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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

August 23, 2013


Ag Labor Bill Passes Assembly

Senator Darrell Steinberg’s (D-Sacramento) bill, SB 25, to amend the mandatory mediation provisions of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) was approved in the Assembly this week by a vote of 43-25. The bill is sponsored by the United Farm Workers.

Ag Council has lobbied against SB 25 because it would permit a party to prolong collective bargaining negotiations for a 60-day period and then call for a mediator to impose the terms and conditions of a renewal contract. Ag Council believes this creates a disincentive to negotiate and bargain during contract renewals. In addition, the contract would not be subject to worker ratification, which marginalizes workers.

Procedurally, as a result of changes to the bill this week in the Assembly, the bill is now on concurrence in the Senate for approval of those changes.

Ag Council and other agricultural organizations continue to strongly oppose this bill and will urge Governor Brown to veto the measure if it moves to his desk.

Footprint Reduced for BDCP

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s (BDCP) project footprint for the proposed water conveyance system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been reduced recently by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) from 3,654 acres to 1,853 acres total. Though this reduction is due in part to discussions between DWR and local landowners, it is also a result of optimization of the project by engineers and planners to increase efficiency.

Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources.

Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources.

The nearly 50 percent footprint reduction was achieved by shortening the length of the twin tunnel conveyance by five miles to 30 miles total. The intermediate forebay has been reduced from 750 acres to 40 surface acres. Construction staging areas have been reduced by several acres, as well.

In addition to reducing the overall size of the BDCP construction, several impacted acres have been shifted from private land to public land. About 400 fewer acres of private land will be permanently impacted by the conveyance system.

The changes have not altered conveyance capacity for the pumps and tunnels, which remains at 9,000 cfs. A draft Environmental Impact Report and project description will likely be available this fall. Construction on the project is still not expected to begin for another 10 to 15 years.

Read more HERE on the DWR website.

Freshmen Draft Fewer Bills than Counterparts

Newly elected freshman legislators in California introduced 33 percent fewer bills than legislators with more seniority, according to a recent analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

Those elected to the Legislature in 2012 introduced an average of 16.9 bills in comparison to 22.5 bills on average for veteran legislators.

The analysis by the Los Angeles Times considers whether the recent change in term limits may be a factor in the reduced number of bills. Legislators elected in 2012 can serve 12 years in either house of the Legislature. Members elected before 2012 are subject to a six year term limit in the Assembly and an eight year term limit in the state Senate.

Click HERE to read more.

Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting

SavetheDate_2014_2

 

We invite all members to join us March 2-4, 2014 for Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting to be held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in Huntington Beach, California.

This event is held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting.

Further details will be available at a later date. In the meantime, please save March 2-4, 2014 on your calendars.

August 17, 2013


New Water Bond Framework Presented at Assembly Hearing

Photo courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources

Photo courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources

This week, the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and the Water Bond Working Group held an informational hearing to present a new framework for a revised water bond. Chairman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), committee members and stakeholder groups shared their perspectives on prioritizing the main goals of the water bond and the distribution of funds.

The framework announced at the Assembly hearing would reduce the previous $11 billion water bond to $5 billion and the funds would be spread evenly across five funding categories. The categories are: Delta sustainability, regional self-reliance for water, clean and safe drinking water, watershed protection, and water storage. Several legislators at the hearing also discussed the need for safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities to be addressed as a priority in the bond.

The framework was developed by the Water Bond Working Group, which is a panel of eight lawmakers appointed by Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles). The state Senate has also conducted water bond hearings and is expected to consider its proposal at a later date. Considerable work remains on this issue and any final water bond package must be approved by both houses of the Legislature prior to being placed on the November 2014 ballot.

For a copy of the 2013 Water Bond Framework, click HERE.

Ag Council Speaks Out Against SB 691

This week, Ag Council testified in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee against SB 691, which proposes a tenfold increase in strict liability penalties for Title V facilities for a one-day air violation.  The penalty under SB 691 would increase from a maximum of $10,000 under current law to a maximum of $100,000 for nuisance-based, non-vehicular air-quality violations.

SB 691 is authored by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Breathe California. Proponents of the bill state it is meant to address major events, such as the August 2012 refinery fire in the Bay Area.

Ag Council has taken an active role on this bill because some of our members hold Title V permits through their local air districts, and therefore, could be impacted under this bill. During the recent Assembly hearing, Ag Council explained to legislators that—although the bill may not be intended to apply to the ag community—there is currently no language in SB 691 to prevent our members with Title V permits from being subject to the increase in penalties.

Ag Council is part of a broad coalition urging the bill’s author and sponsor to adopt amendments to place parameters around the bill to limit its scope. Unfortunately, the amendments have not been accepted. As a result, Ag Council continues to voice opposition to SB 691 and is advocating against the bill in numerous meetings with legislators.

SB 691 passed the Senate in May and now awaits consideration in the Assembly.

