Ag Today March 31, 2020

COVID-19 and food: California should have enough, some farms struggle while others thrive, farmworker fears [Capital Public Radio, Sacramento]
… COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in some growers’ plans, especially those that rely on restaurants, schools and businesses that are closed. Farmworkers are worried about getting sick and some growers are concerned about how to harvest crops with social-distancing in mind. … Many big farms are thriving despite the new rules, but that’s not the case for some  smaller operations. “For our smaller farmers who depend on those direct sales, this is an uneasy time,” said Jamie Johansson, executive director of the California Farm Bureau Federation.


The coronavirus challenges facing U.S. farms: get workers, keep them healthy [Wall Street Journal]

… Produce giants like Driscoll’s Inc. that grow, pack and ship the nation’s fruits and vegetables are trying to secure enough agricultural workers to plant and pick this year’s crops amid disruptions to travel from countries like Mexico. … Driscoll’s farms are cutting crew sizes and staggering schedules to reduce workers’ exposure to one another in fields. The company recently scored 10,000 rolls of toilet paper from Sam’s Club for farms in Ventura County and has added hand-washing stations rented from sports-stadium suppliers to fields.


California’s farm workers pick America’s essential produce – unprotected from coronavirus [The Guardian]

… The workers who pick and pack the fresh produce in America’s fields now find themselves on the front line of shoring up a supply chain straining under new pressures amid the coronavirus crisis. … Growers and labor contractors say they are putting new practices and measures in place to keep workers socially distanced and maintain sanitized common facilities. But workers and their advocates tell a different story: of vulnerable, low-wage workers operating in fear, without proper protections let alone information about the risks involved in their essential labor, and without hope of any share in expanded unemployment benefits should they fall ill or lose work.


Farmers markets in Santa Monica, Pasadena, Culver, Torrance to remain open after L.A.’s are ordered to close [Los Angeles Times]

Farmers markets in Los Angeles have been ordered to close after several were inundated over the weekend with shoppers who didn’t abide by social distancing guidelines. The temporary suspension, announced by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday, includes all farmers markets within city limits, such as those in Hollywood and Brentwood. Markets that wish to continue operating are required to submit a plan to ensure proper social distancing among customers; if approved, the market will be allowed to reopen.


Small farmers, local markets nimbly adapt to a new consumer landscape [KQED, San Francisco]

Despite the coronavirus outbreak’s disturbances to daily life, fresh fruits and vegetables are still making their way to farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes. Some national grocery store chains might be facing temporary shortages, but local food sources with shorter supply chains have stayed nimble and in demand. … Berkeley’s Ecology Center, which runs three farmers markets, is committed to keeping all of them open through the coronavirus crisis.


Opinion: Farms, dairies and food processors humming in Stanislaus County despite coronavirus [Modesto Bee]

… In the last week, here at Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, we have been fielding calls from desperate folks who are looking for places to buy local, fresh farm products because they just can’t find the items (milk, eggs, bread, and meat) on the store shelves. Sure, we have never witnessed a major pandemic like we have today, but I hope this wakes you up and gets you thinking about our farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, food processors and truck drivers. … We need to step back and hit the “reset button,” and start appreciating our biggest economic engine and the best thing we have going, or rather growing — producing the most important resource we have: food.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife rejects endangered species protections for California, Nevada sage-grouse [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its plans to withdraw a proposed rule on Tuesday that would have otherwise granted protections under the Endangered Species Act to sage-grouse populations in California and Nevada. … Fish and Wildlife hailed the decision as evidence of successful conservation, while environmental groups argued voluntary efforts were insufficient without the legal muscle of a listing. The decision impacts what are known as the bi-state greater sage-grouse, which include 3,305 birds in six populations spread over 4.5 million acres of high desert along the California-Nevada border.