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Ag Today September 15, 2020

Donald Trump blames ‘matchstick’ trees and dead leaves for California wildfires [Sacramento Bee] President Donald Trump, touching down under smoky skies at McClellan Park for a briefing on the California wildfires, blamed uncleared dead trees and leaves for flames that have burned more than 3 million acres and killed 24 in the state. The Republican president met with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the business park, which is also the home to hangars for CalFire aircraft. … In a round-table briefing shortly afterward, the Democratic governor told the president that forest management is unquestionably a piece of the problem, but noted...

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Ag Today September 14, 2020

Some California farmworkers haven’t had masks during wildfires. State investigating [Fresno Bee/CalMatters] Availability of N95 masks for farmworkers looked as hazy as the orange sky in California this week. … The disconnect between worker and industry groups may be political — industry groups want to be known as good actors, while worker groups want more resources. But both sides admit the state program lacks a robust mechanism to track where each single-use air filtering device ends up. … In Fresno County, ag groups like the Fresno County Farm Bureau set up over a dozen distribution days, where growers and contractors were...

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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...

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Ag Today September 10, 2020

Winemakers are worrying about smoke taint, but wine drinkers should not [San Francisco Chronicle] … By now, it’s clear that smoke and its possible effects on wine grapes will be the question of the California wine industry’s 2020 harvest. It’s a question that we can’t yet answer. Yes, it seems inevitable at this point that some of this year’s wine grapes will be irreparably tainted by smoke. But how widespread that damage is, and the degree of harm to individual vineyards, are still unknown quantities. … Farmers are at risk of losing their paycheck for the entire year. … Winemakers, on...

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Ag Today September 9, 2020

Coronavirus: Farmworker safety hotline set up; county has four more Covid-19 deaths [Monterey Herald] Touted as the first of its kind in the state, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has set up an around-the-clock confidential hotline for farmworkers and their families to report safety issues as the twin threats of COVID-19 and wildfire smoke challenge the “essential” labor force. Activated last week, the new farmworker safety hotline comes as the county continues to see the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have a disproportionate impact on the local agricultural industry and Latinos in general, who represent a large percentage of the...

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Ag Today September 8, 2020

Harvest of shame: Farmworkers face coronavirus disaster [Politico] … Six months into the pandemic, according to a POLITICO analysis, these workers appear to be victims of the worst of the Covid-19 crisis. … In California, six out of seven of the state’s most Covid-ridden counties, per capita, are in the Central Valley, which produces the lion’s share of America’s fruits and vegetables. … The pandemic’s impact on farmworkers underscores how a worst-case scenario can develop when an essential but extremely vulnerable workforce is ignored. The Trump administration has repeatedly declined to impose mandatory safety requirements for agricultural workplaces. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/08/farmworkers-coronavirus-disaster-409339   Biden campaign hosts food...

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Ag Today September 4, 2020

Hazardous air quality threatens California farmworkers after devastating wildfires [CBS News] After wildfires blazed through California's northern and central regions, parts of the state have been blanketed by ash-filled air and smoke. That's putting the nation's farmworkers, who are already battling triple-digit temperatures and the coronavirus, at risk, multiple farmworkers told CBS News. … Norm Groot, the executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said employers quickly tried to secure masks for their employees when the fires broke out. The state allocated 175,000 N-95 masks to be distributed to all agriculture employees and their farmworkers, and should have reached everyone, Groot said. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-wildfires-farmworkers-labor-to-feed-america-despite-covid-19-heat-smoke-and-unsafe-air-quality/   Message...

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Ag Today September 3, 2020

California’s expensive COVID-19 predictions were useless for rural areas. Here’s why [Sacramento Bee] … California’s pandemic models this summer envisioned a catastrophic scenario in some of the state’s less-populated counties. But those forecasts proved to be wildly inaccurate, prompting several local health officers to dismiss the state’s forecasting website altogether — if they’d even heard of the effort at all, a Sacramento Bee review has found. … Modeling experts say overzealous predictions from the spring were lost in translation. They proved to be inaccurate because people took unprecedented action by sheltering in place. https://www.sacbee.com/news/coronavirus/article245439570.html   San Joaquin County selected for pilot program to help...

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Ag Today September 2, 2020

Foster Farms shut down California facility over COVID-19. So why doesn’t it look closed? [Fresno Bee] Foster Farms shut down its main chicken processing facility in Livingston on Tuesday evening amid a coronavirus outbreak that health officials say has claimed the lives of at least eight workers. About 1,400 employees were sent home with pay until at least Monday, Sept. 7, according to a statement by the company. … However, the complex employs around 3,700 people, and the other facilities will continue to run this week. … Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, who toured the plant last week...

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Ag Today Spetember 1, 2020

Lack of grazing, prescribed burns adds fuel to California’s wildfires, say experts and stakeholders [North Bay Business Journal] … Two top academic natural resources experts believe it’s time for government and private enterprise to get serious about managing lands by eliminating barriers to additional prescribed burns and more grazing. … “There needs to be more collaboration between government agencies,” Sonoma County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tawny Tesconi said. … “We believe private landowners are excellent stewards of the land. This fire (year) has proven the point that prescribed burns are so necessary,” Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas said, advocating for more...

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