Covid-19 drives emergency steps for school food in two states

The USDA approved requests from California and Washington State to provide free meals to low-income students when schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The waivers, good through June 30, were the first by USDA to help schools deal with the disease in part by allowing them to stop serving meals in group settings, such as a cafeteria.

Fewer dairy farms as milk production rises

U.S. milk production is projected to top 220 billion pounds this year as a long-running structural shift puts production in the hands of fewer, but larger, dairies. At the same time, the USDA said there were 34,187 dairy herds licensed to sell milk in 2019, a drop of 9 percent from the previous year.

Trump orders more San Joaquin Valley water into farms, California cities

During a visit Wednesday to California's Central Valley, President Trump announced the completion of a regulatory review that will send more water from the San Joaquin Valley to farms and cities in the southern half of California. Environmentalists say the new allocation of water poses a risk to endangered fish and other native species.

Wildfires strike California’s wine country

The rapidly moving Kincade fire destroyed the historic Soda Rock winery near Healdsburg in Northern California and "had Sonoma County wine country under siege," the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. "Structures in the famed wine country were burning, including some owned by wineries in the Alexander Valley." Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency as fires burned thousands of acres throughout the state.

California sets Feb. 6 deadline to end sale of chlorpyrifos

An agreement between pesticide manufacturers and the California EPA will cut off sales of the insecticide chlorpyrifos on Feb. 6 and ban virtually all use of the chemical in the state after next Dec. 31. It offers a much speedier schedule for withdrawing the chemical from the market in the No. 1 agricultural state than initially expected.

Meat industry challenges California animal-welfare referendum

Eleven months after Californians approved "cage-free" Proposition 12 in a landslide vote, the meat industry asked a federal court in Los Angeles to overturn the referendum that guarantees farm animals more space to move about. The trade group North American Meat Institute says the referendum violates the Constitution, which puts the federal government in charge of interstate commerce.

California begins work to ban pesticide that EPA still allows

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation said on Wednesday that it is sending notices to pesticide makers that it will cancel registration of chlorpyrifos in the state because of “detrimental human health effects associated with the products’ use.”

Oregon joins Pacific Coast bloc for cage-free eggs

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law last Friday that will require eggs sold in the state, whether they come from commercial flocks in Oregon or are produced elsewhere, to come from cage-free hens beginning in 2024. California and Washington State already have similar laws.

Lawsuit seeks ban of widely used insecticide

Eleven environmental, labor, and medical groups filed suit in a U.S. appeals court in California on Wednesday to ban use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. It was the second time the groups have sought to force the EPA to ban the widely used organophosphate pesticide.

Looming crisis for almond industry, as bee census records highest winter losses yet

There would be no almond industry without honeybees, and honeybees are struggling mightily to keep pace with the booming almond business, as FERN’s latest story, published with HuffPost, explains. The latest bit of bad news for bees came Wednesday, with the release of an annual survey of beekeepers that recorded winter losses of nearly 38 percent, the highest winter loss rate since the survey began 13 years ago.(No paywall)