Ag Today September 11, 2020

Food box deliveries to needy California seniors cut off because of USDA cheese rule [Los Angeles Times]

Tens of thousands of low-income California seniors stopped receiving home deliveries of free food just as COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state were peaking, thanks to a century-old federal policy to include surplus cheese in government aid packages. …  The three-month exemption allowed food banks to remove cheese — the only perishable item in the boxes — and then use private companies or volunteers to deliver the monthly aid to clients’ homes, rather than require vulnerable seniors to pick them up during the pandemic. … But in July, the federal waiver ended and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials refused to extend it, meaning cheese must again be included and, more problematically, refrigerated in transit.


State issues largest COVID-19 safety fine to Overhill Farms in Vernon [Los Angeles Times]

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued its largest fine for coronavirus health violations to a frozen food manufacturer in Vernon, as well as the company’s temporary employment agency for failing to take adequate steps to protect hundreds of workers from the virus. … The move followed the first fines announced for coronavirus safety violations last week. Cal/OSHA cited 11 employers in industries that included food processing, retail, agriculture, meatpacking and healthcare, and proposed penalties ranging from $2,025 to $51,190.


Unwelcome guests causing farm owners headaches [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]

… “Trespassing on our orchards has always been an issue,” Michele Barker Smith, with Smith Ranches, said. In August, the Yuba County Agriculture Commissioner Steve Scheer coordinated a Land Owner Rights Workshop at the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau. … On Sept. 3, members of Yuba County Code Enforcement, the Yuba County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff Wendell Anderson visited Wilbur Ranch and got a tour of what has been happening. … Stolen cars are abandoned in the orchards and are either stripped for parts or burned to get to the copper inside. The fire scorches the trees and the dust from cars driving through causes more mites.


Proposed $171 million Central Valley groundwater bank faces TCP contamination [Bakersfield Californian]

A Kern County groundwater bank proposal just at the starting blocks has been hit with 1,2,3-TCP contamination. Irvine Ranch Water District and Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District had just begun the environmental review process for their joint banking project this past April when TCP reared its head. … TCP (trichloropropane) is a carcinogenic leftover from a nematode pesticide made by Shell Oil and Dow Chemical companies that was liberally applied to Central Valley farmland from the 1950s through the 1980s. The chemical is now rife in valley groundwater.


Trump visa restrictions add obstacle to California winery harvest season: no international interns [San Francisco Chronicle]

… Wineries need extra hands during the harvest season, and they often need to expand their search globally in order to find experienced labor. Fortunately, there are scores of applicants — especially those preparing for careers in other wine-producing countries — eager for the chance to spend a few months in California’s Wine Country. But this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s restrictions on a crucial visa program for these workers, there are virtually zero international harvest interns at California wineries, and that’s left businesses scrambling to figure out how to staff up at their busiest time of year.


Opinion: America has harvested immigrant labor while rejecting immigrants for more than 100 years [San Diego Union-Tribune]

The combination of wildfires that have ravaged California together with the coronavirus pandemic is being called a “disaster inside a disaster.” Among those experiencing the greatest impact of these dual catastrophes are some of the people most essential to our economy: farmworkers. … We hire immigrant laborers to do the work American citizens will not do, often at subpar wages and in dangerous conditions, and then refuse to support them in the face of a crisis. The wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic have combined to expose inherent clashes between capitalism, immigration policy, public health and morality.