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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

September 28, 2012


Brown Signs Bioenergy Measure

A renewable energy bill authored by Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), SB 1122, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown this week.

Ag Council supports SB 1122, which facilitates methane capture before it enters the atmosphere allowing the methane to be used to generate renewable power. Sources of methane include food and agricultural facilities, animal waste facilities, farms and waste water treatment plants.

SB 1122 requires the California Public Utilities Commission, within the feed-in-tariff program, to include an additional 250 megawatts of bioenergy projects that begin operation on or after June 1, 2013.

Senator Rubio said, “I thank Governor Brown for signing SB 1122 and allowing our state to harness the huge untapped potential from renewable biomass and biogas projects.”

“The Central Valley stands to directly benefit from bioenergy projects, as well as help minimize the significant impacts of methane pollution on air quality and public health,” Rubio said.

Read Senator Rubio’s full statement HERE.

Animal Welfare Bill Now Law

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a controversial measure backed by the Humane Society and other animal welfare groups to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats in California.

The bill by Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), SB 1221, includes exceptions, such as when a dog is guarding crops or livestock.

Read more in an article HERE.

Heat Illness Bills

At the time of the publication of this newsletter, Governor Jerry Brown has yet to sign or veto the heat illness bills, AB 2346 and AB 2676, pending consideration on his desk.  The deadline for the Governor to sign or veto bills is September 30.

Both bills are unnecessary given that the state already has a well-structured regulation in place to protect farmworkers from heat illness, and the regulation is protecting lives and is supported by the ag community.

Ag Council and many other ag and business organizations are seeking a veto of AB 2346 and AB 2676 and have communicated that message to the Governor. For further details, please read the joint coalition letters to the Governor by clickin HERE.

Farm Bill Remains Stalled

Members of Congress left for their home districts this week for the November 6 election without passing an extension of the Farm Bill, which expires on September 30, 2012. Despite this, under a six-month continuing resolution approved by Congress, most Farm Bill programs remain in operation through March 2013.

One program operating on a different timeline is the Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC), which expires on December 31. It is a compensation program for dairy farmers during times of low prices. The current MILC program is operating at a decreased level, and MILC is eliminated in the new Farm Bill as approved by the Senate and pending consideration in the House of Representatives.

The 2012 Farm Bill passed in the Senate earlier this year and is awaiting further action in the House.  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said the House will consider the measure after the election. The House is set to reconvene November 13.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal HERE.

New Exec at Delta Stewardship Council

Chris Knopp was recently announced as the new executive officer of the Delta Stewardship Council replacing the retiring Joe Grindstaff. Knopp served a 34-year career with the U.S. Forest Service with his last position as supervisor at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. In that position, he worked to develop the largest forest restoration project in the Western U.S.

Regarding his new position, Knopp said, “The task of the Delta Stewardship Council to achieve a coequal solution is daunting, but achievable. It represents the challenge of a lifetime. Success will require balance and compromise – and sound science so the nature of the compromises can be known and understood.”

The Delta Stewardship Council was developed under state law to achieve state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. “Coequal goals” refers to the two goals of 1) providing a more reliable water supply for California and 2) protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.

Read more about the announcement HERE.

Specialty Crop Block Grants

At its next meeting, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture will focus on the department’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The meeting will be held on October 2 at 10 a.m. in the main auditorium at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) located at 1220 N Street in Sacramento.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said, “The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program helps to support food safety research, marketing and innovation for a large percentage of California grown products. But unless congressional action is taken to pass a Farm Bill, this and other federal farm programs will be eliminated.”

Ross continued, “In not passing a Farm Bill, Congress is negatively impacting job growth, reducing resources to local communities, and prolonging much needed disaster assistance.”

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture to augment the competitiveness of specialty crops throughout the U.S. The program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops.

For more information about the meeting, click HERE.

Value Added Producer Grants

Value Added Producer Grants Applications are available for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. The application deadline is October 15, 2012.

The VAPG program assists producers entering into value-added activities by helping with the marketing and/or processing of products. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Family farmers and farmer and rancher cooperatives, among others, are encouraged to apply.

Read more HERE on USDA’s website.

September 21, 2012


Support for Gov’s Tax Plan Slips

Support for Governor Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative to raise taxes has fallen three percentage points since July to 51 percent among likely voters, according to a Field Poll survey released this week. The survey also revealed that 36 percent of likely voters oppose the initiative, and the number of undecided voters has grown to 13 percent.

The initiative on the November 6 ballot, Proposition 30, would raise state sales taxes by ¼ cent for four years and increase personal state income taxes on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years in order to fund public education.

If Proposition 30 fails, the 2012-13 state budget requires that trigger cuts go into effect reducing K-12 public education and community college funding by $5.4 billion. In addition, $500 million would be cut from public universities.

Click HERE for further results in The Field Poll survey.

Take Action on Heat Illness Bills

As many Ag Council members are aware, both heat illness bills (AB 2346 and AB 2676) were approved in the Legislature and are awaiting consideration by Governor Jerry Brown. The Governor has until September 30, 2012 to sign or veto pending legislation, and he can take action any time between now and September 30.

