Ag Today July 24, 2020

Invasive swamp rat fight getting boost from Congress [McClatchy News Service]

It looks like California is about to get more money to eradicate giant swamp rats that have infiltrated the Central Valley. The House of Representatives is voting today on a bill that includes a $1.75 million pot of money that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can tap into to kill the rats, called nutria. It also opens up about $300 million in funding to address restoring environments they’ve destroyed. The fund to kill the rats is an increase of $500,000 over last year’s funding to combat nutria, and it’s the first time California will be able to access the money.


Senators urge Interior Secretary to follow mask mandates following visit to Klamath [Klamath Falls Herald and News]

Three U.S. senators sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday demanding he “immediately issue guidance on mask and PPE policies” for Interior Department employees. The letter comes after the Klamath Tribes voiced concern with Bernhardt’s decision not to wear a mask at a meeting with tribal stakeholders during his visit to the Klamath Basin earlier this month….In a news release the following day, the Klamath Tribes said they were critical of the meeting, during which Secretary Bernhardt announced that he would not be wearing a mask. The Commissioner and Rep. LaMalfa also did not wear face coverings. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown expanded the mask mandate on July 1, requiring all Oregonians to wear face coverings while indoors. The officials’ decisions not to follow CDC and state guidelines “has unnecessarily added to the disproportionate risk of infection faced by our impoverished tribal community,” the tribes’ release said.


Orange County denies $5 million loan requested by Del Mar Fairgrounds [San Diego Union-Tribune]

The Orange County fair board turned down a $5 million loan request from the Del Mar Fairgrounds Thursday, noting that fairgrounds across the state are in financial distress with little chance of rebounding soon as the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge. “The uncertainty when it comes to the economic side of this … makes it very difficult for us to outlay this amount of cash without knowing for certain it would be coming back,” said Nick Kovacevich, one of two Orange County board members on an ad hoc committee that investigated the request. A delegation from the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, went to its Orange County neighbor, the 32nd District Agricultural Association, in May to request the financial assistance. Unable to host the annual San Diego County Fair and other large events, the 22nd DAA expects its revenue to be down 90 percent this year. The district plans to lay off 60 percent of its staff Oct. 15.


Klamath water arrives, saving 50,000 ducklings from certain death [San Francisco Chronicle]

More than 50,000 ducklings and other newborn waterfowl and shorebirds were saved from certain deaths this week after an emergency delivery of water to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “A week ago, we were worried the birds wouldn’t make it,” said John Vradenburg, supervisory biologist for the refuge. The water will keep large areas of the refuge drying up, he said. Baby ducks cannot fly for the first 50 days of their life, so they must have water where they are hatched in order to survive.


Opinion: That flour you bought could be the future of the U.S. economy [New York Times]

By the established logic of the business world, Maine Grains, a small miller of flour in a rural part of the state, should not exist. With some 20 employees, it mills about 2,000 tons of flour a year in an industry where larger companies can mill more than 20,000 tons a day. Grain has long been a commodity business, and milling is driven by size and scale. Yet tiny mills like Maine Grains and small brands like King Arthur Baking Company and Bob’s Red Mill are thriving. They raise a bold question: Could flour, of all products, suggest a better path for more of the U.S. economy?….By sheer volume, the flour industry is dominated by firms like Ardent Mills, North America’s largest miller, with annual sales of $3.5 billion. The dominant retail flour brand, Gold Medal Flour, belongs to General Mills, a conglomerate with some $17 billion in annual revenue. Most of the flour sold today is for commercial use and ends up in premade or processed food products. Yet it is not these huge companies but the smaller sellers of flour that are flourishing. Consider King Arthur, founded in 1790 in Boston and now based in Vermont. It experienced a tripling of sales over the spring, buoyed by legions of new bakers in quarantine. (Sales at Gold Medal also went up, but not nearly as much.)


Restaurants, grocers, farmers – hard-hit by COVID-19 – blast legislation that would drive up food costs, upend CA’s organic food waste recycling efforts [Yahoo! Finance]

Californians for Smarter Recycling — a coalition of California restaurateurs, grocers and farmers — today announced their opposition to Assembly Bill 2959, legislation they say would result in more greenhouse gas-causing food waste being dumped into landfills rather than the EPA-recommended uses for human and animal consumption. The California Restaurant Association, California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association, California Farm Bureau, California Cattlemen’s Association, and Western United Dairies said they would work together to defeat the bill. They say the bill would change regulations and add costs to 1.8 million businesses already being hard hit by COVID-19. They join biomass-based biodiesel producers and other small business opponents of the bill, which will be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee when the Senate reconvenes.