Ag Today November 30, 2018

House GOP loses farm bill fight for tougher work requirements for food aid recipients [McClatchy News Service]

Federal food aid recipients won’t be faced with major new work requirements. And changes in forestry policy that made environmentalists furious are gone. House Republicans gave up Thursday on trying to include those provisions in a massive farm policy bill, clearing the way for a vote in Congress next week….Out is the House Republicans’ plan, which aimed to expand work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries….President Donald Trump’s administration and House Republicans advocated for new rules that would expedite forest-thinning projects, but Democrats and environmental groups successfully protested the measure, warning it would be an ineffective tool against fires.


Tariff tensions shadow US, Canada, Mexico trade pact signing [Associated Press]

President Donald Trump teamed up with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Friday to sign a revised North American trade pact, a deal that fulfills a key political pledge by the American president but faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Congress. The celebratory moment was dimmed by ongoing differences over Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as plans for massive layoffs in the U.S. and Canada by General Motors. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is meant to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long denigrated as a “disaster.”


Repeat outbreaks pressure produce industry to step up safety [Associated Press]

After repeated food poisoning outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, the produce industry is confronting the failure of its own safety measures in preventing contaminations….No deaths have been reported in the latest outbreak, but the dozens of illnesses highlight the challenge of eliminating risk for vegetables grown in open fields and eaten raw, the role of nearby cattle operations that produce huge volumes of manure and the delay of stricter federal food safety regulations. A contested aspect of the regulation, for example, would require testing irrigation water for E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration put the measure on hold when the produce industry said such tests wouldn’t necessarily help prevent outbreaks.


Opinion: Lettuce try not to panic [Wall Street Journal]

…It seems straightforward that no one should eat romaine when the lettuce is making people sick. But it isn’t so clear when you look at the numbers….The truth is that fresh fruits and vegetables are typically grown outdoors, where pathogens can reach them via animals running through the fields, people working in the fields, birds flying above them, water, wind, insects and in many other ways. Even so, by any practical definition, produce is exceedingly safe. Farmers feed it to their children and take all reasonable steps to minimize danger.


On heels of romaine scare, U.S.-Mexico border shutdown worries growers [Salinas Californian]

As if E. Coli in romaine lettuce wasn’t bad enough, growers are now anxiously watching the Trump administration’s response to migrants at the Mexico border, afraid another closure could make this bad season a complete disaster….“If these borders close…that’s a problem for us,” said Salinas Valley grower John D’Arrigo, co-owner of Andy Boy. A portion of D’Arrigo’s business moves to Yuma, Ariz. every November, when the romaine growing season ends in Salinas….”There’s quite a few workers (that) transfer from Tijuana, Mexico to the U.S. for daily work,” said Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot. “A large portion of the economy in that area would depend on their work.”


Could this obscure California agency derail Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels? [Sacramento Bee]

As Gov. Jerry Brown leaves office, his controversial Delta tunnels plan is on the ropes….Amid that uncertainty, an obscure state council is poised to send the $16.7 billion project back to the drawing board — potentially throwing another roadblock at the tortured, decade-long plan. On Dec. 20, the Delta Stewardship Council will vote to determine whether the tunnels project — officially known as California WaterFix — complies with what’s known as the “Delta Plan,” a set of policy goals, mandated by state law, that put protection and restoration of the fragile estuary’s eco-system on an equal footing with more reliable water supplies….Now the council appears on the verge of ruling that WaterFix doesn’t measure up.