ to legally employ immigrant farm workers, farm bureau says [Chico Enterprise-Record]

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 would improve agricultural visa programs and accommodate immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States, while enhancing border security, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation….The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would have a significant impact on Butte County’s agricultural workforce, Colleen Cecil of the Butte County Farm Bureau said. “The most exciting thing to us is the ability to be able to support our existing workforce,” Cecil said. “Those individuals who are already here without supporting documentation … to have the ability to work legally, is great news for us.”


Feds fine local grower $3.5 million for giving preference to guest workers over U.S. farmworkers [Bakersfield Californian]

A major, Delano-based blueberry grower has been ordered to pay $2.5 million in back wages, plus $1 million in civil penalties, after a federal investigation concluded the company shunned local farmworkers in favor of foreign guest workers and then mistreated the newcomers. The U.S. Department of Labor said Munger Bros. LLC and two entities it controls, Crowne Cold Storage LLC and Sarbanand Farms LLC, will not be allowed to participate in the H-2A visa program for three years or use labor contractors connected with the program….Munger, one of the nation’s largest blueberry producers, said in a written statement it disputed the department’s decision but that it accepts the consent agreement settling the case.


CA fire prevention efforts undercut by property owners refusing to let crews work on their property [Associated Press]

…State lawmakers committed more than $200 million annually to fire prevention efforts and Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend even more, motivated by infernos such as one last year that killed 85 people in Paradise, California, some who died in their cars while trying to flee. Yet officials say efforts to make areas such as this road corridor in Northern California more fire safe are undercut by property owners who refuse to let fire crews work on their property….Although it’s not feasible to manually thin all the forests and shrub land in California, targeted efforts to remove flammable vegetation in areas of high human activity can effectively reduce the chance of major fires.


US water chief praises Colorado River deal, sees challenges [Associated Press]

States in the U.S. West that have agreed to begin taking less water next month from the drought-stricken Colorado River got praise and a push for more action Thursday from the nation’s top water official. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told federal, state and local water managers that abiding by the promises they made will be crucial to ensuring that more painful cuts aren’t required….Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will start taking less water from the river Jan. 1 under a drought contingency agreement signed in May….California would voluntarily cut water deliveries if reservoir levels keep falling at the river’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead….Cuts will most affect farmers in Arizona.


Opinion: Who pays for the Friant-Kern repairs? It should be farmers, but most likely, taxpayers [Fresno Bee]

…Why should taxpayers fund and repair debacles created by overdrafting by water districts that should have regulated or sought regulation of this practice?…All other industries, whether residential or business, are subject to a land-use approval process for new or changing uses….Not so with ag — the gains have been private while the costs are public. Therefore, if 1,000 acres of vacant, dry-land pasture, and/or the same of seasonal row crops is converted to almonds, vineyard, etc., a review and approval process should be applied.