Ag Today November 21, 2018

Monterey County ag commissioner: E. coli-tainted romaine ‘very likely’ from region [Salinas Californian]

Romaine lettuce recently alerted as tainted with E. coli is likely to have originated in Monterey County or the surrounding region, according to the county’s agricultural commissioner. Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales said the date of the 32 reported illnesses — from Oct. 8 through 31 — corresponds with the romaine lettuce season in Monterey and San Benito counties….The Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, an organization comprised of local agricultural companies, said its partners are immediately removing romaine products from store shelves and restaurants, as advised by the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


During California wildfires, farmworkers say they felt pressure to keep working or lose their jobs [Washington Post]

…A sharp increase in wildfires, heat waves and other climate-fueled disasters has added urgency to California’s efforts at employee protection, especially for the most vulnerable — low-income and undocumented workers on the state’s sprawling farms….Organizers said they visited 25 farms last week and saw workers without protective covering at practically all of them. In interviews with The Washington Post, workers and supervisors in the strawberry fields described a patchwork of measures — including shortened hours and partial access to protective masks — to deal with the air-quality threat….Rob Roy, general counsel for Ventura County Agricultural Association, which represents dozens of enterprises in the area, disputed claims that pickers were not offered adequate protection.


Trump administration wants to speed up forest thinning [Redding Record Searchlight]

With California still going through its deadliest and most destructive wildland fire season in history, Trump administration officials announced Tuesday plans to expand programs that would allow more tree thinning and logging on federal land. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he plans to ask Congress to expand the “Good Neighbor” program that lets federal officials enter into agreements with states and tribes on forest management programs. He also plans to ask Congress to expand categorical exclusion programs for forests at risk for disease and insect infestation. The program would allow federal land managers to more quickly harvest trees in certain areas at risk of disease and removing hazard trees that pose a risk to public safety.


Trump promised California $500 million extra for fire prevention. It was an error [McClatchy News Service]

After touring the devastation of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. on Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that the federal government would provide an additional $500 million in funding to the 2018 farm bill for forest management to help mitigate future fires….The reality is that there is no such funding provision in the 2018 Farm Bill, which authorizes federal agriculture and land management programs but does not appropriate funds. That requires separate spending legislation, a congressional source familiar with the Farm Bill confirmed.


Salinas city council tables ordinance limiting H2A farmworker housing [Salinas Californian]

The Salinas city council tabled an urgency ordinance Tuesday that would have targeted overcrowding in migrant farmworkers homes by temporarily banning any new H-2A housing….About 15 people, including farmers, H-2A workers, labor leaders, spoke before the council, all but one against the temporary ban. The “moratorium” would have given the city time to speak with those in the agriculture industry and other stakeholders to determine solutions to overcrowding, Callihan said in his report….But the 45-day hold on new H-2A housing would have put farmers in a time crunch, attorney Bob Taylor told the council.


Editorial: The public has the right to know about tainted turkeys and sick chickens [Los Angeles Times]

… In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week, the Safe Food Coalition urged the USDA to publish an urgent public health alert naming the turkey slaughterhouses and processing establishments linked to the salmonella outbreak. It seems a reasonable request, considering the scope of the outbreak, but USDA officials responded by attacking consumer groups as “special interests” making irresponsible suggestions. It’s disappointing that food safety officials view the public as a special interest best kept in the dark until the smoking package of salmonella-tainted turkey infects some unsuspecting diner.