in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

May 18, 2012

Gov Announces “More Painful Reductions” in Revised Budget

Governor Jerry Brown

With a state budget deficit that’s grown to $15.7 billion, Governor Jerry Brown released a revised 2012-2013 budget plan, known as the “May revise,” early this week. The plan includes deeper cuts from his January budget proposal for a total of $8.3 billion in state budget reductions in the areas of state employee compensation, welfare, health care, higher education, courts, agriculture and others.

Under the revised budget, The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) faces $2.5 million in additional reductions this budget cycle. In a call to stakeholders earlier this week, CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross, said she will again seek input from the ag consortium that has provided direction on budget cuts over the past year. Ag Council President, Emily Rooney, will continue to be an active participant in the stakeholder consortium to provide advice regarding reductions, which are expected to be nailed down over the next few weeks. The key is to protect the core operations of CDFA that are crucial to the agricultural community, such as protecting against plant and animal pests and diseases.

As background, $31 million in General Fund budget reductions have already been made to the CDFA budget (in addition to the $32 million in reductions to fairs) in the current and previous budget cycles. The cuts include approximately $27 million in reductions to programs at CDFA. About $3 million must be generated in industry fees in an effort to protect the remaining programs vital to agriculture as it conducts business throughout the U.S. and globally.

The legislature will now consider the Governor’s budget as it seeks to create a final budget by the June 15th state constitutional deadline for the Legislature to approve a budget.

In addition to the revised budget, the Governor is seeking voter-support for a tax measure on the November ballot to pay for public schools and other state services. The measure comprises a quarter-cent sales tax increase for four years, 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 increases would last for seven years beginning this year.

It is important to note that the tax measure is the cornerstone to the Governor’s budget, as his budget assumes voters will approve the taxes. If the tax measure is not approved by voters in November, $6 billion in additional state cuts go into effect in early 2013.


Ag Council Legislative Reception

Ag Council members are encouraged to attend our upcoming annual Legislative Reception on June 5th at 5:45 p.m. at the Citizen Hotel-Metropolitan Terrace located at 926 J Street in Sacramento. We hope to see you there.

Also, if you are an Ag Council member and would like to join us for our Legislative Day on June 5th to connect with administrative and elected state officials on key issues, please contact Rebecca Osumi at ph. 916.443.4887 or rebecca@agcouncil.org for further details. All Ag Council members are welcome.

May 4, 2012

Ag Council Members Rank Among Top 100 Cooperatives

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced this week that the nation’s 100 largest agricultural cooperatives reported near-record revenue of $118 billion in 2012, which was an increase of 4 percent over 2009 figures. Total expenses in 2012 for the top 100 were up $575 million since 2009 – with labor being the highest cost increase at 7 percent or $4.6 billion.

Several of the cooperatives on the list of 100 are Ag Council members including: Blue Diamond Growers, Land O’Lakes, Pacific Coast Producers, Sunkist Growers, Sun-Maid Growers, and Sunsweet Growers.

In the USDA announcement, Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager said, “Farmer and rancher-owned cooperatives are a mainstay in the American economy, not only helping members market and process their crops, milk and livestock and creating jobs, but also helping producers keep more of the earnings derived from their products at home, in rural counties and communities.”

Ag Council is proud to represent all of our members, who provide healthy and safe food to the nation and the world, in addition to providing thousands of jobs throuhgout the state.

Click here to read the USDA press release.


Final Snow Survey of 2012

Photo of dwindling snowpack courtesy of ACWA

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) completed its fifth and final snow survey of 2012 this week and determined that, after a dry winter, water content in snowpack is at 40 percent of normal. Snowpack usually provides about one-third of the state’s water supply, according to DWR.

This year, deliveries to state water contractors will be 60 percent of the requested 4 million feet of water. In 2011, the wet year allowed DWR to deliver 80 percent of the requested amount of water.

Lake Oroville, which is the State Water Project’s (SWP) primary reservoir, is 97 percent full.

The SWP is critical because it supplies water to over 25 million Californians and close to one million acres of farmland.

Click here to read DWR’s press release.


Gov’s Tax Measure

Governor Jerry Brown said this week that his tax measure has collected the signatures needed to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.

The tax proposal would increase sales taxes in California by a quarter-cent and hike state income taxes on those earnings over $250,000 a year in order to fund public schools and other programs due to budget shortfalls.

Over 80,000 valid voter signatures had to be collected by early May in order for the Governor’s tax measure to be eligible for the November ballot. The signatures must next be reviewed for validity by the Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, California Republican Party leaders are traveling the state to urge voters to oppose Governor Brown’s tax measure. State Republican Party Chairman, Tom Del Beccaro, Assembly Republican Leader, Connie Conway (R-Visalia), and others launched the effort yesterday, which also focuses on curbing state spending. The tour heads to Bakersfield and Fresno today.


