Ag Today June 18, 2020

‘All smoke and mirrors’: How Trump’s meatpacking order has failed to keep workers safe [USA Today]

When President Donald Trump signed an executive order April 28 to declare meatpacking plants critical infrastructure, he tapped the secretary of agriculture to keep the plants open amid a wave of coronavirus outbreaks. The move signaled that the nation’s priorities focused more on the continued production of meat than the safety of workers. … Since the executive order, COVID-19 cases tied to meatpacking plants have skyrocketed from fewer than 5,000 at the time to more than 25,000 as of this week, according to tracking from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Deaths have increased five-fold to 91.


County eases restrictions on farmworker housing [New Times SLO]

After nearly three years of work with the agricultural industry, SLO County recently passed a series of amendments to its land use ordinances that are intended to make it easier for farmers to build housing for their workers. But last-minute changes to the proposals made some in the local farming community less enthusiastic about the win. … “We can’t produce food without workers,” said SLO County Farm Bureau Executive Director Brent Burchett, “and finding a place for workers to live is a significant challenge for our local farmers.”


Valley almond production may hit 3 billion-pound milestone this year [KFSN TV, Fresno]

Almond trees are bearing a lot of weight right now. The crop is maturing quickly in orchards all over the Valley. … “The crop this year looks phenomenal. If everybody would think back to February, we had the most perfect bloom that a lot of folks say in a lifetime, in a generation. There wasn’t a drop of rain,” says Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen. The result is another expected record year. …”Looks like from all estimates we’ve seen, we’re going to be close to a 3 billion pound crop, which is the largest crop we’ve ever had,” says Caruthers grower Matt Efird. Efird is also Farm Bureau Board President.


During the pandemic, Monterey County’s community supported agriculture is thriving [Monterey County Weekly]

… The proximity of consumer and producer is the basis for community supported agriculture (CSA), an alternative to buying groceries from supermarket chains. CSAs are not new but they’re gaining traction over the past few months, as the pandemic disrupts supply chains. … To offer some anecdotal evidence for rising popularity of CSAs, the Weekly tried to talk to Serendipity Farms’ Jamie Collins, but she was so busy, it didn’t work out. Another CSA, J&P Organics was so overwhelmed with demand that it had to pause deliveries for a week in early June.


Saving citrus: Bee Sweet Citrus unveils washing facility to help fight Asian citrus psyllid and reduce pesticide use [New Times SLO]

…For years, citrus growers on the Central Coast have gone without a real packing facility where harvested fruit can be washed and organized en masse. Instead local farmers have been using pesticides to rid their products of possible infestations before transportation. But on June 12, Bee Sweet Citrus, a prominent citrus packing and shipping company with groves throughout California, unveiled its new SLO County-based citrus wash line and processing facility. … The 14,900-square-foot facility is the first of its kind on the Central Coast … and it’s expected to reduce SLO County’s pesticide use by at least 700,000 gallons each year.


Opinion: A long-simmering water battle comes to a boil in Southern California [Los Angeles Times]

… The Imperial Irrigation District holds a right to an astounding 3.1 million acre-feet of the Colorado River’s annual flow. … There’s a reckoning coming, unless cities and farm districts across the West band together to limit consumption. The coming dealmaking will almost certainly need to involve the river’s largest water user, the Imperial Irrigation District. But at the moment, it’s unclear to what extent the district actually controls the Imperial Valley’s Colorado River water. That was the issue debated in a San Diego courtroom last week.