Ag Today July 8, 2020

Judge questions Bayer’s Roundup settlement plan [Wall Street Journal]

A federal judge cast doubt on Bayer AG ’s proposal to neatly resolve all future lawsuits over the safety of its Roundup weedkiller, potentially snagging the German company’s attempts to move past the massive liability….But with Roundup still being sold and no plans to change the label or active ingredients, settling the litigation isn’t as easy as paying those who have already sued. Bayer proposed a novel type of class action to capture all future claims, which would be guided by the conclusions of a court-approved panel of scientists chosen to study Roundup’s potential carcinogenicity. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, who must approve the class action, said Monday he was skeptical of the plan and likely to reject the idea. In a four-page order refusing to delay a July court hearing in the case, he questioned “whether it would be constitutional (or otherwise lawful)” to hand the issue to a panel of scientists instead of judges and juries….“In an area where the science may be evolving, how could it be appropriate to lock in a decision from a panel of scientists for all future cases?” the judge wrote.


As pandemic drives garlic demand, huge Bay Area farm sees second coronavirus case [San Francisco Chronicle]

Christopher Ranch, the nation’s largest garlic producer, thought it was doing everything it needed to adjust to the pandemic. It told workers to keep their distance from each other in the fields and in processing facilities. It required employees to wear masks. It checked everyone for symptoms….But then, on June 16, an employee called in reporting flu-like symptoms. The person did not come into work and got a test for the coronavirus. It came back positive….The relatively low numbers so far, three months into the pandemic, reflect that California farms remain fairly well-positioned to withstand the virus. Outbreaks are certainly occurring. In the most severe situation so far, at least 188 people tested positive at a facility housing farmworkers in Ventura County, the Ventura County Star reported. In Kern County, the fruit and nut company Primex Farms had 80 positive cases as of Monday, roughly one-fifth of its year-round workforce, according to United Farm Workers. Primex would not confirm these numbers to the Chronicle, and told the Bakersfield Californian that it was aware of only 25 workers who tested positive. And in Solano County, which just landed on the state’s coronavirus watch list, one driver of rising cases is a surge among farmworkers who commute to Wine Country vineyards.


Marin land trust returns $833K to county over appraisal gap [Marin Independent Journal]

…MALT used the money to help it purchase a $1.66 million agricultural easement on the 326-acre Dolcini-Beltrametti Ranch in 2017. The county asked MALT for a refund after the trust said it had failed to disclose a property appraisal that would have reduced the grant….The return of the money did not affect the easement. The county money came from Measure A sales tax revenue. As approved by Marin voters in 2012, 20% of Measure A funds must be used for the protection of farmland at risk of subdivision or development in order to preserve Marin’s working farms and ranches. The county is expecting a sharp drop in Measure A revenue in 2020-21 because of the coronavirus emergency. “As part of a recent review of easement transactions, MALT staff noted that two separate appraisals were obtained to determine the valuation of the Dolcini-Beltrametti Ranch easement,” the trust said in a statement. “This property was at high risk of conversion to non-agricultural use given its location. Because the initial draft valuation for the easement was well below comparable values for MALT projects, MALT obtained a second appraisal and ultimately used the higher appraisal to value the easement.” However, MALT’s application to the Marin County for Measure A funds neglected to mention the first appraisal.


Agriculture generates $5.7 billion for SJ County economy [Stockton Record]

Agriculture in San Joaquin County represented 7.1 percent of the county’s total economic output in 2018, generating $5.732 billion when production, processing, multiplier effects and employment are taken into account, according to a recent report. That’s a new way of looking at the importance of what farmers and ranchers add to San Joaquin County’s economy, county Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican said at Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisors meeting. “This study goes beyond our annual agricultural crop report. It captures not just the direct effects of farm production but also local food processing, employment and their ripple effects. During these uncertain economic times, it’s important to better understand how and where agriculture contributes to our economy and to local employment,” Pelican said.


Threatened frog species released into California forest after successful breeding program [Sacramento Bee]

A group of wildlife biologists in Northern California took another step in the conservation effort of the threatened Foothill yellow-legged frogs on June 30, releasing 115 of the frogs into the Feather River in Plumas National Forest. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the release marks the first release of captive-reared, Foothill yellow-legged frogs into the wild….Wildlife biologists celebrated the release as an indication that the Foothill yellow-legged frog can successfully make the transition from a captive breeding environment into the wild….The species population along the northern fork of the Feather River near the Cresta Dam, in Plumas National Forest, has diminished in recent years. A 2016 conservation study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that “water development and diversions are likely to be the primary cause of population declines” in the species.


‘You can’t plan your operations on what if’ | Dutch Hollow Farms near Modesto faces uncertainty with new lease agreement [KXTV, Sacramento]

“The thing is…I can’t continue to operate with that cloud over my head,” Bos said in a conversation with ABC10….The reason for the move comes down to one thing: a new lease agreement. “I’ve been at this farm for over 14 years, and we’ve started our business of being a pumpkin patch and agrotourism farm all the way back in 2006,” Bos said. “But we were only leasing the property, and development is coming this way.” The property where Dutch Hollow Farms has stood for 14 years sold last July. The new owners have posed a lease agreement to Bos that differs in one exception way: a 60-day notice to vacate. It’s a lease agreement that Bos cannot sign; with only 60-days notice to leave, Bos would stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars in crops.