Ag Today March 8, 2019

Disaster aid fix would open spigot for cherry growers [Roll Cal]

…An arcane provision moving through Congress as part of must-pass disaster aid legislation would let farmers earning more than $900,000 on average for the past three years qualify for President Donald Trump’s $12 billion program compensating producers for trade-related losses. Ostensibly, the language would benefit any well-to-do farmers and ranchers. But the obscure $2 million provision was designed specifically with one constituency in mind, according to congressional aides: growers of fresh sweet cherries, predominantly in Washington state….That could include almond growers as well, another crop that hasn’t traditionally been eligible for subsidies but was included in Trump’s trade relief program.


Farmer patience on tariffs comes with caution flag for Trump [Associated Press]

…For now, Trump is walking a political tightrope: Going to bat for steel and aluminum makers has endeared him to many voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where steel production is a matter of economic pride and legacy, but it could end up hurting him in ag-heavy states like Iowa and Wisconsin that backed him in 2016. In Iowa, which casts the first votes of the presidential campaign season, state Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kauffmann said he’s surprised by how patient farmers have been with Trump. The Trump Agriculture Department did approve up to $12 billion in assistance to help compensate farmers caught up in the tariff battle.


US regulators outline oversight on meat grown in lab dishes [Associated Press]

Burgers made by growing cow cells in a lab dish have a clearer path to reaching supermarkets as U.S. regulators on Thursday outlined how the emerging food category will be monitored. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said meat from cultured animal cells will have to undergo agency inspection, as with other meat and poultry products….The agreement on joint oversight, formalized Thursday, says the FDA will regulate the first stages of the process, including cell collection and growth, before handing off oversight of production and labeling to the USDA.


Hundreds wade into complex, challenging world of California water [Bakersfield Californian]

Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders came together Thursday to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with providing California residents and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water. Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying water across the Golden State….A final measure of optimism came from Kiel Weaver, principal deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior. He said the Trump administration is trying to reduce regulatory redundancies and bring together agencies with shared water oversight.


Napa Planning Commission comes up with watershed protection recommendations [Napa Valley Register]

The Napa County Planning Commission is sending the controversial, draft Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance back to the Board of Supervisors with a few recommended changes, but no sea change in direction. Commissioners heard from about 50 speakers on Wednesday. Some warned that too many additional environmental restrictions will hurt farming. Some said that bold action is needed to protect drinking water and combat climate change….Napa County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas said the Board of Supervisors is the ultimate decision-maker and his organization remains concerned.


Opinion: Farms aren’t tossing perfectly good produce. [Washington Post]

…Over the past several years, start-ups that bring ugly produce to consumers have proliferated…Yet while the trend may have upsides for some farms and consumers, it’s nowhere near fixing food waste. That’s because advocates are getting the problem exactly backward. Less than 20 percent of total food waste happens at farms and packinghouses, where the ugly-produce movement works its magic, according to ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to researching food waste policies. The vast majority of waste — more than 80 percent — is generated by homes and consumer-facing businesses like grocery stores and restaurants.