Respirators in Short Supply For Outdoor Farm Employees


By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

With the state’s wildfire season beginning to intensify, farm groups say they’re looking for solutions to a lack of N95 respirators. State regulations require the respirators to be available to outdoor employees when wildfires worsen air quality, but the masks have been in short supply during the pandemic. Groups representing the fresh-produce business have asked Congress to include resources for farm employee safety in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Speaking of fire season, Farmers in Northeastern California say they expect smoke damage to crops from the Caldwell Fire, which has burned nearly 81,000 acres of land in Modoc and Siskiyou counties. Officials continue to assess damage to grazing land scorched by the fire, and farmers say smoke will likely hurt the quality of hay, potatoes, onions and other crops. One farmer says irrigated farmland acted as a buffer that stopped the fire from spreading to some areas.

It turns out forest management is not just helpful for fire prevention, but also for water. New research quantifies how forest-management activities such as mechanical thinning and prescribed burns contribute to increased downstream water availability. By studying 20 years of data and satellite imagery for the Yuba and American rivers, scientists at the University of California, Merced, determined the forest-management actions could enhance runoff in the basins by up to 10%–enough water for as many as 4 million people.