Ag Today March 27, 2020

State Department eases coronavirus bottleneck for foreign farmworkers [Los Angeles Times]

The U.S. State Department moved Thursday to ease a bottleneck caused by coronavirus precautions and allow more foreign agricultural guest workers to cross from Mexico to work fields in California and other states. The emergency measures helped allay fears of a labor shortage just as the harvest of major produce crops gets underway in California … Most foreign applicants no longer will need an in-person interview to obtain the H-2A agricultural guest worker permits, under the new rules announced Thursday.


Workers critical to world’s food supply are starting to fall ill [Bloomberg]
… The infections speak to a growing threat to the world’s food supplies. Massive operations where workers pick berries together, cut meat side-by-side on a production line or load warehouse trucks in sometimes close proximity risk slowing down. … “If we can’t flatten the curve, then that is going to affect farmers and farm laborers — and then we have to make choices about which crops we harvest and which ones we don’t,” said Al Stehly, who operates a farm-management business in California’s North San Diego County.


COVID-19: Looking for help for specialized crops in Monterey County [Monterey Herald]

Congress has urged federal officials to provide greater assistance to farmers producing specialized crops amid the coronavirus pandemic, potentially impacting Monterey County farmers set to harvest leafy greens, fruit and flowers. … Specifically, the congressional request includes asking the USDA to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for federal nutrition programs and supplementing dollars from customers unable to fulfill crop purchases due to the crisis. … Monterey County Farm Bureau President Norm Groot said farmers are not seeing losses yet but added “there’s a general concern letting farmworkers know they can still report to work. Farmworkers are essential.”


California’s flower industry gutted from coronavirus as local farms wilt under financial losses [KSBY TV, San Luis Obispo]

… COVID-19 is wilting flower farms and businesses. From canceled events to lack of demand, a number of farms are a petal away from penniless. … A number of farms are multi-generational trying to survive. Crops for Mother’s Day and graduation are already in the ground ready to bloom. … For Ocean Breeze Farms in Nipomo, growers produce about 200,000 stems each week. Sales have cratered up to 95 percent in a matter of days. … There is hope. The love-me, love-me not turns to the grocery stores.


As renewable fuel demand collapses, Pacific Ethanol makes alcohol, hand sanitizer [Sacramento Business Journal]

Sacramento renewable fuel company Pacific Ethanol Inc. has seen demand for its fuel product collapse, but it’s putting its manufacturing facilities to use to make high-quality alcohol and hand sanitizer. … Pacific Ethanol is idling excess production capacity in response to the “unprecedented decline in gasoline and ethanol demand due to the impacts of the coronavirus,” CEO Neil Koehler said in a news release. He added that the company is shipping significant volumes of high-quality alcohol from its Pekin, Illinois, manufacturing plant for the production of hand sanitizers.


Sonoma County grape growers battling to protect vineyards from frost [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

With overnight temperatures dropping toward freezing and beyond several days this week, it’s been a stressful time for vineyard operators in areas of Sonoma County, with many out in the dark trying to save their crops on back-to-back nights. … “We get frost this time every year, so we’re usually prepared for it,” said Jeff Carlton, president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and vineyard manager at Dutton Ranch. … “Like now, we’ve got a lot of clouds hanging around out there,” Sebastopol grower Domenic Carinalli said Thursday. “That all helps. We just gotta see how it plays out.”


Opinion: Farmer: Proposed changes to Proposition 13 could devastate family farms [Visalia Times Delta]

As a third-generation family farmer who supports and defends farming at every turn, I’m stunned that a measure headed for the November statewide ballot could result in the further disappearance of farms and farmland. …  While the proponents of the measure claim it will only raise property taxes for commercial and industrial properties, the reality is that the measure is an attack on farms, the fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products we produce and will ultimately translate to more expensive grocery bills for California families.