Ag Today July 17, 2020

Opinion: ‘COVID’s Hidden Toll’ and the threat of the virus to farm workers keeping our food supply going [Baltimore Sun]

… “Frontline,” the premier PBS documentary and investigative series, movingly explores the lives of one group of workers facing that decision in the harshest terms: workers in the fields and meat processing plants of California, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. … With its combination of hard-edged investigative reporting and empathetic storytelling, “COVID’s Hidden Toll” is a video call to the nation’s social conscience to think and care about the people who are risking their lives to keep the food supply flowing to supermarkets and our dining room tables. They are called “essential workers,” but they are hardly treated that way by most of the agricultural companies in California shown in this report.


Protest held after dozens of farmworkers test positive for COVID-19 at Wasco packing house [KFSN TV, Fresno]

A South Valley packing house dealing with a coronavirus outbreak has come under fire from the United Farm Workers. Union members have picketed outside Primex Farms in the Kern County town of Wasco to demand workplace protections. … Chief Operating Officer Mojgan Amin said in a statement to Action News that company adjustments included “reducing our capacity down to comply with social distancing, installing dividers and provide masks and protective face shield to our employees.”


California worker safety agency ‘missing in action’ during the coronavirus, critics say [Los Angeles Times]

As Gov. Gavin Newsom attempts to rein in the state’s rising coronavirus cases, the agency responsible for keeping California workers safe spent the July 4 holiday visiting more than 1,000 businesses to ensure they were following safety guidelines. Newsom hailed the multi-agency effort as a success — saying the resulting 52 citations showed most businesses were following the rules. Worker rights’ advocates, however, called the action more of a publicity stunt that distracts from the truth: An agency once considered among the best of its kind nationwide has largely abandoned in-person inspections since the pandemic began, potentially endangering the lives of millions of workers across California.


IID wins mostly favorable ruling in Abatti appeal [Imperial Valley Press]

Imperial Irrigation District finally got an answer on its nearly 3-year-old appeal of the county Superior Court ruling in the suit filed by local farmer and former Director Michael Abatti, and it was mostly good news. Justices of the Fourth Court of Appeals Thursday morning issued a split ruling, but IID considered the overall decision a victory. IID concluded the ruling supports its stance on who owns the water rights and the equitable right of all water users. … The justices did conclude the farmers within the district possess an equitable and beneficial interest in the district’s water rights, which is needed for their lands, and that this consists of a right to water service.


Federal regulators throw wrench into Klamath River dam-demolition plan [Associated Press]

Federal regulators have thrown a significant curveball at a coalition that has been planning for years to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border in order to save salmon populations that have dwindled to almost nothing. … The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, however, approved the license transfer Thursday on the condition that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee along with the Klamath River Renewal Corp., the nonprofit coalition assembled to oversee the dams’ demolition. That stipulation could kill or drastically alter the deal, because removing PacifiCorp entirely protects the utility’s ratepayers better — an element that was necessary to gain the support from public utility commissions in both Oregon and California.


Williamson Act reinstated in Tulare County [Valley Voice, Ivanhoe]

After an 11-year absence the Tulare County Board of Supervisors (TCBOS) voted at its July 7 meeting to lift the moratorium on the Williamson Act by a 5-0 vote. … Since Tulare County imposed the moratorium in 2009 after losing state funding, there has been an interest by farmers and landowners for the county to reinstate the Williamson Act. … Assembly Bill 1265, passed in 2011, allowed Tulare County to shorten Williamson Act contract terms by 10% and impose a 10% reduction of the property tax relief provided to the landowners through the Williamson Act.