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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

March 30, 2012


Cap & Trade Auction Delayed

California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair, Mary Nichols, announced on Tuesday that the first official cap and trade auction will be delayed from August to November this year. She spoke during a state hearing held in Sacramento in the Senate Select Committee on Environment, Economy & Climate Change chaired by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

Regarding the delay, Nichols said, “Last year, when my board adopted the regulation, we planned to hold the first auction in this August. However, given our commitment to getting this program smoothly launched from the start, we plan to revise the schedule to hold the first auction on November 14th of this year. This will not impact the timeline for the full program launch in January 2013 or the total number of allowances auctioned this year.”

In addition, Nichols said, “We also plan to hold a fully simulated ‘practice auction’ for stakeholders in August this year. And, we expect to have the results from market simulation exercises we are undertaking that will provide additional valuable insight and information in advance of the first auction.”

Ag Council continues to be involved in the cap and trade regulatory process on behalf of impacted members. Click here to learn more about our views and recent actions.

Cap and trade is the regulatory process developed by CARB to implement AB 32, which was the landmark climate change law approved by the state Legislature and signed into law in 2006. The climate change law requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

You can read Nichols’ full statement before the Committee by clicking here.

Legislation would Repeal Fire Fee

Photo by: Peter DaSilva/EPA

Ag Council supported a measure in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee this week to repeal a new fire fee on rural residents. The $150 fee will soon be imposed on about 80,000 rural residents in state responsibility areas served by CAL FIRE and owners of habitable buildings in those rural areas.

The bill, AB 1506, is authored by Asm. Kevin Jeffries (R-Riverside), who is a retired volunteer fire captain. The measure was approved out of the Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan vote.

Ag Council and many others support the bill to repeal the fee because it double-taxes rural residents-who already pay for fire services-without providing any additional fire services. Instead, the fee would go toward closing a budget gap at the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Also, local fire districts at the hearing said the fee will make it difficult for them to raise needed funding.

The bill faces a difficult road ahead because Governor Brown supports the rural fire fee and would likely veto any effort to repeal it. Therefore, there is a need for legislators to work together to find another path forward. Ag Council will stay engaged and keep members informed on this issue.

To read more about the fee on the CAL FIRE website, click here.

Last Chance to Order Cal Ag License Plates

The April 6th application deadline to obtain a specialized California Ag Plate is quickly approaching. Ag Council encourages members and friends to show their support for agricultural education in California by purchasing a specialized Cal Ag License Plate.

The majority of the funds for the special plates will go toward agricultural education, agricultural career awareness and training, and youth leadership development in California.

Thanks to orders by many of you in the agricultural community, and the outreach efforts of the California FFA Foundation and others, over 7,500 plates have been ordered, which is the number needed for the state Department of Motor Vehicles to move forward and process the special plates.

Click here for the online form to order a Cal Ag License Plate now. To read answers to frequently asked questions about the program, click here.

Delta Study Released

Photo by: Department of Water Resources

On Thursday, the National Research Council released a two-year study after comprehensively reviewing the environmental challenges in the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Among the findings, the study states that a reliable water supply combined with protection of the delta species and the environment “cannot be realized until better planning can identify how trade-offs between these two goals will be managed when water is limited.”

The study also states that not just one, but “multiple environmental stressors,” are negatively affecting the threatened or endangered delta fish species. The stressors include, “dams, water pumping stations, introduced and invasive species, and changes in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and amounts, water flow, and habitat,” according to the study.

The National Research Council study was undertaken at the request of members of Congress and the Obama administration. It was developed by 17 scientists with varied backgrounds from all across the U.S. who volunteered their time for the effort, and the study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce.

To read the detailed National Research Council press release about the study, click here.

Newsletter

Due to the legislative recess, Ag Council’s In the Know newsletter will return on April 13th. In the meantime, if there is any pertinent news, Ag Council will be sure to communicate it to you.

March 23, 2012


Rail Funding Scheme is a Dead End Track for Ag

By: Emily Rooney, Ag Council President

 During an interview with ABC7 in Los Angeles, Governor Jerry Brown recently said revenues from the statewide cap and trade program will be a source of funding for California’s high speed rail project. Brown said fees from carbon producers, raised through cap and trade, would be utilized to pay for the project.

Unfortunately, on this issue, the governor has a misguided “train of thought” on how to solve the state’s budget issues.

