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Article: Food & Ag Policy Briefing 13 July

14 July 2020

Large food firms and farm operations in the US were due to receive letters last week from senators asking for details on how they were protecting workers from COVID-19.

Senate Democrats Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) said Monday (July 6) they were sending the letters to companies asking them to answer detailed questions by July 15.

Lack of precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inadequate worker protections and limited testing has been threatening worker safety and the food supply chain, the senators warned.

In California, a bipartisan group of 27 lawmakers called last week on USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to add wine grapes to the list of specialty crops eligible for direct payments via the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Led by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the lawmakers said the COVID-19 pandemic had "broadly undermined market prices for California wine grapes" and warrants help from USDA.

In Europe, the European Commission changed part of its COVID market aid for the wine sector last week after the European Parliament threatened to veto its original proposal.

A revised regulation setting out emergency aid for wine producers to help the sector deal with the impact of the pandemic was adopted on July 7

The new measures included the temporary authorisation of "self-organisation" market measures; an increase in the EU's contribution for the national support programmes for wine; and advanced payments for crisis distillation and storage.

The European Commission revealed that EU meat imports would decline by almost 9% this year as COVID-19 takes its toll on consumption levels.

Total meat consumption could drop to 65.4 kg per capita in 2020 (-2.5%), due to a reduction in consumer demand during lockdowns, and subdued domestic availability not compensated by imports, the EU executive said in its latest Short-Term Outlook report.

Meat imports overall are expected to decline by 8.7% to 1.43 million tonnes (carcase weight equivalent).

Spain's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, announced that farm labour shortages had been successfully averted in Spain and that crop harvesting had not suffered because of labour-related problems due to the impact of COVID.

He attributed the positive result to the hiring of farm labour and the implementation of a Royal Decree on farm employment measures, as well as to the government's decision to facilitate the entry of temporary labour which helped the food sector respond to challenges posed by the COVID-19 situation.

In Italy, the ministry of agricultural and forestry policies (Mipaaf) announced it had set aside €21 million for the purchase of PDO cheeses for distribution to people in need through charities.

The list of PDO cheeses that will benefit from the financing measures includes Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Caciocavallo Silano, Pecorino Toscano, Montasio, Fontina, Pecorino Siciliano and Ragusano. The public calls are expected to be finalized in mid-July and delivery of the cheeses will be completed by December.

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