Ag Today October 1, 2020

West Coast wildfires devastate heart of California’s wine industry [Wall Street Journal]

… Smoke from wildfires can infuse grape skins, potentially leading to an ashy taste in wine called “smoke taint.” Even before this year’s wildfires, an oversupply of grapes from a bumper harvest in 2018 had pressured prices for the fruit, and the coronavirus pandemic has slashed wine sales to restaurants and shut down tasting rooms. Wine-industry consultant Jon Moramarco estimated that smoke from wildfires could cost vineyard owners in Napa up to half of their red-wine crops. … Mr. Bevill said many winemakers are currently considering whether to reject crops outright, wait weeks for tests to reveal how the smoke affected grapes and risk missing prime harvest windows, or make the wine now and then see how it turns out.


Industrial farms leave water wells ‘high and dry’ despite regulations, Madera residents say [Fresno Bee]

… Even as groundwater basins have been in decline, land use continues to change to more water-intensive activities, contributing to over-tapped water basins and threatening farms and residents who rely on relatively-shallow well pumps for their water. That trend is expected to continue for decades, but could be tapered by county management activities like water allocations that may influence land use decisions. … Hundreds of people who rely on private wells in Madera County and thousands across the central San Joaquin Valley are expected to lose their water in the next 10 or 20 years, despite new regulations intended to ensure sustainable management of the groundwater basin, according to proposed plans and an analysis of those plans commissioned by Water Foundation.


U.S. government tried to “intimidate” California county health department to keep poultry plant open after COVID deaths, director says [CBS News]

… CBS News has only been able to identify a couple of plants that were temporarily closed by government agencies due to COVID-19 outbreaks. One is the Foster Farms poultry plant in California’s Merced County. Despite what it says was political pressure, the small county’s health department closed down the plant in Livingston for one week due to a COVID-19 outbreak that claimed some workers’ lives. … The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed setting up a phone call with various federal and state agencies, but did not respond to CBS News’ question of whether it pressured county health officials to keep the plant open.


Pregnancy and pesticides: Doctors and lawyers team up to protect farmworkers [KALW Radio, San Francisco]

I visit the bottom floor of the Alisal Health Center in East Salinas in February. … “So every Wednesday I come from my legal office over to this health clinic where I have six appointments with farmworkers and families to provide free legal services to address health-harming legal needs that they might have,” says Aaron Voit, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal services program. … Aaron’s here because back in 2017, he helped start something called a medical-legal partnership at social safety net clinics in Monterey County. It’s this new model of legal services that get lawyers like him working alongside health care providers.


Funding available for local farmers, businesses switching to ‘green’ machines [KFSN TV, Fresno]

As California moves to using more zero-emission vehicles and machinery, millions of dollars in new funding will make it easier for local farmers and businesses to make the switch. … Incentive cash is available through the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District for those who upgrade yard hustlers and tractors to be clean diesel. Up to 60% of the cost of new green machinery could be granted.  Ryan Jacobsen from the Fresno Farm Bureau says it’s an opportunity to make the switch as California moves further towards clean diesel.


Opinion: Protect California’s economy by rejecting Prop. 15’s higher property taxes [Bakersfield Californian]

… Let’s also be honest about who will pay for Proposition 15. Proposition 15’s higher taxes will ultimately be paid for by families and consumers through a higher cost of living. California’s cost of living is already high, but things will get worse — much worse. Look no further than Proposition 15’s impact on agriculture, which will raise taxes on buildings, crops, and improvements on Kern County’s farms and ranches. The effect will be a tax increase on just about everything it takes to move a product from the field to the grocery store — raising the cost of food in the process.


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