Ag Today July 2, 2019

Big farms find easy ways around trade aid limits [Associated Press]

When President Donald Trump’s administration announced a $12 billion aid package for farmers struggling under the financial strain of his trade dispute with China, the payments were capped. But many large farming operations had no trouble finding legal ways around them, records provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act show….Recipients defended the payouts, saying they didn’t cover their losses from the trade war and they were legally entitled to them. Department of Agriculture rules let farms file claims for multiple family members or other partners who meet the department’s definition of being “actively engaged in farming.”


Administration moves to ease drive-time rules for truckers [Associated Press]

…The Transportation Department is moving to relax the federal regulations that required Francois to pull over, a long sought goal of the trucking industry and a move that would highlight its influence with the Trump administration. Interest groups that represent motor carriers and truck drivers have lobbied for revisions they say would make the rigid “hours of service” rules more flexible. But highway safety advocates are warning the contemplated changes would dangerously weaken the regulations, resulting in truckers putting in even longer days at a time when they say driver fatigue is such a serious problem.


Lettuce prices triple after heat wave damages crop [KSBW TV, Monterey-Salinas]

Local farmers are taking a big hit on their harvest from last month’s heat wave. Huge losses in iceberg and romaine lettuce production have led to prices tripling. The heat allowed for the lettuce to wilt drastically, and it no longer fit a certain quality standard for some farmers….That mid-June heat wave led to triple-digit temperatures in the Salinas Valley. “You get that many hours of heat on the crops, it is going to make an effect. And the effect was we lost a lot of our product,” said Jason Lathros, Churches Brothers Farms’ manager of commodities.


Pesticide use falls in California, Santa Barbara County, latest numbers show [Santa Maria Times]

Pesticide use in Santa Barbara County and across California fell in 2017, according to the most recent data released last month by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the state agency tasked with overseeing the compounds….The slight decline in Santa Barbara County outpaced California’s 2% decline in pesticide use….”This report demonstrates that California’s farmers continue to lead the way when it comes to using more sustainable pest management tools and techniques,” Val Dolcini, the agency’s acting director, said in a statement.


Hemp’s slow launch — experts forecast bumper crop next year [Fresno Business Journal]

Even though hemp was made a legal crop by federal lawmakers back in December 2018, starts of commercial hemp farms in California had to wait for the state to determine its licensing rules….But here in the Central Valley, the set rules haven’t exactly generated stampedes of farmers and investors looking to start hemp farms. “I’ve accepted 23 [license applications] so far,” said Rusty Lantsberger, assistant agricultural commissioner for Fresno County….In Kings County, the number or hemp license applications have been fewer, 10, and even fewer in Madera, where five have been submitted. In Tulare County, no applications have been submitted, but that’s because the county supervisors in late April voted to approve a 22-month, 15-day moratorium on accepting hemp license applications.


Chobani turns to fair-trade program to help struggling dairy industry [New York Times]

The fair-trade label was created decades ago to help artisans in developing nations. Now, there are fair-trade soccer balls, fair-trade soaps and fair-trade ice pops. Next up for the movement: the American dairy industry. The yogurt maker Chobani is working with Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit group in Oakland, Calif., on creating a label that would signal that the milk in its products came from farms that treated their workers and cows humanely. Chobani will pay a small premium for milk supplied by farms that agree to the Fair Trade USA vetting process, in which auditors periodically inspect the herd, interview workers and look at environmental issues like the containment of runoff.