Ag Today, September 13, 2019

Trump administration to finalize rollback of clean water Protections [New York Times]

The Trump administration on Thursday is expected to complete the legal repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation, which had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and water bodies. The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, has been widely expected since the early days of the Trump administration, when President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to begin the work of repealing and replacing it….Environmentalists assailed the move….But agricultural groups, an important political constituency for Mr. Trump, praised the repeal of a regulation that they said had restricted how farmers could use their land. “The rule that was developed in 2015 was a significant overreach,” said Don Parrish, director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has lobbied for the repeal and replacement of the rule.


California’s Trump-blocking environmental bill may be delayed in fight over water [Sacramento Bee]

It started out as a bold effort by the California Legislature to prevent the Trump administration from rolling back protections for the environment and labor….Now, in the waning days of the legislative year, the debate over Senate Bill 1 has become a classic fight over California water. Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from consideration until next year….SB 1 appeared to be progressing through the Legislature until last week, when Feinstein and other members of Congress voiced their objection. Atkins’ office softened the bill’s language late Tuesday, but the bill’s opponents said their concerns haven’t been addressed.


California truckers brace for new ‘gig worker’ rules [REUTERS]

California trucking companies that haul everything from summer strawberries to cars and Christmas toys say they are under threat from a bill that could turn so-called gig workers into employees. California state senators late on Tuesday passed AB5, proposed legislation that would set tougher standards for determining which workers can be properly classified as independent contractors….The legislation threatens to upend a swath of California businesses that rely on freelance drivers. While the spotlight has been on ride-sharing companies Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) and Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), the trucking industry that underpins the U.S. agriculture, retail and industrial sectors is also heavily exposed.


Beekeepers confront the E.P.A. over pesticides [New York Times]

Honeybees and other pollinating insects are crucial helpers in putting food on American tables. But the bees’ colonies have declined over the years, leading concerned beekeepers and scientists to speculate about the causes. A new lawsuit by leaders in the beekeeping industry against the Environmental Protection Agency highlights one often-cited worry: that pesticides are playing a role in those losses. The focus of the lawsuit, filed last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, is the E.P.A.’s reauthorization of the use of an insecticide that has previously harmed honeybee colonies….The petitioners are asking the court to review the environmental agency’s decision in July to allow the use of sulfoxaflor on crops, the latest twist in a series of challenges and approvals surrounding its use, according to a summary of those actions on the E.P.A.’s website.


Nearly all Sonoma County vineyards are certified sustainable [San Francisco Chronicle]

Did Sonoma County just become the most sustainable wine region in the world? That’s what Karissa Kruse believes. As the president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, she has the numbers to support her argument. Five years ago, her organization announced an ambitious goal: for 100% of the county’s vineyards to hold a sustainability certification by 2019. It’s 2019 now, and the Winegrowers report that 99% are certified sustainable — not quite 100%, but awfully close….But as sustainability certifications have proliferated, they’ve also drawn significant criticism — that the programs’ standards are too lax on the use of synthetic chemicals, that they are marketing ploys constituting “greenwashing,” that they are financially burdensome to small-scale farmers.


Opinion: Farmers are not to blame for Valley subsidence, but they can help solve it with water [Fresno Bee]

…Farmers pump groundwater because for more than 25 years, an innumerable myriad of Endangered Species Act-related laws, mandates, opinions, rulings and settlements have resulted in less and less surface water allocations for agriculture — even though all of these directives have failed to produce a rebound of endangered fish….Coupled with California’s lack of adequate above-ground water storage, this water-year alone, 84% of the freshwater flowing into the Delta has continued flowing unimpaired to the Pacific Ocean….We must give more water back to the earth and less to the sea. Land sinking is the result of bad policy being repeated, and hoping for a different outcome. Farmers are not to blame for subsidence, but if we give their water back, it can be alleviated.