in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

April 20, 2012

Bill Addressing Attacks on Farms Moves Forward

One of several trucks destroyed at Harris Farms in January.
*Photo by Harris Farms as printed in the Fresno Bee.

Assemblyman David Valadao’s (R-Hanford) measure, AB 2177, to tighten criminal penalties for those committing certain types of violence at livestock facilities was unanimously approved out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on Tuesday.

Specifically, AB 2177 adds livestock facilities to the list of places where it is a felony to ignite a destructive device or commit arson with the intent to terrorize. A prison term of up to seven years could result fro engaging in such action, and the felony charge could be combined with other charges to include penalties of up to 10 years or life in prison, according to the California Cattlemen’s Association, a key advocate for the bill.

The bill covers, but is not limited to beef cattle feedlots, milk cow dairies, egg and poultry operations, swine breeding and growing farms, livestock auction yards and slaughterhouses.

AB 2177 was written after an arsonist stuck Harris Farms in Coalinga. The incident in January destroyed 14 tractors and numerous trailers with losses totaling over $2 million. Authorities are offering a $100,000 reward in the investigation leading to an arrest in the attack.

Ag Council supports this legislation to hold those accountable for agricultural attacks, such as the one at Harris Farms. AAB 2177 now moves to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations for consideration.

Ag Unites to Oppose Labor Bill

Ag Council, along with other agricultural organizations, spoke out in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment on Wednesday against an onerous state measure relating to heat illness on farms. The bill, AB 2346, is supported by the United Farm Workers and the author is Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Torrance).

AB 2346 singles out agriculture and would implement civil and criminal liability provisions relating to heat illness on farms that are not necessary given that the state already has a well-structured regulation in place to protect farmworkers from heat illness.

The bill was developed without consultation with the agricultural community and relies upon data that does not comport with state statistics on heat illness.

The existing heat illness regulation, developed by Cal/OSHA, is supported by agriculture, and the agricultural community has actively engaged in outreach to educate and train farmers and farm labor contractors on how to prevent heat illness in farmworkers via webinars, training sessions, videos, brochures and other mechanisms.

Unfortunately, the Committee on Labor and Employment approved the bill by a vote of 5-2. AB 2346 will next be considered in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety where Ag Council will continue to oppose the bill.

Cargo Securement Exemption Extended

*Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture
Measurement Standards--Kings County.

The cargo securement exemption for trucks that transport agricultural products was recently extended for an additional year, through April 30, 2013.

The California Trucking Association requested an additional year for the exemption from the California Highway Patrol and the one-year exemption was recently granted.

The extension allows time for a final report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to be completed following testing of agricultural containers. The testing was conducted to establish whether containers allow an equal or greater level of load security when compared to the federal cargo securement regulation. The testing was handled in collaboration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

If you need further information, please contact Captain Steve Dowling at the California Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Section at (916) 843-3400.

Vacancies Announced on Fertilizer Advisory Committee

This week, The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced two openings on the Technical Advisory Subcommittee for the Fertilizer Research and Education Program.

The Subcommittee analyzes and issues recommendation regarding the funding and implementation of fertilizer research and education projects to the Fertilizer Inspection Advisory Board.

The Fertilizer Research and Education Program funds and coordinated research advancing the environmentally safe use and handling of fertilizer materials in agriculture. The program assists growers, agricultural supply and service professionals, extension personnel, public agencies, consultants and the public. The Subcommittee and research program are funded through user fees and assessments.

Applicants must possess knowledge, technical and scientific expertise in the areas of fertilizing materials, agronomy, plant physiology, production agriculture, principles of experimental research, and environmental issues related to fertilizer material use.

Subcommittee members serve for three years without compensation, but travel expenses are reimbursed.

Click HERE for further details and information on how to apply. The deadline to apply is May 11, 2012.


April 13, 2012

Blue Diamond Breaks Ground on New Plant

Ag Council member, Blue Diamond Growers, launched the first phase of its new manufacturing plant during a ground breaking ceremony in Turlock this week.

Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond President and CEO, said, “Blue Diamond made its last major investment in 1968 in its Salida plant. At that time, California was producing 140 million pounds of almonds. Compare that to this¬†year’s crop of about 2 billion pounds, and you can better understand why we are making a major investment to expand or business.”

“We have kept pace with upgrading new technologies in our plant operations over the last 44 years, but today we are celebrating the largest single investment in the 102 years of the almond industry’s existence. In fact, the year we will also complete¬†a state of the art Research and Development complex at our headquarters in Sacramento,” Jansen said.

The 88-acre property at N. Washington and Fulkerth Roads in Turlock will house about 200,000 square feet of building space for manufacturing and delivering almond products throughout the world. It is set to be completed May 2013. After that, the next phases of the project will result in approximately 500,000 total square feet of building space over the next 15 years.

Job openings at the facility will be announced this fall, with the exact number of jobs undetermined at this time pending investment decisions regarding new technologies.

Ag Council congratulates Blue Diamond as it implements this important project bringing economic investment to a key region and needed expansion for Blue Diamond.

Click here for a Modesto Bee article.


Long-Awaited Employment Case Decided

In a much-anticipated employment case, Brinker v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week that an “employer need not ensure that no work is done during an employee’s meal period.”

The Court was tasked with defining the parameters of an employer’s obligation to provide meal periods to employees in a lawsuit filed by workers’ attorneys against Brinker International (owner of Chili’s and other restaurants).

California law requires that employer’s “provide” employees working five or more hours with a 30-minute unpaid, off-duty, meal period, which has led to confusion given that an employer’s obligation was not specifically defined.

The Court in Brinker said an employer satisfies the requirement to provide a meal period, “if it relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage them from doing so.”

“What will suffice may vary from industry to industry, and we cannot in the context of this class certification proceeding delineate the full range of approaches that in each instance might be sufficient to satisfy the law,” the Court said.

Click here for a USA Today article on the Brinker decision.


Dueling Ballot Proposals

A tax proposal, that rivals Governor Brown’s ballot effort to hike taxes, received $2.15 million this week from its only financial backer in order to help gather more signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Civil rights attorney, Molly Munger, provided the funds and is leading the charge to qualify the measure on the November ballot. The measure would increase income taxes on nearly all wage earners in California to provide funds directly to public schools and early childhood development programs.

The measure must collect about 504,000 valid California voter signatures by May to qualify for the November ballot.

Backers of Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily raise income taxes on high wage earners and increase state sales tax have appealed to Munger to drop the competing tax measure to no avail.

Supporters of the Governor’s ballot measure believe that having both proposals on the November ballot will be confusing to voters and hinder the chances that the Governor’s measure would be approved.

Click here for a related SacBee article.


Latest Poll on Gov’s Tax Plan

In an online poll conducted by USC Dornsife, 63 percent of the registered California voters polled support Governor Brown’s ballot measure to raise the state sales tax by one-quarter of a cent and increase income taxes on those earning over $250,000 to fund public schools. Thirty percent oppose the ballot measure.

The USC Dornsife online poll shows only 24 percent of those polled support Molly Munger’s competing tax effort (described in the article above), which would raise income taxes on most California workers. Sixty-seven percent oppose Munger’s proposal.

The USC Dornsife online survey interviewed 1,874 registered California voters from March 19-21, 2012. The data carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.

Click here for further poll details.