Ag Today August 31, 2020
California Democrats scuttle wildfire utility fee plan, turn to Newsom in last-ditch effort [Los Angeles Times]
Facing heavy opposition, California lawmakers have scrapped a last-minute bill to extend fees for utility customers and plan to replace it with a more modest call for $500 million in emergency fire response and mitigation efforts. … A coalition of business groups — including the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Western States Petroleum Assn. and other influential groups — sent a letter to the Senate last week opposing the bill for requiring customers of the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities...
Ag Today August 28, 2020
Foster Farms processing plant in California ordered to shut down over COVID-19 outbreak Fresno Bee]
The Merced County Health Department ordered the Foster Farms Livingston Facility to shut down over the largest and most severe COVID-19 outbreak in Merced County, according to a statement released on Thursday by the health department. The shutdown order came Wednesday. However, late Thursday, Mike North, Merced County’s spokesperson, said county officials issued a 48-hour stay to the shutdown order to “help facilitate logistics associated with any necessary closure.” North said the enforcement stay followed a “phone call” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s secretary for...
Ag Today August 27, 2020
Why California spends billions but can’t control its wildfires. ‘No simple or cheap solution’ [Sacramento Bee]
… Since Newsom took office in January 2019, the state has spent nearly $500 million expanding Cal Fire’s personnel and equipment. He signed a bill requiring PG&E Corp. and the other major utilities to spend a combined $5 billion on wildfire safety. … Yet the fires seem to keep getting out of control, and experts say they’ll continue to roar in the months and years ahead, unless the state and federal governments continue to spend billions of dollars more on making California communities more resilient...
Ag Today August 26, 2020
Heat, smoke and Covid are battering the workers who feed America [New York Times]
… Like the gossamer layer of ash and dust that is settling on the trees in Central California, climate change is adding on to the hazards already faced by some of the country’s poorest, most neglected laborers. … Hundreds of thousands of men and women like Ms. Flores continue to pluck, weed, and pack produce for the nation here, as temperatures soar into the triple digits for days at a time and the air turns to a soup of dust and smoke, stirred with pollution from truck...
Ag Today August 24, 2020
How Valley farmers, organizations are trying to protect farmworkers amid heat, smoke, and COVID-19 [KFSN TV, Fresno]
… N95 respirators are the only masks which can filter out PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter which can get into our lungs, even our bloodstream, and cause health issues. For farmers, it has been difficult finding the masks since the COVID-19 pandemic began so a free mask giveaway at the Fresno County Farm Bureau came at the perfect time. … The state is trying to protect workers in the ag industry against the poor air quality. It has made one million N95 masks available.
Ag Today August 21, 2020
California farmworkers continue harvesting in unhealthy air quality, extreme heat [KFSN TV, Fresno]
You can see, smell and even feel the smoke in the Central California skies from surrounding wildfires, but farmworkers are still on the job, working to put food on our tables. … Ryan Jacobsen from the Fresno County Farm Bureau says that farm employees' health is vital to the industry, especially now during some of the busiest harvest weeks of the year. "I have grown up in the ag industry and this is by far shaping up to be the most challenging year I have ever seen," said...
Ag Today August 20, 2020
As smoke fills the air, California farmworkers still labor to put food on the table [San Francisco Chronicle]
… Raging wildfires don’t stop the harvest, and many farmers said they have no choice but to plow on through the smoke to put food into stores and onto tables, which meant farmworkers had to work in conditions already made extremely difficult by the heat wave and pandemic. … Produce needs to be at a certain quality for the supply chain, and farmers have only a short window to achieve that, Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, explained. …...
Ag Today August 19, 2020
Newsom declares emergency Tuesday amid wildfires, power shortages [Associated Press]
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency Tuesday over dozens of significant wildfires burning throughout California as the state's power grid operator pleaded with residents and businesses to continue conserving energy to avoid rolling blackouts. … A fire in Napa County was burning close to remote grape-growing properties owned by Villa Del Lago Winery. "Our vineyard workers had to evacuate very quickly. And we heard this morning that there was zero containment, so that's scary. It's very steep, so I know it's hard for firefighters to get up there," said Dawn Phillips, who...
Ag Today August 18, 2020
California farming country buckles under COVID-19. Will pandemic make or break the Valley? [Sacramento Bee]
… Long overlooked, often derided as “the other California,” the Valley is finally in the spotlight – for all the wrong reasons. … COVID-19 is putting considerable pressure on agriculture in ways that could hurt farmworkers eventually. For instance, it might speed up the mechanization of Valley farming as growers try to reduce their dependence on field labor. … In the Valley, however, change often comes slowly, and there’s considerable skepticism that a mere pandemic can lead to fundamental changes in the social, political and economic...
Ag Today August 17, 2020
COVID-19 rips through California motel rooms of guest workers who pick nation’s produce [Salinas Californian/CalMatters]
… A monthlong investigation by CalMatters and The Salinas Californian uncovered reports of six outbreaks among guest workers at seven companies in four counties across the state, sickening more than 350. … While these guest workers make up only about 5% of all farmworkers in the state, they are uniquely vulnerable to the virus because they typically live in tight quarters and may face systemic pressure that keeps them quiet. … California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said employers are hamstrung when it comes to housing...