Ag Today May 29, 2020

Mexican farmworkers crammed into border tunnel despite contagion risk [Reuters]

Every night, hundreds of farm workers in Mexico crowd for hours in a cramped tunnel to a border station to reach day jobs in Imperial Valley, California, with no social distancing enforced despite coronavirus cases saturating hospitals in the region. … Both the documented day laborers and U.S. border agents worry the lack of social distancing on the Mexican side and the slow processing at the port of entry put them at risk. … Employers have asked for Calexico’s second port of entry to open at night to avoid bottlenecks. “We have continued to request that CBP increase the hours of its Calexico East Port of Entry as well so that our agricultural employees can utilize that border crossing,” said Brea Mohamed, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau.


Every single worker has Covid at one U.S. farm on eve of harvest [Bloomberg]

… The outbreaks underscore the latest coronavirus threat to America’s food supply: Farm workers are getting sick and spreading the illness just as the U.S. heads into the peak of the summer produce season. … The early outbreaks are already starting to draw comparisons to the infections that plunged the U.S. meat industry into crisis over the past few months. … Aside from the most immediate concern — the grave danger that farmhands face — the outbreaks could also create labor shortages at the worst possible time.


Coronavirus heightens California’s wildfire threat [Wall Street Journal]

… The U.S. Forest Service has ordered a pause on controlled burns that eliminate some of the most flammable trees and vegetation, citing concerns including smoke that could make some people nearby more susceptible to the respiratory symptoms associated with Covid-19. … But the biggest question is whether federal, state and county firefighting outfits will be able to recruit and safely deploy enough staff during a pandemic, particularly if multiple big infernos break out at the same time. … In an effort to avoid getting caught short-handed, fire agencies are trying to hire more seasonal employees in advance and move bulldozers and other equipment into position ahead of time to attack future blazes quickly.


California winery sues Gov. Newsom over shutdown of tasting rooms that don’t serve meals [Sacramento Bee]

Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed customers to resume dining in restaurants in much of California. But his gradual reopening of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic excludes tasting rooms at wineries that don’t serve sit-down meals. Now a Rutherford winery is suing Newsom, saying the state’s rules are unfair because wineries in Napa County generally aren’t allowed to serve sit-down meals. … In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Caymus says the rules are arbitrary and nonsensical.


Gavin Newsom’s environmental budget cuts escalate tensions with California activists [San Francisco Chronicle]

… Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed spending cuts to balance a state budget mauled by the coronavirus pandemic have angered numerous progressive constituencies, but perhaps none more than environmental activists who were suspicious of him even before an estimated $54 billion deficit materialized. … Newsom’s budget would cut funding for environmental protection by roughly $680 million from the current year. … Administration officials said the state must make painful choices to keep funding intact for core environmental regulatory and safety programs.


Opinion: What’s at the heart of California’s water wars? Delta outflow explained [Salinas Californian]

… The various interests are fighting over real trade-offs between water supply for farms and cities, and Delta outflow to protect the ecosystem. But both sides tend to talk past each other and overstate their cases. The numerous lawsuits are also a high-risk, low-reward strategy for addressing this problem. … Instead, the answer lies in getting back to the table and negotiating a comprehensive agreement —with more on the table than just outflow — that most parties can live with, even if they don’t like everything about it.