July 30, 2020
Government Relations Report
When the California Legislature and Gov. Brown approved increases in minimum wage and ag overtime in 2016, they did so by phasing in those increases over a few years. That legislation also created the opportunity for the governor to halt those increases during an economic downturn. 
The Department of Finance on Tuesday announced that the current economy meets the economic downturn threshold, giving the governor the ability to freeze ag overtime and minimum wage. Unfortunately, Gov. Newsom almost immediately decided instead to allow the increases in 2021.   
“Not allowing this increase to go forward will only make life harder for those Californians who have already borne a disproportionate share of the economic hardship caused by this pandemic,” Newsom said on Wednesday.
This action is evidence of a growing problem in Sacramento, where elected officials seem to be of an opinion that much of the economic costs of the pandemic should fall directly on the backs of the business community.   
California legislative leaders this week announced a $100 billion stimulus plan that would expand tax credits for low-income and undocumented Californians, provide new incentives for electric vehicles and energy-efficient buildings, expand broadband, and offer assistance to small businesses. This is all in an effort to prop up the state’s economy in the midst of the coronavirus-induced recession.   
Funding for the stimulus plan seems somewhat shaky. Below are the primary revenue streams for the plan: 
  • Allow Californians to prepay their income taxes in exchange for future vouchers as a way to quickly collect billions of dollars. 
  • The state would borrow federal dollars to continue unemployment insurance benefits at risk of being cut. 
  • Securitization of current revenue streams, including SB 1 transportation bond money, utilities revenue streams, and greenhouse gas reduction funds.   
The Legislature has until Aug. 31 to act on this proposed stimulus plan.

-Michael Miiller / michael@cawg.org / (916) 204-0485
Newsom Launches Housing Program for Farmworkers with COVID-19
Gov. Newsom on July 24 announced new safeguards for California workers, including Housing for the Harvest . The temporary hotel housing would provide a safe isolation space for agricultural and farmworkers who test positive or were exposed to the virus, and would limit their risk of spreading COVID-19 to coworkers or family members. This program will operate in partnership with counties and local groups in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Imperial Valley – regions with the highest number of farmworkers.
Farmworker Study Emphasizes Need for Proactive Safety Measures
A recent study of California farmworkers highlights the significant negative impacts they are experiencing from COVID-19 and what can be done to support and protect them. The study – which included more than 900 phone surveys with farmworkers in 21 counties between May 19 and July 20 – was a collaboration of organizations, researchers and policy advocates. They are urging state, county and ag industry leaders and employers to implement several recommendations in consultation with farmworkers and community organizations. A second phase of the study is underway to further explore the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on farmworkers, their families and communities.

HEALS Act: Senate Republicans' Coronavirus Relief Proposal
Senate Republicans on July 27 unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act ( HEALS Act ), which would provide $1 trillion in coronavirus relief funding, including $20 billion for USDA. Those funds can be used “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by coronavirus, including producers, growers, and processors of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry […].”

> The HEALS Act and PPP (AFBF, July 29)

Webinars: COVID-19 Industry Briefs for Agriculture
Join The Zenith team of experts for these webinar briefings (10-10:30 a.m.):

JULY 31: COVID-19 and Your CA IIPP
AUG. 7: The Ins and Outs of COVID-19 Testing
AUG. 14: Employee Transportation Best Practices Under COVID-19

Resources and Articles
CAWG: COVID-19 resources webpage (updated frequently)

California Department of Public Health: COVID-19 stats and resources (updated daily)

The Monterey County supervisor wrote that a PBS news film focused on a cliché narrative that vilifies farmers, while neglecting to include what farmers are doing to protect their essential workers.
Monterey Herald, July 28

Press release, July 28

CDPH, July 28

Proceeds from its 2019 Wear A Mask California Red Wine go directly to the funds.
Press release, July 28

New Online Features for H-2A Hiring
New features on USDA’s Farmers.gov H-2A webpage intend to help facilitate the employment of farmworkers:

