Ag Today September 19, 2018

Five years later, ballots show fruit workers have rejected the UFW [Los Angeles Times]

More than 2,000 workers whose ballots were impounded five years ago saw the results of their vote Tuesday — an ouster of the United Farm Workers as their representative at Gerawan Farming, the state’s largest grower of peaches and other stone fruits. A preliminary tally showed 1,098 workers voted against the union founded by Cesar Chavez, while 197 supported the UFW, said Jesse Rojas, a spokesman for Pick Justice, the worker group that fought for three years to have the ballots opened. The count has not been officially validated by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which will rule on 635 disputed ballots — not enough to change the outcome — and weigh whether owner Dan Gerawan unduly influenced the election process. The board has declared the process tainted several times, but a state appeals court judge in May said he found that some of the charges were not supported by the evidence. He ordered the board to count the votes and reevaluate its finding. Last week, the state’s highest court refused to review the case, leading to Tuesday’s count.


California wine among $60 billion in US goods hit by new China tariffs [San Francisco Chronicle]

China is tacking $60 billion in additional tariffs on U.S. goods a day after President Trump instituted additional sanctions on Chinese imports, intensifying the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. More than 5,000 U.S. goods will be subject to Chinese tariffs of from 5 to 10 percent starting Sept. 24, including meat, crops, industrial materials and wine. The 10 percent additional tariff on wine disproportionately hurts California, which accounts for 90 percent of U.S. wine production. Chinese tariffs on U.S. wine had already increased from 48.2 percent to 67.7 percent in April. China and the U.S. already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods before Trump said Monday that another $200 billion in Chinese products would be subject to new tariffs. Trump threatened to add tariffs on an additional $267 billion in Chinese imports if China retailiated. That would mean the imposition of tariffs on nearly all products that China sells to the U.S.


Trump doesn’t talk as much about trade deficits anymore. Maybe because they’re getting worse [Los Angeles Times]

President Trump built his trade policy on an obsession with cutting fat U.S. deficits with China, Mexico, Europe and others. But for weeks, Trump has barely mentioned that once-singular economic focus. No tweets about trade deficits since July. And the subject was conspicuously missing from his 371-word statement Monday announcing new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. The reason? U.S. trade deficits have soared since he took office, driven up by strong consumer spending but also by the blizzard of tariffs he unleashed to lower deficits. Eager to avoid anticipated higher prices, American businesses have responded to tariffs by ramping up imports from China and elsewhere. The overall U.S. trade deficit rose 10% last year to $552 billion, after being flat the prior two years. The deficit surged another 7% this year through July.


California’s farmers are struggling to find workers. Can machines help? [Capital Public Radio]

Ranch owner Bardin Bengard looks out at his workers picking and packing broccoli on his Salinas Valley Farm. He grows other crops, too, like lettuce, celery and cauliflower, which require different levels of care but have one thing in common: They must be picked by hand. And Bengard can’t find enough people to do the job. “These crews should be full,” Bengard says. He wanted 28 or 30 people working, but on this day he only has half as many as he needs. That’s common: The California Farm Bureau Federation conducted an industry survey last year and found that a majority of the farmers said they were experiencing labor shortages. Mark Villanueva works for Bengard and has been in agriculture for nearly 40 years. He says the labor shortage is getting worse. That’s because new generations — immigrant or not — aren’t interested in agriculture work. “They don’t want to do this,” Villanueva said. “It’s pretty tough work. And that’s the bottom line.”


Nuts decline as Kern’s 2017 ag production tops previous year by 1%, again beating Tulare, Fresno counties [Bakersfield Californian]

Kern apparently retained its title as the nation’s top-grossing farming county as a report released Tuesday showed its 2017 agricultural bounty surpassed 2016’s total by 1 percent despite declines in the value of locally produced almonds and pistachios. The county’s top three crops kept their relative ranking, with grapes leading almonds, followed by citrus. But milk overtook pistachios as Kern’s fourth-highest grossing ag commodity. Those five crops made up 63 percent of all 2017 ag revenues in Kern, where one of every five jobs is thought to be tied to farming. The gross value of crops produced in Kern last year came to $7.25 billion, again topping Tulare and Fresno counties’ totals, which came to $7.04 billion and $7.03 billion, respectively. The three counties have led U.S. production values in recent years. Although the strength evident in Kern’s 2017 crop report was “definitely exciting,” the figures it contains do not reflect water, labor and other costs growers in the county must cover, said the executive director of the Kern County Farm Bureau, Ariana Joven. “It is always important to recognize these numbers are gross values and do not reflect the costs of production, marketing, transportation or other additional costs,” she stated.


OID board blesses controversial payments to fallowing farmers [Modesto Bee]

On a split vote, irrigation leaders on Tuesday ratified nearly $1 million in payments to farmers who volunteered to fallow land two years ago, even though the program fell apart in the face of a lawsuit. Before the On-Farm Conservation program failed, the Oakdale Irrigation District entered into 59 contracts with growers willing to idle some land in return for money from outside buyers of freed-up water. Many did expensive work, and board members long ago authorized General Manager Steve Knell and attorney Fred Silva to negotiate settlements. The board on Tuesday gave its blessing to 21 of those contracts worth a combined $963,840, over objections from board members Linda Santos and Gail Altieri.