Ag Today January 18, 2019

Feinstein introduces bill to give farmworkers ‘blue card’, shield them from deportation [NBC Bay Area]

Democratic lawmakers introduced a new legislation Thursday to give undocumented farmworkers an ability to earn a “blue card” and put them on the path to citizenship. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who represents the 19th District in Santa Clara County, drafted the the Agricultural Worker Program Act (H.R. 641) to allow farmworkers who have worked in the field for at least 100 days in the past two years to apply for a card that will allow them to work legally in the U.S….Once workers obtain the blue card and maintain it for three or five years, they can apply to become lawful permanent residence and obtain a green card.


Federal shutdown affects local farms, Thomas fire recovery efforts [Santa Maria Times]

The consequences of the U.S. government’s partial shutdown are reaching beyond the loss of federal workers’ paychecks into withholding funds needed to keep strawberry farms operating and delaying recovery from the Thomas fire….A handful of employees in the farm loan side of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency office in Santa Maria were called back to work Wednesday because there were things that had to be done to meet IRS deadlines….Farmers take out annual loans from the federal agency to provide operating capital for such things as buying seeds, planting, irrigating, pest control and harvesting. Loans are then repaid from crop revenues following the harvest.


US shutdown stalls training, other prep for wildfire season [Associated Press]

…The winter months are critical for wildfire managers who use the break from the flames to prepare for the next onslaught, but much of that effort has ground to a halt on U.S. land because employees are furloughed. Firefighting training courses are being canceled from Tennessee to Oregon, piles of dead trees are untended in federal forests and controlled burns to thin dry vegetation aren’t getting done. Although the furloughs only affect federal employees, the collaborative nature of wildland firefighting means the pain of the four-week-long shutdown is having a ripple effect — from firefighters on the ground to federal contractors and top managers who control the firefighting strategy.


Shasta Dam raising project runs into legal, congressional roadblocks [Redding Record Searchlight]

At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based water district to begin construction to raise the height of Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress, which this year came under control of Democrats….The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation wants to raise the height of the dam 18½ feet, which would increase the amount of water that could be held in Lake Shasta by about 14 percent. The proposal has been on-again, off-again for decades, but last year Congress approved $20 million for preconstruction and design work on the project.


EU wants to exclude agriculture from trade talks with US [Associated Press]

The European Union insisted Friday that agriculture be kept out of the EU-U.S. trade negotiations, despite Washington’s wishes to include the vast sector, and said any overall deal will be limited in scope.

The EU Commission announced its proposals for a negotiating mandate from the 28 member states and said that the EU negotiations will be “strictly focused on the removal of tariffs on industrial goods, excluding agricultural products.” EU Trade Chief Cecilia Malmstrom also said that she is preparing a target list of American products it will hit with punitive tariffs if the Trump administration goes through with its threat to impose duties on European auto imports.


Activists face felony charges in case targeting Petaluma poultry farm protests [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

Four animal welfare activists facing felony criminal charges in connection with a series of demonstrations last year at several Petaluma poultry farms pleaded not guilty Thursday in a case that pits the private property rights of farmers against unproven claims of persistent animal abuse at local sites that sell to grocers including Whole Foods. Members of Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights network that mobilized hundreds of people for protests at three Petaluma sites last year, say their mission is to bring attention to the suffering of commercially raised animals and provide relief to the animals when they can….But concern about future actions by activists spans the membership of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, said Executive Director Tawny Tesconi.