Ag Council and many other ag and business organizations are seeking a veto of AB 2346 and AB 2676 and have communicated that message to the Governor. For further details, please read the joint coalition letters to the Governor by clicking HERE.

We urge you to send a veto request letter regarding AB 2346 and AB 2676 to the Governor. You can email a brief note to the Governor TODAY via his website by clicking HERE. In your veto request, let the Governor know both bills are unnecessary given that the state already has a well-structured regulation in place to protect farmworkers from heat illness, and the regulation is protecting lives and is supported by the ag community.

CA Launches Online Voter Registration

California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, announced this week that Californians can now register to vote online through October 22. Online registration is a result of SB 397, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-SF), which became law earlier this year.

California is the twelfth state to allow online voter registration. Over 6 million people in California are qualified to vote, but have not yet registered. About 72 percent of those eligible are registered to vote in the state.

Click HERE to read more.

Climate Change Auction

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is scheduled to move forward with a cap and trade auction on November 14, 2012. This will be the first official quarterly auction for the state cap and trade program.

Auction participants must apply in order to participate in the auction process. Click HERE for eligibility, participant training information and further details.

As background, the state climate change law (AB 32) requires that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Entities emitting over 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, including some Ag Council members, must abide by the cap and trade regulation developed by the ARB.

Under Ag Council’s analysis of the regulation, some of our members will be required to purchase allowances during the quarterly cap and trade auctions, and the cost of allowances could potentially be in the millions of dollars per year for regulated entities.

Given the importance of this issue to our members, Ag Council continues to be actively involved in the regulatory process as it moves forward. Click HERE to read about recent action taken on behalf of our members.

 

September 14, 2012


Heat Illness Bills–Take ACTION

As many Ag Council members are aware, despite strong opposition from ag and business groups, both state heat illness bills (AB 2346 and AB 2676) were approved in the Legislature and are awaiting consideration by Governor Jerry Brown. The Governor has until September 30, 2012 to sign or veto pending legislation.

Ag Council and many other ag and business organizations are seeking a veto of AB 2346, authored by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Torrance), and AB 2676, authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whitter), and have communicated that message to the Governor. To read the joint coalition letters to the Governor, click HERE.

Ag Council encourages you to send letter to the Governor requesting a veto of AB 2346 and AB 2676. You can email the Governor TODAY via his website by clicking HERE.

In your veto request, let the Governor know the heat illness bills are unnecessary given that the state the state already has a well-structured regulation in place to protect farmworkers from heat illness, and Cal/OSHA has allocated resources to ensure compliance. The regulation is protecting lives and is supported by the ag community.

 

Workers’ Comp Revision

In a bipartisan deal brokered to prevent skyrocketing workers’ compensation rates, legislation to improve the state workers’ compensation system was approved at the end of the legislative session and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

SB 863, by Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), reduces administrative costs in the appeal process and shortens the medical and legal review of workers’ compensation injuries. By offsetting costs, SB 863 provides benefit increases for injured workers. It also streamlines the permanent disability schedule.

Click HERE to read the CalChamber’s overview of this measure.

 

Governor Signs Pension Bill

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 340, a pension reform measure recently approved by the Legislature. The bill is authored by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach).

Under the new law, all state employees (including current employees) must pay at least 50 percent of their pension benefit costs. Retirement age is raised by two years or more for new employees, and pensionable salaries are capped at the Social Security contribution and wage base of $110,100.

AB 340 was approved on the last day of the legislative session. Republicans said the measure did not go far enough to cut state costs, and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Laguna Niguel) called it an “insincere ploy to go out before the voters and say we did some pension reform.” Meanwhile, Governor Brown said it is “the biggest rollback to public pension benefits in the history of California pensions.”

For further details, read the Governor’s full statement HERE.

 

Timber Measure Signed into Law

AB 1492, a bipartisan bill addressing issues facing California’s timber industry, was signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown.

In signing the measure, the Governor said, “California’s laws have saddled our timber industry with costly burdens while giving out-of-state competitors a free ride—but that stops today. This legislation enacts serious bipartisan reform to even the playing field to protect California’s timber-industry jobs.”

AB 1492 limits liability on landowners when a fire begins on private land. It also enacts a one percent consumer tax on lumber in order to pay for strict state regulations that lead to costs on California companies that are much higher than the costs borne by timber operators in other states. In addition, the new law lengthens timber harvest plans from five to seven years.

Read the Governor’s entire statemstatement HERE.

 

Rubio Tapped to Serve as Chairman

State Senate President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, this week announced his intent to appoint Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), as Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality. The current Chair, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is terming out in late November. The committee has jurisdiction over environmental quality, air quality, water quality, integrated waste management, toxics and hazardous waste.

In his announcement, Steinberg said, “Since the day he arrived in the Senate, Michael Rubio has shown a keen interest and a sharp intellect on environmental issues ranging from cap-and-trade to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). He will bring new energy and ‘outside the box’ thinking to California’s environmental laws and regulations.”

Click HERE for a press release by Senator Rubio.

 

Record High California Farm Revenues

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently announced that California farm revenues reached a record high of $43.5 billion for their output in 2011. This is a revenue increase for farms and ranches in California of 15 percent over the 2010 level.

Read a copy of the NASS press release HERE.