  • A real-time dashboard enables farmers to track the status of their eligible employer application and visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers.
  • Streamlining the login information so if a farmer has an existing login.gov account they can save multiple applications tracking numbers for quick look-up at any time.
  • Enables easy access to the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway.
  • Allows farmers to track time-sensitive actions taken in the course of Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s adjudication of temporary labor certification applications;
  • Allows farmers to access all application forms online.
Scientists Unlock Genetic Secrets of Phylloxera
In a new study, scientists identified phylloxera’s genome sequence, which provides insights into the destructive insect’s evolution, adaptation and invasion routes. The researchers – including some from UC Riverside (UCR) – confirm that phylloxera originated in North America, was accidentally introduced to France in the 1860s, and rapidly spread “across Europe and later to other grape-growing regions of the world, wiping out many vineyards.” According to a UCR article , now that the genes involved in the attack on grapevines have been identified, it may be possible to engineer phylloxera-resistant grapevines. “Growers currently have to graft roots to make their plants viable,” UCR’s Paul Nabity said. “A lot of money and effort could be saved with pest-resistant rootstock.”

Photo: Joachim Schmid
Beverage Alcohol Industry Calls for End to Harmful Tariffs
Seventeen associations representing the U.S. and European beverage alcohol sectors are against the U.S. government’s proposal to impose tariffs on wine, beer and distilled spirits imported from the European Union and United Kingdom ( press release ). The groups submitted separate comments this week to the United States Trade Representative. “The imposition of retaliatory tariffs by the U.S. and key trading partners, coupled with the economic consequences related to the outbreak of COVID-19, are having a significant negative impact on the entire beverage alcohol sector,” stated a letter from a coalition of U.S. beverage alcohol associations.

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Webinar: Property Tax Ballot Measures
WHEN: Aug. 5 / 10-11 a.m.
ABOUT: Learn more about two ballot measures in November that change Proposition 13 (the 1987 Jarvis-Gann Initiative). Proposition 15 (known as split-roll) increases property taxes for winegrape growers, while Proposition 19 keeps property taxes unchanged for family winergrape growers.

Virtual Town Hall Event Series
Join us for this special series of virtual events, brought to you by CAWG PAC and our sponsors.

AUG. 12 / 3-4 p.m.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)

AUG. 18 / 3-4 p.m.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo)

Feinstein Urges Approval of Her SJV Water Conveyance Bill
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on July 22 testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Water and Power Subcommittee to support her bill – Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act (S. 3811) – introduced in May. According to her press release, the bill would “authorize $800 million in federal funding to repair critical canals in the San Joaquin Valley damaged by land sinking from overpumping of groundwater, known as subsidence, and for environmental restoration.” 


Out This Week: Final California Water Resilience Portfolio
In April 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing the California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Food and Agriculture and California EPA to prepare a comprehensive water resilience portfolio that meets the water needs of California’s communities, economy and environment through the 21st century. The agencies were also directed to inventory and assess water supply and demand, water quality, anticipated impacts, and policies and programs. The draft portfolio was released on Jan. 3 and the final version was released on July 28. It outlines 142 integrated actionable recommendations to help regions build water resilience.

Wildfire Safety Seminars
PG&E is hosting four more  wildfire safety webinars , during which customers can hear about its wildfire prevention plans and progress on key safety initiatives, ask questions and share feedback with PG&E reps. More than a dozen webinars have already occurred for nearly 40 counties and those presentations (PDFs and videos) can be viewed online . All webinars are 5:30-7 p.m.

JULY 29 / San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara counties
AUG. 5 / Tulare, Madera, Fresno, Kern counties 
AUG. 12 and 19 / All customers


The free webinar will be held from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The link has registration and speaker information.

The Swansons founded the Center of Effort Winery in Edna Valley.
Cal Poly News, July 27


Legislation was passed that allows the state to apply for millions of dollars in funding to eradicate the destructive pest.