Ag Today July 17, 2019

Is Memphis the next California for farming? Conservationists want to find out [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

Conservationists at a Washington philanthropy noticed ever more arid growing conditions on California farms. They asked a simple question. If drought-prone California can no longer supply the nation as it has for decades, who can? They have no answer yet. But the question has led them to Memphis. World Wildlife Fund has geared up the Next California project — a study of whether the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta’s water-rich farms can someday grow vegetables on a scale large enough to sustain the United States. World Wildlife, which takes in about $218 million per year in donations, grants and other revenue, has begun advertising for a labor analyst able to figure out whether the towns of the Delta, home to about 800,000 people in the two states, could fill thousands of possible new jobs on future vegetable farms. “We are really excited about the Delta region with its history of farming,” said Julia Kurnik, World Wildlife’s director of innovation startups. “I don’t think California will stop being an agricultural state any time soon. But farming is beginning to shift out of California. If water becomes unaffordable, they definitely will move. We are seeing a little bit of a shift already.”


Labor Department proposes changes to ‘streamline’ H-2A visa program [Santa Maria Times]

The U.S. Department of Labor on Monday released multiple proposed modifications to the federal H-2A guest worker program, a federal initiative numerous agricultural producers on the Central Coast have utilized to meet their labor needs. The proposed changes would reportedly streamline the application process and amend protections for domestic workers, according to the proposal. The Labor Department will accept comments on the nearly 500-page proposal for 60 days, until mid-September. “The proposed rule will increase access to a reliable legal agricultural workforce, easing unnecessary burdens on farmers, increase enforcement against fraud and abuse, all while maintaining protections for America’s workers,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement welcoming the proposal. “When this rule goes into effect, our farmers will be released from unnecessary and burdensome regulations allowing them to do what they do best.”…“We’re encouraged by the administration’s efforts to improve the H-2A system,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said. “We continue to analyze the full proposal, but our initial reading shows that it would streamline certain aspects of the program and expand it to include additional forms of agriculture, such as reforestation work.”–a-visa/article_e350acb4-3f35-549f-acd0-f94d4470de9a.html


U.S., Japan eye possible small trade deal by September: sources [Reuters]

The United States and Japan are working on a trade deal involving agriculture and autos that could be agreed by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when they meet in New York in September, three industry sources familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday. An auto industry official said the deal could involve Japan offering U.S. farmers new access to its market in return for Washington reducing tariffs on certain Japanese auto parts. But he emphasized the talks remain fluid. Such a deal would give Abe a win on autos, while helping Trump shore up support among farmers, an important constituency ahead of the 2020 presidential election. A second source familiar with the discussions said the Trump administration was looking for increased access for U.S. beef and pork products.


Despite industry hardship, dairy added $20 billion to California economy last year [Sacramento Business Journal]

The California dairy industry contributed $20 billion to the state economy and supported 179,900 jobs last year, according to a report from the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. Dairy is still the top agricultural commodity in California, despite a rough couple of years for the industry. “It’s impressive to us, that even given some of the milk price issues that California farmers have been facing the past few years,” William Matthews, a researcher at the center, said. The industry “is still contributing quite substantially to the economy.” In calculating economic impact, researchers included all the spending and employment generated directly and indirectly by the California dairy industry. The report was prepared for the California Milk Advisory Board. Dairy’s economic contribution has declined since 2015, the last time the Agricultural Issues Center did a similar report. Then, it found dairy’s contribution to be $21 billion.


IID to meet with farm groups over conversation plan [Imperial Valley Press]

When the Imperial Irrigation District board approved a revised on-farm efficiency water conservation program of 2019 last week, members of the farming community mentioned it may not be worth their while to participate. Farmers had been accustomed to earning $285 per acre foot for their water conservation efforts, but now only those already under contract (accounting for about 25,000 acre feet) will be reimbursed at that rate. The rest will earn $125 an acre foot for the expected 185,000 acre feet of uncontracted water conserved. Larry Cox, whose company farms 3,300 acres in Imperial Valley, said if the plan remains the same, IID would likely see farmers conserving less water or not conserving at all because it would not be cheaper to conserve water.


Opinion: Beyond Meat can’t save Blue Apron [Bloomberg]

Another day, another sign Wall Street’s enthusiasm for Beyond Meat Inc. has grown a little beyond reason. The plant-based burger maker’s stock has surged 590% since its May initial public offering, as investors salivate over the growth prospects of the tiny El Segundo company that is at the leading edge of some important dining trends. On Tuesday, a more troubled food-business disruptor got to bask in Beyond Meat’s glow: Blue Apron Holdings Inc. announced it would soon add recipes to its meal-kit boxes that feature the meatless burger. Investors sent shares of the meal-kit company up more than 35% on the news. To be clear, I think it’s a fine idea for Blue Apron and Beyond Meat to join forces. For Beyond Meat, this could encourage trial of its products by new diners who might go on to buy them at the grocery store. And Blue Apron should always be looking for ways to get more variety on its menus if it wants to keep subscribers from getting bored with its offerings.