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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

June 28, 2013


Governor Signs State Budget

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Governor Brown signs state budget as Democrat leaders observe. Photo courtesy of Governor Brown’s website: www.gov.ca.gov.

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a $96 billion state budget. Among its many provisions, the 2013-2014 budget includes a $1.1 billion rainy day reserve fund for contingencies and devotes $2.6 billion to pay down borrowing from prior years.

After signing the budget, Governor Brown said, “California’s finances are in very solid shape for the first time in a decade. We’re making significant investments in the things Californians care most about – the education of our children and adequate healthcare.”

Water Fees in the State Budget

The budget, as approved by the Legislature, contained a water fee increase on farmers for the State Water Resources Control Board to hire seven staff members to increase oversight and enforcement of agricultural wastewater discharges and develop greater expertise in agricultural production at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Ag Council and many other ag organizations opposed this water fee increase and asked the governor to line item veto the appropriation. In the final budget, Governor Brown chose to reduce the new staff members at the State Water Board from seven to five, saying this reduction is “necessary to prevent an excessive fee increase on farmers.”

Ag Council appreciates the recognition by the governor that costs imposed upon the ag community are significant especially when viewed in the larger context of other water fees already being proposed by the State Water Board. Such proposed fees will impact farmers, dairymen and food processors.

As background, farmers within the Central Valley and the Central Coast regions pay for mandatory Regional Water Board regulatory program monitoring and reporting costs. In addition, these farmers have substantial costs to implement new beneficial managementpractices and infrastructure modernizations to comply with the surface and groundwater provisions of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.

Fertilizer Tax Update

The final budget does not contain a fertilizer tax, which Ag Council actively opposed in the Legislature and our members advocated against during our recent Legislative Day.

However, a separate state bill by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno), AB 69, would impose a $100,000,000 tax on all fertilizer products sold in California. Ag Council and a large coalition of ag organizations oppose this measure.  Click HERE read a copy

of the AB 69 opposition letter.

To read the governor’s budget statement, including details about education and health care, click HERE.

Assembly Democrats to Lose Supermajority

Beginning next week, Assembly Democrats will no longer possess a supermajority as a result of two vacancies that will not likely be filled prior to the end of the legislative session this year, which is September 13.

A two-thirds supermajority holds significant power because it allows the political party in control to more easily approve state tax increases, override vetoes, and place constitutional amendments on the state ballot without support from the minority party. The state Senate continues to retain a Democrat supermajority.

Special elections for the two vacant Assembly seats will be held over the next few months.

Read more in a SacBee article HERE.

Salary Increase Approved for Legislators & Governor

The California Citizens Compensation Commission recently voted to increase salaries for state legislators, the Governor, and other state officials for the first time since 2008. Legislators’ health benefits were also partially restored to previous levels.

The panel of seven appointed members voted for a 5 percent increase, which restores legislators and state officials to their 2011 salary level following a pay cut in 2012 due to the state fiscal crisis. Currently, Governor Brown is paid $165,288 annually and, with the Commission’s decision, will be paid $174,000 annually starting in December.

For legislators, the average state legislator will see an increase from $90,526 to $95,290 this December. Prior to state fiscal woes, salaries for legislators in 2008 were $116,208. Per-diem pay will remain at its current reduced level and legislators’ car allowances will not be restored.

Commission member Wilma Wallace said that the increase is in acknowledgement of the efforts the governor has taken in reducing the state budget deficit.

The pay increases will go into effect on December 1, 2013.

Click HERE for a link to the California Citizens Compensation Commission’s site that lists public official salaries by year.

Blue Diamond Celebrates Opening of Turlock Plant

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Blue Diamond hosts the first tour of its new Turlock Plant. Photo by Elias Funez as published by SacBee.

Ag Council member, Blue Diamond Growers, recently opened its Turlock Plant for the first facility tour of the 200,000 square-foot plant, which is the cooperative’s largest single almond investment since 1910. The facility, on 88 acres in Turlock, represents approximately half of a three-phased capacity enhancement project scheduled to be completed over the next 10 years.

Blue Diamond President and CEO, Mark Jansen, said, “The new Turlock Plant supports the significant growth in our global almond ingredients business with a facility that sets new standards for food safety. While increasing our capacity and enhancing our capabilities, we are also able to produce efficiencies that allow us to confidently invest, knowing there is significant payback to growers for their investment.”

The first phase of the expansion allows Blue Diamond to meet growing global demand for value-added almond ingredients. The products from the plant will go into cereals, snack bars, yogurt toppings, baked goods and candies, among other destinations.

The initial phase will yield over 300 jobs, including over 100 direct jobs. The Turlock Plant began operation in May processing almonds from last year’s crop.

Click HERE to read more in a Modesto Bee article.