California Ranked Last by CEOs–Again

Photo courtesy of CA Department of Parks & Recreation

For the eighth year in a row, California ranked last in a survey of the Best and Worst States in which to conduct business by 650 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).

The survey, by Chief Executive Magazine, asked CEOs to evaluate states based on taxes, regulations, workforce quality and the living environment, among other areas.

CEOs cited the difficult regulatory environment and taxes as reasons for ranking the state last, behind all other states.

Texas, Florida and North Carolina were ranked as the top three states respectively. Click here to read more.


Heat Illness

Educational Seminars
Heat illness prevention training is underway to help farmers and employees better understand how to stay safe during the summer months and protect workers.

The seminars, offered by Cal/OSHA and State Compensation Insurance Fund, will discuss the California Heat-Illness Prevention Standard pertaining to water and shade, supervisor training, high-heat procedures and emergency strategies.

The classes, offered at no-cost, began this week and continue over the next few months at locations throughout the state. Click here for dates and locations.

On a related note, Ag Council joined with other agricultural groups to speak out against an excessive and unnecessary heat illness bill last week in the state Assembly Committee on Public Safety.

The measure, AB 2346, by Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Torrance), would make farmers jointly liable for alleged heat illness violations by farm labor contractors, create a private right of action for agricultural employees to sue employers under state heat illness regulations, and replace existing heat illness regulations with extreme and punitive statutory language.

AB 2346 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. 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.

The legislation was unfortunately approved out of the Committee on Public Safety by a vote of 4 to 2. AB 2346 will next be considered in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, and Ag Council will continue to oppose the bill.

May 11, 2012

Ag Council Sponsoring Cap & Trade Forum

Ag Council members are encouraged to attend an upcoming Cap and Trade Forum on May 18th in Fresno at 2 p.m. at Fresno City College, Social Science Building, Forum Hall 103.

The Forum is being held by New Democrats, which is a group of moderate Democrats in the state Legislature led by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno).

Ag Council is a sponsor of the Forum, and the event is an opportunity for our members to communicate concerns about the cap and trade regulation to legislators. Ag Council members and others will be formally speaking at the Forum about the projected impacts of the state cap and trade program on their businesses.

The cap and trade regulatory systems is being implemented by the California Air Resources Board to carry out a landmark climate change law, AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. AB 32 was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. The law mandates that California reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Click HERE for the event details. Ag Council remains actively engaged on climate change issues at the state level on behalf of our members. Click HERE to read more about our work.


Gov Appoints New State Water Board Members

On Thursday this week, Governor Jerry Brown announced the appointments of Felicia Marcus and Steven Moore to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Felicia Marcus comes to the Board from the Natural Resources Defense Council where she is the western directors. Prior to that position, she was executive vice president at the Trust for Public Land and administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9. Steven Moore is a civil and sanitary engineer at Nute Engineering and is a member of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The appointments this week fill two vacancies on the five-member Board. Both are full-time positions with compensation of $128,109 a year. The positions require conformation by the state Senate.

As background, the State Water Resources Control Board has authority over California’s water quality and the allocation of state water.

Click HERE to read the Governor’s press release about the appointments.


State Revenues Down

On Tuesday this week, State Controller John Chiang released a report showing that year-to-date state revenues through April are down $3.5 billion from Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2012-2013 budget projections.

Chiang said, “The task of crafting a credibly-balanced budget has been made more difficult by a nine-month revenue shortfall of $3.5 billion. Without a timely, financeable budget plan, the state will be unable to access the working capital needed to pay its bills later this year.”

On the heels of the Controller’s grim revenue announcement, Governor Brown is expected to include reductions in state worker costs in his upcoming May budget revisions. His original budget did not contain such reductions. Specific information about the cuts is not yet known, but the Governor will release his revised budget this Monday providing further details.

Ag Council will keep our members apprised of this issue, and any information about the state agricultural budget, when the Governor’s revised budget is released next week.

Click HERE for the Controller’s recent revenue statement.


Rural Fire Fee

State Assembly Natural Resources Chairman, Wes Chesbro (D-Eureka), is pursuing legislation to overhaul the new rural fire fee imposed on property owners in State Responsibility Areas (SRAs). SRAs are regions where the state has the primary financial responsibility of preventing and suppressing fires, including state and privately-owned forests.

Chesbro’s bill, AB 2474, would permit landowners who already pay an assessment to a local fire agency to deduct that amount from the new state $150 state rural fire fee. Therefore, under the bill, those currently paying local assessment over $150 would be exempt from paying the new state fee.

In addition, AB 2474 would require the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop a fee system that takes into account the fire history and fire risk of an area to create what the author believed is a more equitable fee. The bill would also require a report to the Legislature by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection regarding the cost of all fires in California.

AB 2474 will next be considered in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.