Monsanto Opens New Research Facility

Ag Council Allied Member, Monsanto Company, hosted a grand opening earlier this week at its new research and lab facility in Woodland, located just northwest of Sacramento. The 90,000 sq. ft. facility is now the largest lab space dedicated to testing vegetable seed health in the world.

The $31 million dollar construction project brings together Monsanto’s previously dispersed departments of plant breeding, particularly the seed health, molecular markers, and trait genetics groups, and provides more room for the company to grow. These departments ensure that the seeds produced by Monsanto are ready for market and consumer use.

In the new facility, staff will use new technologies, like seed chippers, that allow researchers to examine a seed’s qualities before it is planted.

The facility will be able to house approximately 400 employees, many more than are currently employed in the facility’s research groups.

Click HERE to read more.

August 9, 2013


Assembly Returns from Summer Recess & Speaker Perez Outlines Priorities

Speaker John Perez (D-LA)-photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Speaker John Perez (D-LA)-photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Assembly legislators returned this week from summer recess for the last month of legislative activity prior to adjournment. State Senate members will come back to the Capitol from their recess on August 12. Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said in a press conference on Monday that roughly 1,100 bills remain under consideration in the Capitol.

The Speaker outlined his priorities for the remainder of the legislative year including passage of a rainy day fund to help the state handle cycles of budget volatility, a measure requiring the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to create a strategic plan, and helping homeless veteran’s with supportive services.

Key Bills & Activity

With the return of the Legislature, Ag Council is engaged in the issues affecting our members and tracking numerous bills. The Legislature has until September 13, which is the date of adjournment, to consider legislation.

A few of the key bills and regulatory issues under consideration are:

ALRA-Mandatory Mediation

SB 25 (Steinberg; D-Sacramento) would expand mandatory mediation provisions under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) to future contract negotiations and allows for mediator-created collective bargaining agreements. SB 25 would disenfranchise agricultural workers by unionizing workers years after a union has abandoned negotiations.

The bill is pending Assembly consideration. Ag Council opposes SB 25 and is actively lobbying against the bill.

Fertilizer Tax

AB 69 (Perea; D-Fresno) would impose a one percent tax per dollar of fertilizer materials sold in California to lower nitrate in drinking water. In 2016, the bill would authorize an increase in the tax of up to four percent based upon specified circumstances in a nitrate fund.

Ag Council and a large coalition of ag organizations oppose AB 69. Instead, we support utilization of the $455 million in existing funds at the Department of Public Health to improve drinking water in disadvantaged communities.

Click HERE to read a copy of the letter entitled, “Ag Council Opposes Fertilizer Tax.”

Incentives for Air Quality Improvements

Ag Council supports two bills that would extend the sunset date for specific air quality improvement programs to 2024–SB 8 (Pavley; D-Agoura Hills) and AB 8 (Perea; D-Fresno).

The programs consist of ag-friendly efforts such as local diesel emissions reduction programs and the Carl Moyer program, which provides incentive grants for cleaner-than-required vehicles, engines and equipment to achieve air quality reductions that would not otherwise occur.

SB 11 is pending in Assembly Natural Resources Committee and AB 8 is awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

Prop 65

As a member of Governor Jerry Brown’s stakeholder group on Prop 65 over the past several weeks, Ag Council remains highly engaged on Prop 65 and is active in the ongoing discussions in both the regulatory and legislative arenas.

Click HERE to read more about Prop 65 activities and HERE to learn about how the issue impacts our members.

CDFA Schedules Milk Pricing Hearing

Photo courtesy of Aquafornia

Photo courtesy of Aquafornia

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) set a hearing on milk pricing for September 12, 2013 at 8 a.m. in the CDFA Auditorium located at 1220 N Street in Sacramento. The hearing will consider amendments to the Stabilization and Marketing Plans for Market Milk for the Northern California and Southern California Marketing Areas (Plans). 

The hearing notice comes after a petition was filed on July 22 requesting a hearing to consider a modification of the existing sliding scale utilized to determine a dry whey factor in the Class 4b formula and to replace the current temporary price adjustment with a new one, as specified in the petition. California Dairies Inc., California Dairy Campaign, Milk Producers Council and Western United Dairymen signed the petition. Land O’Lakes submitted a letter of support for the petition.

To read the CDFA hearing notice, click HERE. For the petition, click HERE.

DPR Monitors Pesticide Residues in Air

After conducting air monitoring in selected communities, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently determined that pesticide residue levels are “well below” the levels set to protect human health and the environment.

DPR Director, Brian Leahy said, “This is reassuring news for residents. Our monitoring in 2012 shows that none of the pesticides exceeded their screening levels, indicating a low health risk to the people in these communities. These findings indicate that the state and county restrictions are keeping air concentrations below the health protective targets set by DPR.”

This is the second consecutive year that residue levels for monitored pesticides did not exceed health screening levels developed by DPR.

To read more about the communities selected and pesticides monitored, click HERE.