in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

May 17, 2014

Gov. Brown Releases Budget Revision

With costs $2 billion higher than expected this year, Governor Jerry Brown urged “restraint and prudence” in releasing his revised budget plan this week, called the May Revise. State costs are higher due to a million more Californians being added to Medi-Cal, among other expenses.

Governor Brown said, “The May Revision is good news for California. It shows that California can provide health care to many more people, while at the same time paying its debts and shoring up the long-troubled teachers’ retirement system.”

The governor resisted calls from Democrat legislators to put more funding into social programs. Brown said, “We must recognize we’ve done a lot already and we haven’t paid for what we’ve done.”

For the most part, Governor Brown’s budget does not make major changes at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

However, the May Revise does include an increase of over $3 million to ensure all 16 of CDFA’s border stations are staffed year-round. The border stations are the first line of defense to protect California agriculture from invasive species through the inspection of commodities transported in vehicles entering the state.

On another issue, during a call this week with Ag Council and others, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said she continues to work on funding for the state animal labs to ensure protection of animal health. She is working with the Department of Finance and members of the Legislature on this matter.

As background, CDFA State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones attended an Ag Council Dairy Committee meeting earlier this year to discuss the dire need for this funding given the ongoing threats to animal health, and Ag Council has been working to help secure more funds to support the animal labs.

The May Revise contains $141 million in one-time drought-related expenditures reflecting increased state costs for: emergency response, firefighting, drought monitoring, assessment of groundwater conditions, expediting water transfers, enforcement of drought-related water rights and water curtailment actions, water conservation at state facilities, food assistance and other activities.

Rainy Day Fund
This week, the Legislature approved a measure with bipartisan support to place a new Rainy Day Fund on the November ballot. The Rainy Day Fund, a key element of the governor’s budget, sets aside 1.5 percent of state general fund revenue annually to pay down debt and the plan also diverts spikes in capital gains taxes into the fund. After the governor signs the Rainy Day Fund measure, the proposal must gain approval by voters on the November ballot.

The Legislature is now undertaking the task of finalizing the state budget. It must be approved by June 15, per the California constitution.

Read more about the May Revise in the governor’s press release HERE.

Employers Hiring Labor Contractors are Targeted under AB 1897

Ag Council and many others in the ag and business community continue to oppose AB 1897 by Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina). The measure establishes civil liability for employers that obtain workers from third party labor contractors.

Under AB 1897, an employer would share all civil legal responsibility and liability with a labor contractor for the payment of wages, the failure to report employer contributions, worker contributions and personal income tax withholdings, as well as the failure to obtain valid coverage for workers’ compensation.

AB 1897 would discourage the use of labor contractors because it mandates that a company insure wages, workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety requirements of another employer’s workers. In addition, AB 1897 would lead to increases in litigation against those who use contractors as part of their business.

The measure is pending consideration in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations where Ag Council continues to oppose the bill.

Food Labeling Measure Pending in Committee

This week, the bill to require labeling of genetically engineered food in California, SB 1381 authored by Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), was placed on suspense in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and it will be further considered at a later date.

SB 1381 is on the suspense file because the Appropriations Committee determined there are significant costs to the state government if SB 1381 is signed into law. Specifically, committee staff stated in an analysis that SB 1381 would cost the state $1.1 million in its initial year of implementation and $850,000 in ongoing state costs to enforce the measure’s labeling requirements on manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Ag Council and other opponents are now working to keep SB 1381 on the suspense file. Bills on the suspense file are considered at a hearing after the state budget is developed.

In addition to the state fiscal concerns being raised with the Appropriations Committee, Ag Council and others oppose the bill because it increases food costs for consumers, expands liability, and is not grounded in science.

Click HERE to view the opposition letter from Ag Council and a large coalition of other groups.

