Ag Today December 21, 2018

$867 billion farm bill signed into law by Trump ‘a home run’ for California ag [Visalia Times-Delta]

President Trump signed an $867 billion farm bill into law on Thursday afternoon after months of heated debate and negotiation among Congress members who fought over whether the comprehensive legislation should mandate stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients and the legalization of industrial hemp farming….The California Farm Bureau agreed that the bill is “overall a good package for California producers.” They pointed to reforms that make it easier for California growers to participate in crop insurance that would cover the kinds of specialty crops upon which many farmers across the state rely. “Previous efforts focused on corn and soybeans, which aren’t super helpful to an artichoke grower in California, for example,” said Josh Rolph, California Farm Bureau’s manager of Federal Policy.


Farm bill makes Salton Sea eligible for millions in federal clean-up funds [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

President Trump on Thursday signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which alters language in agricultural conservation programs to make the Salton Sea eligible for millions in new federal funding….The bill’s inclusion of the Salton Sea could also nudge California closer to approving a Colorado River drought contingency plan. Officials said for the first time the Salton Sea now has access to guaranteed federal funding to help clean up environmental and public health issues caused by farming and water withdrawals.


USDA officials said they were guarding against organic food fraud. Congress decided they need help. [Washington Post]

…The farm bill signed by President Trump on Thursday includes measures intended to curtail the import of millions of dollars of fraudulent “organic” food into the U.S. The premium prices that organic foods command has provoked numerous instances of organic food fraud in recent years….The new law requires that imports of food to be sold as organic be accompanied by a certificate identifying the shipment’s origin, its destination, and the agent who inspected and deemed it organic. The legislation also requires the USDA to create a system to track the organic import certificates and produce annual reports documenting enforcement efforts.


Editorial: Making it harder for the poorest Americans to buy food [Los Angeles Times]

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, provides crucial financial aid to nearly 40 million impoverished Americans. The subsidy comes with strings attached, however, including the requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents work or train for employment at least part-time if jobs are reasonably easy to find. On Thursday the Trump administration proposed to make that work requirement considerably more stringent….The department may claim a noble purpose, but the Grinch-like timing of the announcement less than a week before Christmas and the details of the proposal argue otherwise.


USDA outlines first-ever rule for GMO labeling, sees implementation in 2020 [Reuters]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday laid out its first-ever requirements for labeling of genetically engineered, or GMO, foods as early as 2020, a rule met with praise from some farmers and criticism from consumer groups….The long-awaited details released on Thursday by the USDA came more than two years after lawmakers agreed on the requirements….The new requirements will provide some consistency and a clear plan for food companies that now need to overhaul their labels. But consumer groups criticized the USDA for saying companies need to use the term “bioengineered” rather than the more commonly used terms “genetically engineered” or “GMO.”


Wonderful’s minimum wage boost could have wider impact on Kern’s labor market [Bakersfield Californian]

Observers say The Wonderful Co.’s announcement Wednesday that it will raise its hourly minimum wage to $15 starting Jan. 1 could increase pressure on other local employers, including businesses unrelated to agriculture….The Los Angeles-based company’s move was widely interpreted as a pre-emptive strategy reflecting the historically tight labor market as well as California legislation raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022….One of the company’s local competitors for labor, Grimmway Farms, told The Californian Wednesday it was caught off-guard by Wonderful’s move. It said companies that don’t deal in high-margin commodities such as pistachios, almonds and mandarins are less prepared to offer big raises.