Ag Today June 17, 2019

California needs a big pot of money for wildfires. But how big? And who pays? [Los Angeles Times]

California leaders are calling for a giant pot of money to help electricity providers pay for wildfires, a critical move to head off another utility bankruptcy and prevent Wall Street from downgrading the state’s utilities again. But it could prove difficult to achieve in Sacramento this year. With a deadline to take action just weeks away, lawmakers and the governor haven’t settled controversial issues regarding the so-called wildfire fund: How much money does the state need and what portion of that will come out of the pockets of electricity customers?


India to impose retaliatory tariffs on 28 U.S. goods from Sunday [Reuters]

India will impose higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 U.S. products including almonds, apples and walnuts from Sunday, following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi….From June 5, President Trump scrapped trade privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for India, the biggest beneficiary of a scheme that allowed duty-free exports of up to $5.6 billion….U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is expected to visit India this month, said this week the United States was open to dialogue to resolve trade differences with India, through greater access for American companies to its markets.


Trump and Modi’s lavish farm payouts prompt questions at WTO [Reuters]

Massive farm-support plans in the United States and India are being scrutinised by other World Trade Organization members, questions submitted to the WTO’s quarterly agriculture committee meeting showed on Monday. The WTO has strict rules about the size and nature of payments, and member governments keep a close watch for any competitors who might be cheating….U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have both made boosting farm incomes a priority. Trump is trying to offset domestic damage from a tariff war with China; Modi faces a slowdown in India’s agriculture-dominated economy.


Rain leaves veggie farmers struggling with no aid in sight [New York Times]

…Although the lack of federal safety net programs for farmers who grow everything from arugula to zucchini isn’t new, one of the wettest springs in U.S. history has focused attention on the special status of so-called commodity crops, primarily corn, soybeans, cotton, rice and wheat….Federal support, including subsidized insurance and other protections against losses, is a long-standing tradition for growers of the major crops, who nevertheless are struggling to stay in business because of the tariffs, years of low prices and poor weather. The wet spring has also put growers of specialty crops in a tight spot, as they scramble to seed their fields and kill weeds that grew unhindered until recently.


Flood Insurance for Farmers Act passes House committee [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]

…The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019, introduced by Congressmen John Garamendi and Doug LaMalfa, passed the House Financial Services committee on Wednesday. The legislation, which is part of a larger bill reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, would provide farmers access to discounted rates under the program and would overturn a federal prohibition on construction and repair of agricultural structures in high flood risk areas….Under current law, areas designated as “Special Flood Hazard Areas” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency require all structures be raised above potential flood level – in much of the Sacramento Valley, that would require raising structures upwards of 10 feet.


Potentially deadly valley fever is hitting California farmworkers hard, worrying researchers [NBC]

Coccidioidomycosis or cocci (pronounced “coxy”), the fungus that causes valley fever, thrives in dry, undisturbed soil. It becomes airborne when that soil is disturbed — whether it’s by dirt bikes, construction crews, or farmers putting in new fruit or nut orchards….In California, rates of new cases rose 10 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the California Department of Public Health…However, new cases are especially concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley, home to the farms that produce two-thirds of the nation’s fruit and nuts and one third of its vegetables.