California’s cap and trade law requires reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The legislature approved cap and trade legislation and former Governor Schwarzenegger signed it into law in 2006. Enforcement of the law begins in 2013.

What do Governor Brown’s comments mean for agriculture?

Approximately 35 food processors, a key component of our agricultural community in California, are “over the cap” with respect to carbon emissions, which means participation in cap and trade is required. Costs for these employers will skyrocket, potentially into the millions of dollars per facility. The California Air Resources Board is projecting billions in revenues for the cap and trade program annually, which is an attractive source of revenue for a financially broke state. It is yet to be determined how those revenues will be spent.

At the ground level, dozens of farms and ranches are at risk due to high speed rail. The proposed route plan splits some farms in half or significantly impacts operations in one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the country. Several county Farm Bureaus are extremely concerned about the project, while some have stated outright opposition, as have numerous Ag Council members.

Click here to finish reading this article.

 

Water Bond

Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), spoke this week about the likelihood of delaying the water bond, which is currently on the November 2012 ballot.

Steinberg told the SacBee, “In all likelihood the water bond will be put off ’til 2014, that what I think.” Negotiations to this end are ongoing.

The Governor and state leaders are concerned about moving forward with the $11 billion water bond this year while California continues to face budget deficits. In addition, the Governor is putting all of his efforts into a bond measure on the November 2012 ballot to hike taxes to pay for education spending and other state programs.

Click here for the SacBee article.

 

Central Valley Flood Plan

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the Department of Water Resources are holding public meetings on the Board’s Draft Program Environmental Impact Report for the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. The draft report outlines potential environmental effects and mitigation measures related to the flood plan.

Meetings were held this week on the technical elements of the plan. In addition, public outreach meetings will be held in April in Marysville, Stockton, Woodland and Sacramento. Click here for the schedule of meetings to be conducted from April 5-11.

The draft environmental report for the flood plan is currently under a 45-day comment period through April 20, 2012. Click here for further information about the comment period. More details about the plan are available here.

 

Trade Mission to China

A trade mission to China begins today led by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Acting Under Secretary, Michael Scuse, and close to 40 U.S. agricultural businesses, including Ag Council member, Sun-Maid Growers.

Acting Under Secretary Scuse said, “This is the largest USDA trade mission to date. China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to demonstrate that our U.S. farmers, ranchers, and producers are reliable suppliers of the highest-quality food and agricultural products. At the same time, USDA and our federal partners will continue to aggressively work to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade.”

The purpose of the mission is to support American businesses in new trade endeavors, expand markets, bolster business ties and sustain and grow U.S. jobs. During stops in Chengdu and Shanghai, participants will meet with dozens of Chinese producers, importers, buyers, distributors and investors.

U.S. agricultural exports to China have grown more than 80 percent in the past three years. USDA’s largest presence abroad is in China with seven offices in five cities supporting American agriculture.

Click here to read more on the USDA website.

 

Ag Net Recaps Annual Meeting

An article about Ag Council’s successful annual meeting was recently published on the California Ag Network website. Click here to read the story.

 

Annual Meeting Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 93rd Annual Meeting in La Jolla, please help us plan future meetings by filling out a brief survey here.

March 16, 2012


Nitrate Study

On Tuesday this week, the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, released a report entitled, Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water. The report was required under a state law approved by the Legislature in 2008. The law required the State Water Resources Control Board, in consultation with other agencies, to prepare a Report to the Legislature to “improve understanding of the causes of (nitrate) groundwater contamination, identify potential remediation solutions and funding sources to recover costs expended by the State…clean up or treat groundwater and ensure the provision of safe drinking water to all communities.” UC Davis developed the report under contract with the State Water Board.

Data examined for the report represented 100,000 samples from 20,000 wells in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Monterey County area of the Salinas Valley. The report states 1 in 10 wells exceeded Nitrate Maximum Contaminant Levels under state law and that 96 percent of total excess nitrogen comes from cropland. The report also states that regulatory actions to date have been “insufficient to control nitrate contamination” in groundwater.  Recommendations in the report include mandatory testing, education of farmers to improve nitrogen use efficiency, a cap and trade system for nitrogen management, and taxes and fees on nitrogen, among other suggestions.