Agreement Reached on Bill to Reassess Business Properties under Prop 13

This week, changes were agreed upon in a bill addressing the manner in which commercial properties are reassessed under Proposition 13 when the property changes hands. Proposition 13, approved by voters in 1978, established a formula to limit property tax increases.

The amendments to the bill, AB 2372 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would allow a commercial property’s value to be reassessed when 90 percent of that property changes ownership in a three-year period. The amendment does not include incremental changes like the buying and selling of stock. Under current law, property is reassessed to market value when a single buyer acquires at least 50 percent ownership in a single transaction.

The author originally wanted a split roll system where business property would be removed from the tax limits in Proposition 13. Business groups strongly opposed such a move and that view led to a long-term dispute with liberal groups who support a split roll. The amendment this week is a compromise between the various factions.

AB 2372 is now awaiting consideration in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.



May 9, 2014

Deal Reached on Rainy Day Fund

Governor Jerry Brown negotiated a bipartisan deal this week with legislative leaders to create a Rainy Day Fund to be used by the state during economic downturns and to pay down debt and accelerate the payment of unfunded liabilities.

Governor Brown said, “Democrats and Republicans have come together to create a Rainy Day Fund that ensures we’re not only saving for the next downturn, but also paying off our debt.”

The deal sets aside 1.5 percent of state general fund revenue annually for the Fund and diverts spikes in capital gains taxes into the Fund. It is scheduled for a vote in the Legislature next week.

Republican lawmakers conditioned their support on an annual contribution into the Rainy Day Fund, which is now included in the plan, and Republican leaders have expressed support for the effort. Bipartisan support is needed for the plan given that a two-thirds vote is required for passage and, with three Democrat lawmakers suspended due to criminal charges, the state Senate does not have a two-thirds supermajority.

If approved by the Legislature, the new plan would replace an existing ballot measure on the November 2014 ballot. The current ballot measure to establish a reserve fund was crafted in 2010, and it is being criticized by unions and others. Such criticism led Governor Brown to develop the new plan for a Rainy Day Fund.

Click HERE to read the Governor’s press release.

May Budget Revision

Governor Jerry Brown is expected to soon release his 2014-2015 budget revision, called the “May Revise.”  Ag Council will provide information to members regarding any issues affecting agriculture once the budget revision is released.

In the meantime, the Legislature is taking steps to include changes to groundwater policy within the budget process. Over concern about where such action may lead, Ag Council and others are asking legislators not to mandate groundwater policy decisions within the budget because that process does not allow for appropriate input from stakeholders.

Because groundwater is an extraordinarily complex issue, we fear policy decisions made within the state budget process will result in far-reaching changes to groundwater policy in California without appropriate stakeholder comment and involvement. Click HERE to read a recent letter signed by Ag Council.

Food Labeling Bill

Ag Council continues to advocate against SB 1381, which is a bill mandating the labeling of genetically engineered food in California. Ag Council opposes the measure because it increases food costs, expands liability, and is not grounded in science. Over 400 scientific studies conducted on genetically engineered food show the food is safe for consumption. The author of the measure is Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa).

The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to hear SB 1381 on May 12. Ag Council and other opponents are urging legislators to place SB 1381 on the suspense file where it could be held due to the fiscal impact of the bill on the state.  To read our opposition letter, click HERE.

In Case You Missed It

Last week, Ag Council’s newsletter contained a status update relating to legislation we are involved with including bills regarding the labeling of genetically engineered food, pesticide use, and antibiotics in farm animals. Click HERE to read more.

Vacancies on Fertilizer Subcommittee

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has four openings on its Fertilizer Research and Education Program’s (FREP) Technical Advisory Subcommittee. Members of the subcommittee make recommendations to the Fertilizer Inspection Advisory Board for the funding of research and education projects.

The purpose of FREP is to fund research efforts to advance the environmentally safe use and handling of fertilizer materials in agriculture. Click HERE for the qualifications needed and instructions on how to apply.




