Ag Today July 15, 2019

Administration sidelines federal biologists who could stand in way of more water for Calif. farmers [KQED, San Francisco]

After rushing forward on a plan to send more water to California’s Central Valley, the Trump Administration has unexpectedly hit the brakes and ordered the work already done by federal scientists to be completed by a different team. Just days before federal biologists were set to release new rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration replaced them with an almost entirely new group of lawyers, administrators and biologists to “refine” and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by KQED….The proposed water rules govern a delicate balancing act, determining how much water is pumped to cities and farmland and how much must remain in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem for threatened wildlife, like endangered salmon. That’s made the rules a target for Central Valley agricultural interests, because in dry years, the rules can limit their water supply.


As temperatures climb, there’s a new federal push to keep workers safe [USA TODAY]

…It’s a scene that plays out on airport tarmacs, in farm fields and on construction sites across the country: workers falling ill after laboring in hot or humid conditions for long hours without enough water and rest….U.S. Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation that for the first time would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create heat-related workplace standards. Currently, just three states have heat-related labor standards: California and Washington, which protect outdoor workers; and Minnesota, which protects indoor workers. California’s regulations — developed more than a decade ago in response to a spate of farmworker deaths — are broadly considered the gold standard, and experts said the state’s experience is instructive in terms of what it would take for a national law to prevent thousands of injuries that occur each year.


ICE says it doesn’t conduct ‘raids’ but fearful Valley immigrants remain ‘on high alert’ [Fresno Bee]

Even as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations failed to take form on a grand scale nationally Sunday, immigrant advocates in the Central Valley were not ready to breath easy. “There’s no relief, even if something was to not happen,” said Ariana Martinez, a coordinator with Faith in the Valley’s Valley Watch Network. “We have to be continuously on high alert.”…Martinez had not heard of any immigration-related arrests in the central San Joaquin Valley on Sunday. She said volunteers in Fresno took to the streets to pass out know-your-rights information and to give support.


New strawberry varieties on the way – tastier, cheaper, better for the planet, UC Davis says [Sacramento Bee]

They’ll use less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides – and they will probably be cheaper. The Public Strawberry Breeding Program at UC Davis just announced five new strawberry varieties that will be on the market in the fall and are expected to benefit farmers, sellers and consumers alike….On Tuesday, the program unveiled five new products that promise to reduce costs, improve environmental sustainability and enhance taste.


Bayer loses bid for a new trial in $80 million Roundup case [Bloomberg]

Bayer AG won’t get a new trial in the case of a California man who was awarded $80 million by a jury after it found exposure to the company’s Roundup weed killer caused his cancer. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco is expected to issue a second ruling Monday on whether to reduce the damages in the case….A Bayer spokesman said the company wasn’t surprised the judge denied its request for a new trial after the arguments at the hearing were mostly about damages.


EPA lets farmers resume broadly using pesticide that can hurt bees [Associated Press]

The Environmental Protection Agency will let farmers resume broad use of a pesticide over beekeepers’ objections, citing private chemical industry studies that the agency says show the product does only lower-level harm to bees and wildlife. Friday’s EPA announcement — coming after the agriculture industry accused the agency of unduly favoring honeybees — makes sulfoxaflor the latest bug- and weed-killer allowed by the Trump administration despite lawsuits alleging environmental or human harm….Dunn said the EPA’s newly reset rules for use of sulfoxaflor — such as generally prohibiting spraying of fruit- and nut-bearing plants in bloom, when pollinators would be attracted to the flowers — would limit harm to bees.