The day before the report was released, Ag Council staff held a webinar to discuss findings and recommendations in the report with members. Ag Council stands ready to provide background information and resources to assist our members regarding this issue. Please call our office at 916-443-4887 if you would like additional details.

In addition, the State Water Resources Control Board will conduct a public workshop regarding the report on May 23, 2012 at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Hearing Room, Second Floor, at Cal/EPA 1001 I Street Sacramento, CA 95814. A live video stream of the public workshop will be broadcast on May 23, which you can access here.

To read an Executive Summary of the nitrate report, click here. To read the full report, click here.

 

Tax Hike Compromise

On Wednesday, a compromise was reached to combine two seperate ballot measures into one measure that would raise income and sales taxes to pay for public education and other state programs.

The deal reached between Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a “millionaire’s tax” joins elements of the Governor’s original tax measure with a ballot proposal backed by the California Federation of Teachers and others.

Under the deal negotiated this week, the new ballot measure compromises a quarter-cent sales tax increase for four years (down from a half-cent in the Governor’s original proposal), along with a one percent income tax increase for joint filers earning over $500,000, a two percent income tax increase on incomes over $600,000 for joint filers and a two to three percent increase on incomes over $1 million for joint filers. The income tax increase would last for seven years beginning this year.

For weeks, the Governor sought to find common ground with backers of the “millionaire’s tax” and obtain their support for his ballot measure to help improve his ability to pass the tax hike in November. In order to qualify for the November ballot, the new ballot measure must be reviewed by the state officials and then petition signatures need to be collected by May.

Click here to read more about the deal on the Governor’s website.

 

Rural Fire Fee

Legislation to overturn the new rural fire tax was announced this week by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) and others. The bill, AB 1506, repeals the $84 million in taxes imposed upon rural California residents as part of the 2011-2012 state budget.

At a press conference this week, Assemblyman Jeffries said, “It’s time for the Legislature to stop this uncalled-for and needless assault on rural residents. The state should not be taxing these homeowners more for providing the same level of fire service they have come to expect. It’s unfair, it’s unnecessary, and it’s very likely unconstitutional.”

Rural communities are often in designated as “State Responsibility Areas” and depend upon state crews for fire prevention and protection, particularly during the height of the wildfire season. Many local areas already impose fees on residents for fire services, so supporters of AB 1506-including Ag Council-believe property owners are being forced to pay twice for the same service.

Without the bill, rural property owners will likely soon be billed $300 for fire service ($150 for fiscal year 2011-2012 and $150 for fiscal year 2012-2013) and will receive no additional benefits for these increased costs.

Ag Council will support AB 1506 during the legislative process. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled for the bill.

 

Upcoming Summit

The California Agriculture Communications Coalition (CACC) is holding a Summit on March 21, 2012 to update the ag community on the progress of Know a California Farmer.

Ag Council is a member of CACC and encourages your attendance at the Summit, which takes place after Ag Day events conclude in Sacramento on March 21.

Over 200 commodity organizations across California are members of CACC. A website called www.knowacaliforniafarmer.com was launched by CACC as a communications tool where farmers tell their stories about farming and ranching. An update on the communications effort will be provided at the Summit.

Location: California Farm Bureau Federation
2300 River Plaza Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Date: March 21, 2012
Time: 3:00-4:30 p.m.
RSVP: eric@knowacaliforniafarmer.com

March 9, 2012


AG COUNCIL CONCLUDES SUCCESSFUL 93RD ANNUAL MEETING

“It’s a New Day” for California Farmer-owned Businesses and Cooperatives

Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) concluded a successful joint meeting with CoBank earlier this week. More than 160 cooperative leaders and members met during Ag Council’s 93rd Annual Meeting in La Jolla to gain perspective about issues impacting agriculture in California and beyond.

This year’s meeting kicked off on March 5 with Ag Council’s Annual Dinner, which featured Assemblyman Henry T. Perea. Perea represents the 31st district and emphasized how important the success of agriculture is to his own constituents and the future of job growth in California.

As a leader among moderate Democrats, Perea recognizes the competitive disadvantage that California businesses have when competing in a world market. “Cap and trade is one example of an issue that will have severe impacts not only on agriculture, but will also hurt my constituents and their ability to find jobs. I am concerned about the extreme positions we see in both parties, as it makes it difficult to bridge the gaps necessary to bring about real change in California,” he said.

