Ag Today March 26, 2020

California farmworkers face new perils from mask shortage as growers try to roll out other protections [Salinas Californian]

… Face masks have flown off the shelves around the United States amid the coronavirus outbreak, even though experts have advised people against wearing them unless they are sick. That has triggered a shortage for farmworkers like Virgen and Aviles, who work for a farm labor contractor in the Salinas Valley … The two workers said their employer ran out of masks weeks ago for everyone except those applying pesticides, and even those are scarce, according to growers and farm labor contractors.


The effects of COVID-19 will ripple through food systems [Scientific American]

… Though the extent of the blow to U.S. food production is unclear—and will depend on how long the pandemic and countermeasures last—widespread food shortages are unlikely anytime soon, several researchers say. … The nonprofit International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported earlier this month that COVID-19 does not currently pose major threats to overall global food security because adequate stores of staples remain available. But higher-value and more specialized crops face a greater number of hurdles … These foods—such as some fruits and organic produce grown by smaller-scale farms—generally require more labor.


‘This will be a wallop’: Rural areas brace for hard economic hit [Politico]

Rural communities are bracing for a looming recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, expecting that it could devastate already shaky economies. … Lenders are worried about huge numbers of auction barns and processing plants closing down, leaving farmers with dwindling places to sell their products. Every hit to agriculture ripples throughout the broader rural economy. … “These type of black swan events, you can’t anticipate it,” said John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation.


How COVID-19 is impacting local agriculture businesses [KESQ TV, Palm Springs]

… Mark Tadros, president of Aziz Farms, grows dates around the Coachella Valley. … “As far as the agricultural industry is concerned we are stable, we are farming, we are packing, we are shipping and we are trying to keep the grocery stores full and fill all the orders we can,” Tadros said. … We also reached out to Ocean Mist Farms who grow winter vegetables here in the valley. President and CEO, Joe Pezzini said … right now the huge demand for produce has actually backed off compared to what we saw happening a week ago after the shelter in place order.


Frost advisory has farmers scrambling for frost protection for vineyards [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

Below freezing temperatures that swept through Sonoma County on Wednesday had local grape growers turning on their fans and sprinklers to protect the tiny buds that have emerged on vineyards across the region. … The spring freeze had vineyard managers protecting their crops as the buds on chardonnay vines have appeared, as well as some portion of pinot noir grapes, growers said. … Domenic Carinalli, a Sebastopol grape grower with about 100 vineyard acres, said he didn’t have to turn on his wind machines Wednesday morning but was preparing for the wakeup call early Thursday.


Major raspberry grower laying off 334 workers after losing fight to labor union [Monterey County Weekly]

A major grower of raspberries in Watsonville is shutting down after losing a multi-year legal battle against the union representing its workers. The closure of Premiere Raspberries will mean the layoff of 334 employees, who are members of United Farm Workers. …  In 2017, the workers of Premiere Raspberry voted to join the UFW, marking an important victory for the union. … The company refused to negotiate with the UFW even after being ordered to do so by the ALRB.