Bulletin wire reports

Oregon farmers get disaster relief

Wine grape and hazelnut growers in Oregon whose crops were affected by severe wildfires and winter storms in 2018 and 2019 now have access to millions in federal funds appropriated for disaster relief.

A bipartisan, $19.1 billion disaster relief package was signed into law in June, senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden recently announced in a press release. It included more than $3 billion for agricultural producers whose crops recently were affected by natural disasters. Of this, an estimated $3 million for wine growers and $11 million for hazelnut growers is available.

The summer of 2018 saw devastating wildfires in Southern Oregon, a major wine grape growing region for the state and an American Viticultural Area. Concerns over grape quality led a California winery, which planned to purchase $4 million worth of that region’s grapes, to cancel its order.

Parts of the southern Willamette Valley received over 18 inches of heavy, wet snow in February of 2019, causing some hazelnut orchards to report limb breaks in over 30% of their trees. Statewide, the crop is worth about $70 million a year and is ranked the thirteenth most valuable agricultural commodity.

California to shield gig workers

California’s governor on Wednesday signed sweeping labor legislation that aims to give wage and benefit protections to rideshare drivers at companies such as Uber and Lyft and to as many as a million workers across other industries. Uber, however, has suggested it won’t change how it treats its drivers on Jan. 1, when the law is set to go into effect. It has joined Lyft and DoorDash in threatening to spend $90 million on a 2020 ballot measure if it can’t negotiate other rules for its drivers with Newsom and unions.

The legislation makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation. It could also affect janitors, construction workers and home health aides.