Ag Council held its annual Delegate Body Meeting on March 6 where Chairman Jon Marthedal, a third generation farmer from Fresno and also chairman of Sun-Maid Growers of California told Ag Council members, “Agriculture has always been a cornerstone of the California economy and is one of the few bright spots we see today. Our membership represents thousands of farmers, but the political and regulatory environment in which we operate continually influences our day-to-day operations. Ag Council has reasserted itself as a valuable partner to help us tell our story and ensure our ability to continue to raise food for the world. We have undergone a lot of changes at Ag Council in the last 18 months, including restructuring and changes in administrative leadership, but all of this work has helped us refocus and refine our vision for the future.”

As part of his address, Marthedal highlighted Ag Council’s new mission statement which reads:

“To preserve and protect California’s farmer-owned businesses. We pledge to:

  • Work tirelessly to advocate on behalf of our members
  • Take a bipartisan and proactive approach
  • Be a builder of bridges
  • Minimize unnecessary regulations that affect agriculture
  • Create growth opportunities for our members”
  • To enhance the mission statement, the organization also adopted a corporate credo, which reads:

 

“We believe:

  • As California’s number one industry, the health of agriculture is imperative to the success of the state;
  • Farmer-owned businesses should be free to earn their livelihoods without excessive regulatory barriers;
  • And, building bridges is the foundation of our success.”

 

Ag Council President Emily Rooney provided an update to members during her annual address at the Delegate Body Meeting that summarized Ag Council’s efforts to build bridges with California lawmakers and regulatory agencies. “We have continued to aggressively reach out to elected officials about a host of issues impacting California’s number one industry. Climate change regulation and further budget reductions to the California Department of Food and Agriculture were two priority issues for Ag Council in 2011, but our staff also focused on a multitude of other topics that have been of concern to our membership and their ability to do business in California,” said Rooney.

Rooney also highlighted Ag Council’s other accomplishments from the past year, including its work in creating a new image for the organization that highlights its 90-plus year history, but also reflects its renewed focus on dealing with the newest challenges facing California’s farmer-owned businesses. Rooney also announced to the membership the release of Ag Council’s 2011 Impact Report.

The general session, which was moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, included presentations from Ken Maddox, director of legislative affairs for State Board of Equalization Member Michelle Steel; Rafael Pastor, chairman of the board and CEO of Vistage International; and Charlie Arnot, CEO for the Center for Food Integrity. Earlier in the week, a Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser was held at the picturesque Torrey Pines Golf Course. Nearly 70 players were in attendance to enjoy a beautiful morning of golf in La Jolla where funds were raised for Ag Council’s PAC.

Ag Council’s portion of the meeting concluded with a luncheon that honored Richard L. Cotta, retired president and CEO of California Dairies, Inc. as the recipient of the 2012 Cooperative Leader Award.

CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting concluded the joint meeting with Ag Council and featured speakers Marci Rossell, Ph.D., and former chief economist for CNBC; Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Fame basketball player; Charles Fineman, award-winning journalist and author; and Doug Lipp, former head of training for Disney Corporate Headquarters.

Thank you to our 93rd Annual Meeting Sponsors

Special thanks to our meeting partner, CoBank

Platinum
Nationwide Sunkist Growers/Fruit Growers Supply Company

Gold
Blue Diamond Growers
Land O’Lakes
Sunsweet Growers

Silver
Allied Grape Growers
Del Monte Foods
Mellano & Company
Moss Adams LLP
Pacific Coast Producers
Sun-Maid Growers of California

General
Butte County Rice Growers Association
The Gualco Group
Valley Fig Growers

Thank you to our Golf Tournament Sponsors 

Platinum
Blue Diamond Growers California
Canning Peach Association

Gold
CALAMCO
Land O’Lakes
Pacific Coast Producers
Raisin Bargaining Association

Silver
Bank of the West
Butte County Rice Growers Association
Cal/West Seeds
Central California Almond Growers Association
Cryovac, a Division of Sealed Air
DFA of California
Eadie and Payne, LLP
Edgewood Partners Insurance Center (EPIC)
Farm Credit Council Services
Farm Credit Leasing
Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin, LLP
Jim Hicks & Company
KPMG
Moss Adams LLP
Morrison & Company
Valley Fig Growers

Breakfast Sponsors
CoBank and California Farm Credit Associations