Ag Today November 25, 2019

Regulators want to light up nighttime ag work in California [Bakersfield Californian]

State regulators are weighing new rules for making nighttime agricultural work — a risky activity with relatively few labor protections as compared with other industries — safer for those who perform it. Measures being proposed by California’s Department of Industrial Relations include requiring employers to provide front- and rear-facing tractor lamps as well as work-area lighting and force farmworkers to wear high-visibility safety vests. While state law mandates lighting and reflective vests for construction workers performing roadwork, there are currently no illumination requirements specific to night work in agriculture, where laborers are generally in close proximity to vehicles and other powerful equipment. Most Central Valley farm work is done during daylight hours. But crops such as grapes and onions are often harvested at night, and regulators have noted that working at night can be preferable because it avoids exposing workers to the worst heat of the day. The state has been looking at how to make harvest and other tasks safer since 2013, when the then-acting chief of the Department of Industrial Relations, Juliann Sum, called attention to a series of nighttime accidents in California ag fields.


Petaluma ranchers beefing about slaughterhouse access [Petaluma Argus-Courier]

…Marin Sun Farms, which owns the slaughterhouse on Petaluma Boulevard North — the only USDA-certified meat processing plant in the Bay Area — has informed ranchers that, starting in January, it will no longer process animals for private labels such as Progressive Pastures….Marin Sun Farms’ move is a departure from the company’s original goal of providing a value-added service for local ranchers, a pledge it made when the company took over the slaughterhouse from the beleaguered Rancho Feeding Corp., in 2014. Rancho halted operations in February 2014 after several beef recalls. The USDA alleged that Rancho had processed diseased animals and skirted inspections. Two former owners and two employees were convicted on federal charges in a case that led to millions in losses for distributors and ranchers and shook public confidence in food safety. When Marin Sun Farms, a Point Reyes meat company, reopened the slaughterhouse in April 2014, owner David Evans said at a press conference that local ranchers would be welcome at the facility….But that welcome mat was withdrawn in the October announcement to discontinue private label processing, local ranchers say, accusing Marin Sun Farms of seeking to drive out local competition.


Commentary: What’s next for Potter Valley Project? [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

California Trout, Humboldt County, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Sonoma County Water Agency signaled to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission in June that they are exploring options for the future of the Potter Valley Project. These organizations, along with the Round Valley Indian Tribes, entered into a planning agreement to advance shared objectives that will set water users in the Eel and Russian river basins on a path toward economic and environmental sustainability. The Potter Valley Project is a hydropower project on the Eel and Russian rivers just northeast of Ukiah. Its features include Lake County’s Lake Pillsbury, which is impounded by Scott Dam; Van Arsdale Reservoir, impounded by the Cape Horn Diversion Dam; and a tunnel that diverts Eel River water into the Russian River’s headwaters. Diverted water flows south, out of the Eel and into the Russian, where it is stored in Lake Mendocino to provide water for drinking, agriculture and industry in Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties. The planning agreement parties came together after PG&E withdrew its application to relicense the project.


Bay Area open space district drops plan to kill mountain lions and coyotes [Bay Area News Group]

One of the Bay Area’s largest open space agencies has dropped a controversial plan to kill mountain lions and coyotes on its lands to help cattle ranchers. Late Friday, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, based in Los Altos, announced that the proposal no longer was under consideration, following an outcry from environmental groups and the public. The decision comes less than a week after this news organization detailed the plans in an article, and a month after a public meeting in which wildlife advocacy groups spoke in opposition to the proposal….The district, a government agency based in Los Altos and funded by property taxes, owns 65,000 acres — an area twice the size of San Francisco — across San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Created by voters in 1972 to preserve wildlife, protect open space and provide public recreation, the district began leasing some of its property to cattle ranchers a decade ago….In recent years, the ranchers and their supporters say that mountain lions and coyotes have been killing their livestock. They asked the district to reduce the number of predators.


What you need to know about the latest E. coli outbreak linked to lettuce [Miami Herald]

An E. coli outbreak that has hit 16 states and sickened 40 people has been linked to romaine lettuce. Here’s what you need to know: Is all romaine lettuce suspect? No. The only romaine lettuce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA are recommending consumers avoid is from the Salinas, California, region….How widespread is this E. coli outbreak? The count is up to 40 people in 16 states with 28 people hospitalized, a high 70 percent rate. Five people have developed hemolytic uremic syndome (HUS), the kidney failure that can make E. Coli fatal. Wisconsin has the most cases, 10. Ohio has five. California has four. There are three each in Idaho, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Arizona and New Mexico each have two. Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington have one each.


Editorial: Gov. Newsom’s Delta water plan is merely ‘Trump lite’ [San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times]

Join the crowd of California water officials if you are confused by the mixed message Gavin Newsom offered Thursday on the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Give the governor credit for announcing that California will sue the Trump administration over its plan to send more water to farmers at the expense of the Delta’s health. That’s huge. The White House plan is a recipe for extinction for endangered species living in the largest estuary west of the Mississippi. But the alternative put forward by the governor also ignores decades of peer-reviewed science. No issue is more important to the state. Nor is any issue more complex. The Delta supplies fresh water for more than 27 million of California’s 40 million residents. It also provides the water to irrigate 3 million acres of farmland in the Central Valley. Maybe Mark Twain doesn’t deserve credit for the quote, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”  But whoever said it first was onto something….The governor’s plan would allow for a significant increase in pumping water south to farmers, decreasing the amount of water that flows through the Delta.