June 14, 2013


Legislature Passes On-Time Budget

From left to right: President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Governor Jerry Brown and Speaker John Perez (D-LA) - photo by Rich Pedroncelli, courtesy of the SF Chronicle.

From left to right: President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Governor Jerry Brown and Speaker John Perez (D-LA) – photo by Rich Pedroncelli, courtesy of the SF Chronicle.

 

 

Today, the Legislature approved a $96 billion state budget for 2013-2014 after a deal was cut earlier this week among Governor Jerry Brown, Speaker John Pérez (D-LA) and President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Both houses approved the budget on party-line votes: 28-10 in the Senate and 54-25 in the Assembly. Several trailer bills, which detail specific budget changes, are still working their way through the Legislature at this time and are expected to be finalized by tomorrow.

Ag Issues in the Budget
Of importance to Ag Council members, the budget does not contain a fertilizer tax, which Ag Council actively opposed in the Legislature and our members advocated against during our recent Legislative Day.

However, the budget does contain an increase in water fees on farmers for the State Water Resources Control Board to hire seven staff members to increase oversight and enforcement of agricultural wastewater discharges. This cost is on top of other water user fees already being proposed at the State Water Board, which will impact farmers, dairymen and food processors.

Ag Council is working along with other agricultural organizations to oppose this water fee increase in the budget by asking Governor Brown to use his line item veto authority to eliminate this particular appropriation.

Rainy Day Fund & Social Issues in the Budget
Broadly, the budget agreement utilizes the Governor’s more conservative tax revenue estimate rather than the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which recently projected $3.2 billion more in state revenues than the Governor.

Among non-ag related provisions, the budget contains a $1.1 billion rainy day reserve fund for contingencies, which is a key element for Governor Brown. The budget also includes funding increases for mental health programs, state courts, and restores dental coverage in the Medi-Cal program. In addition, the budget directs more money to schools where over half of the students are poor or learning English, and it funds one of Speaker Perez’s priorities, the “Middle Class Scholarship” program, for college students in California.

The Legislature is required by the California Constitution to approve a budget by June 15 each year.  The budget now moves to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for consideration.

Labor Bill Blocked in Committee

A measure that would expand mandatory mediation under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act did not garner enough votes to move out of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee this week. Ag Council and many other ag organizations strongly oppose the bill, SB 25, authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The bill is sponsored by the United Farm Workers.

SB 25 needed four votes to pass, and it received three votes in favor. The two GOP members on the Committee, Assemblyman Gorell (R-Camarillo) and Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), voted against the bill. In addition, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) intentionally did not vote on this bill, which prevented it from being approved in Committee.

As background, SB 25 would expand mediation to all future contract negotiations and allow collective bargaining agreements created by mediators. Agricultural workers would be unionized years—and in some cases decades—after a union deserted negotiations, and SB 25 would require those workers to support the union financially regardless of whether those workers chose union representation.

It is possible this measure could return prior to the end of the legislative session this year, so Ag Council will continue to watch for and oppose any future iteration of SB 25.

Click HERE to read a SacBee article regarding SB 25.

Nishio to be Honored at State Fair Gala

The upcoming California State Fair Gala on June 28 will honor one of Ag Council’s member representatives, Ed Nishio, Vice President and Relationship Manager of CoBank’s Regional Agribusiness Banking Group, with the 2013 Agriculturalist of the Year Award.

For over 30 years, Ed has demonstrated he is a strong supporter of ag businesses throughout the Western United States. He is known for helping the farming community meet ever-changing financial requirements and providing essential financing to help ag businesses gain financial health. Ed’s wisdom and strategic advice has played a vital role to the growth of many businesses throughout his career.

Ag Council encourages our members to attend this year’s California State Fair Gala in support of Ed Nishio and his many years of commitment and service to our industry.

For more information about the California State Fair Gala, and to purchase tickets or submit donation items to the silent auction, please contact event coordinator Scott Tanimoto via email at: stanimoto@calexpo.com or call (916) 274-0477.

Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center

Ag Council Allied Member, Bayer CropScience, broke ground recently on its North American Bee Care Center. The roughly 6,000 square foot state of the art building will promote worldwide bee health initiatives to support scientific research and help educate stakeholders and the general public about the significance of honey bees to agriculture.

The Bee Care Center will include a full laboratory and teaching apiary, honey extraction and workshop space, interactive learning center, in addition to meeting, as well as training and presentation facilities for beekeepers, farmers and educators.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture’s recent assessment, bees are suffering from a complex set of stressors and there is a need for stakeholders to collaborate to promote best management practices. The Bee Care Center is being developed to carry out these objectives. As such, the Center will bring together technological, scientific and academic resources to protect and improve honey bee health and sustainable agriculture.

To read more about the North American Bee Care Center located in North Carolina, click HERE.