Ag Today December 19, 2019

Democratic-led House poised to give Trump big win on trade [Associated Press]

One day after impeaching President Donald Trump, the Democratic-led House looks poised to overwhelmingly pass one of his signature priorities, a rewrite of the 25-year-old free trade agreement he blames for shipping U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico. The House began debate Thursday on a bill putting in place terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The legislation was expected to pass with bipartisan support after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues won key concessions from an administration anxious to pass the trade deal before next year’s election season makes that task more difficult. The agreement is projected to have only a modest impact on the economy. But it gives lawmakers from both parties the chance to support an agreement sought by farmers, ranchers and business owners anxious to move past the months of trade tensions that have complicated spending and hiring decisions.


Gov. Newsom’s threat to sue Trump upends peace talks on California water wars [Sacramento Bee]

Even before he was sworn into office, Gov. Gavin Newsom threw his weight behind a series of tentative deals, brokered by his predecessor, that were intended to bring lasting peace to California’s never-ending battles over water and endangered fish….Now, one of the nation’s most powerful farm irrigation districts says it will back out of the agreements completely if Newsom follows through with a pledge to sue President Donald Trump over a federal plan to pump more water to farmers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the fragile estuary on Sacramento’s doorstep….Last week, Tom Birmingham, the general manager of the Westlands Water District, told Newsom’s top environmental policy appointees the massive Fresno-based water district was going walk to away from the water-sharing deals if Newsom sues Trump.


What’s in a name? When it comes to fruit, economic and genetic forces have a major say [Los Angeles Times]

…By splitting fruit nomenclature into inscrutable patent names and consumer-friendly brands — like birth and stage names for actors, or generic and brand names for drugs — breeders and marketers are increasing their ability to profit from their intellectual property, which just happens to be food….When I started writing about fruit in the early 1990s, most varieties were open to growers big and small. But heading into 2020, we’re halfway to a scenario where big growers and marketers control the vast majority of the most desirable varieties….These seemingly arcane legal and marketing issues affect the price and quality of fruit, and whether it comes from a small local or a distant industrial farm. So it’s not just someone else’s business: Anyone who eats fruit has a stake in this game.


Turning over a new leaf: Agriculture programs team up to fight E. coli [New Times San Luis Obispo]

…With hopes of minimizing romaine-associated illnesses in the future, agricultural professors and students at Cal Poly and Allan Hancock College are teaming up to develop and launch a food-safety training program specifically geared toward small-scale leafy greens farmers in the Santa Maria area….Although a number of E. coli outbreaks in years past have been linked back to large-scale farms—including one in 2018 that was associated with a prominent farm in Santa Maria—Polloshka said larger operations typically have a greater capacity to provide the food-safety tools and information that Hancock and Cal Poly hope to provide through this program. And as of January 2020, very small farms will be required to comply with the federal Food Safety Management Act for the first time.


Marin Sun Farms ends slaughter for outside farms [Point Reyes Light]

Come January, Marin Sun Farms will no longer process meat at its Petaluma slaughterhouse—the last remaining slaughterhouse in the Bay Area—from producers who do not sell to its two labels. The move leaves some West Marin ranchers scrambling for far-away alternatives or closing up shop altogether; the closest beef processing facility is in Modesto….Mr. Evans bought the slaughterhouse in 2014 from Rancho Feeding Corporation after a massive recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef….When Mr. Evans rallied investors to buy the facility, local ranchers celebrated him for stepping up to fill the gap in critical infrastructure for agriculture….But six years later, the relationship has soured between the company and the private-label ranchers who use its slaughterhouse.


Camarillo Planning Commission moves in favor of hemp prohibition [Ventura County Star]

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the Camarillo Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of adding a zoning ordinance amendment to the city’s municipal code prohibiting hemp cultivation….Currently, only 18 out of 1,000 acres dedicated to agricultural production within the city limits are approved for hemp cultivation. Thousands of additional acres are approved for hemp cultivation in unincorporated agricultural land surrounding the city on the Oxnard Plain. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors is currently in the process of exploring regulatory options for hemp cultivation on unincorporated land, such as the addition of buffer zones where cultivation is prohibited within a certain radius.