May 2, 2014

GMO Food Fight Continues

The California measure mandating the labeling of genetically engineered food, SB 1381 by Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), was removed from consideration in the Senate Agriculture Committee this week. SB 1381 was scheduled for a hearing. However, the Senate Rules Committee pulled SB 1381 from Agriculture Committee consideration, and the bill is now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Ag Council opposes SB 1381 because it increases foods costs, expands liability and is not grounded in science. Ag Council continues to work with a large coalition of opponents to stop the bill in the Legislature.

Though SB 1381 bypassed the Ag Committee, we appreciate our members who weighed-in to urge legislators to oppose SB 1381. Your outreach is important as we now work against the bill in the Appropriations Committee.

Click HERE to read the latest coalition letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) opposing SB 1381.

Pesticide Bill Stopped in Committee

A measure opposed by Ag Council to require impractical notification requirements prior to the application of certain pesticides and soil fumigants failed in the Senate Ag Committee on April 24.

SB 1411 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would have mandated a one week detailed notice before application near schools, residences and hospitals located within 660 feet of the perimeter of an aerial or air blast application for cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides or any soil fumigation.

Ag Council opposed the measure because California already has the strictest regulatory controls in the world relating to pesticides. In addition, in 2012, the federal government finalized a review of soil fumigants resulting in new pesticide application and notification requirements that were recently implemented. The state ag commissioners and numerous other ag groups also opposed SB 1411.

After an amendment offered by Agriculture Committee Chair Cathleen Galgiani was rejected by Senator Jackson (the author), SB 1411 failed with Senator Galgiani (D-Stockton), Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), and Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) voting in opposition, and Senate Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) voting in favor of the measure.

Bill Addressing Antibiotics in Farm Animals is Tabled

A bill opposed by Ag Council and others to create a costly and burdensome regulatory scheme for antimicrobials used by California farmers and ranchers producing meat, milk and eggs was not considered this week in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. The measure, AB 1437 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), did not have enough votes for approval. Assemblyman Mullin tabled the measure prior to the committee hearing due to opposition.

Ag Council opposed AB 1437 because it would hinder the ability of farmers and ranchers to respond to health needs by requiring a prescription for all medically important antibiotics. In addition, under AB 1437, the use of antibiotics would have to be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the information would be posted on a public website.

Farmers and ranchers work very hard to maintain the health of their animals, and this bill would have severely limited their ability to treat animals to prevent the spread of disease. AB 1437 is not expected to return this legislative session.

Click HERE for a Sacramento Bee article regarding AB 1437, which mentions Ag Council’s opposition.

SB 835
Another bill relating to antibiotics, SB 835 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), reflects work already being conducted at the federal level by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a voluntary process allowing drug manufacturers to change their labels to remove growth production and efficiency from approved label uses for antimicrobials that are medically important to humans. SB 835 gives the CDFA Secretary authority to deny registration of antibiotics that do not meet the FDA guidance now in place. The bill passed the Senate and is now pending in the Assembly.

Snow Survey Reveals Bleak Results

This week, after conducting the final snow survey of the year, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced the water content in statewide snowpack is at 18 percent of average for this time of year.

In response to the dismal snow survey findings, DWR Director Mark Cowin said, “Anyone who doesn’t think conservation is important should drive up the hill and take a look. Coupled with half our normal rainfall and low reservoir storage, our practically nonexistent snowpack reinforces the message that we need to save every drop we can just to meet basic needs.”

DWR also said in a press release this week, “With most of the wet season behind us, it is highly unlikely late-season storms will significantly dampen the effects of the three-year drought on parched farms or communities struggling to provide drinking water.”

The State Water Project’s (SWP) main reservoir, Lake Oroville, is at 53 percent of capacity. Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), is also at 53 percent of its capacity. The San Luis Reservoir, utilized by both SWP and CVP water users, is at 47 percent of capacity.

To read more results from the snow survey, click HERE.