<
in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

September 26, 2014


Ag Council Speaks Out Against Fee Increases for Waste Discharge Permits

Ag Council President Emily Rooney spoke before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) this week to oppose the board’s proposal to increase water quality fees under the Waste Discharge Permit Fund. Ag Council members, particularly from the dairy community, also attended the board meeting to oppose the fee increases. This issue impacts many of our members.

Heading into the meeting, agriculture was facing fee increases on the Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) permit of 7.9 percent and 31.9 percent for the Confined Animal Facility (CAF) permit. The WDR permit is utilized when discharging wastewater to farmland. CAF is the permit required for dairies and large feedlots. In addition to these fee increases, the SWRCB staff recommended the board adopt an entirely new fee schedule for dairies in the North Coast and a cap on a discount for dairies that comply with an environmental certification program, known as the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP). This cap would have imposed a 90 percent fee increase on the state’s largest dairies.

SWRCB members DeeDee D’Adamo and Tam Doduc led a discussion expressing disappointment at the lack of stakeholder engagement in development and communication of the proposed fee schedule. Chair Felicia Marcus agreed. As a result, the board directed staff to develop a more comprehensive stakeholder engagement process and to report back at SWRCB’s December board meeting. They also requested additional analysis of compliance costs. Additionally, the board adopted a fee schedule implementing the fee increase on WDR, a 33 percent fee increase on CAF, excluding the cap on the certification discount and delaying the fee for the North Coast dairies. The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program has no fee increase at this time.

Ag Council is greatly concerned about the lack of stakeholder input and lack of transparency in the budget process. At the SWRCB meeting, Rooney urged the board to create a more collaborative working relationship with stakeholders by citing examples at the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Air Resources Board. She also committed to work with staff on its stakeholder process.

To read Ag Council’s comment letter against the proposal, click HERE.

Ag Council Annual Meeting in San Francisco March 4-5, 2015

SavetheDate_front

Mark your calendars for Ag Council’s 96th Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pac-West Customer Meeting, March 4-5, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. The Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser will be held at TPC Harding Park on March 4.

Ag Council looks forward to seeing our members and friends in San Francisco. Program information and registration will be available on Ag Council’s website in December.

September 19, 2014


Groundwater Legislation Signed into Law

After Governor Jerry Brown signed the groundwater legislative package into law on September 16, Ag Council released the following statement.

“Ag Council is disappointed the legislature and the governor did not provide an opportunity to develop groundwater legislation in a collaborative manner that would have created the best package possible, similar to the efforts undertaken to pass the water bond,” said Ag Council President Emily Rooney.

“The bills signed by the governor today create an enormous amount of uncertainty by calling into question existing water rights and property rights. Our organization has significant concerns about the legislation, including its very short implementation timeframe,” Rooney said.

“The process under which the legislature approved groundwater legislation was severely flawed given that it was confusing, rushed at the end of the legislative session and lacking in transparency with last-minute amendments to very complex bills,” Rooney said.

Ag Council supports local, groundwater management that addresses groundwater basins in chronic overdraft. Unfortunately, the legislative package signed by Governor Brown establishes a massive bureaucracy at every level of government that could stifle the agricultural economy and California’s ability to grow and produce food, as well as cost millions of dollars to implement.

Given the signing of the bills, Ag Council will actively engage in implementation of the measures, keeping in mind the rights and protections needed to sustain the agricultural community in California.

“We are hopeful for a more collaborative process through the development of the necessary regulations required for implementation of the legislation. This is where the real work begins to ensure that the outcomes make sense for all Californians,” said Rooney.

Ag Council Opposes Proposed Fee Increases for Waste Discharge Permits

Ag Council submitted comments on September 18 opposing the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) proposal to increase water quality fees under the Waste Discharge Permit Fund. The SWRCB will consider fee increases for this program at a board meeting on September 23.

Ag Council opposes the proposed fee increases and is greatly concerned about the lack of stakeholder input regarding the funding process for this program.

The proposed fee increases will impact Combined Animal Facilities (CAF), which affects California dairies, and the fee increases will impact the Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) program utilized by many Ag Council members. At this time, a fee increase is not proposed for the irrigated lands regulatory program. However, this could change next week and an increase could be proposed.

Another concern detailed in Ag Council’s comment letter is that stakeholders have not been included in the discussions related to the funding of programs and potential fee increases during the SWRCB’s budgeting process. Given this, Ag Council asks that the SWRCB establish stakeholder advisory committees to work with staff on budget projections and the development of fee schedules.

To read the entire comment letter from Ag Council, click HERE.

Ag Council will attend and speak out against the proposal at the SWRCB meeting on September 23 in Sacramento. We encourage other interested members to attend, as well. Meeting information and the SWRCB agenda is available HERE (see agenda item number eight).

Labor Bills Await Action by Gov. Brown

Three onerous labor measures opposed by Ag Council are awaiting Governor Brown’s consideration, and he has until September 30 to sign or veto the bills on his desk. Given that the bills will negatively impact the agricultural community, Ag Council has formally requested a veto of the following measures.

AB 1897 – Expanded Liability for Labor Contracting 

AB 1897 invokes liability for wage and hour violations for those who contract labor. The bill author is Assemblyman Hernandez (D-West Covina). The California State Legislature approved AB 1897 at the end of August.

Under the bill, any entity that obtains or is provided labor from a labor contractor is liable for:
• the payment of wages to the contractor’s employees
• all contributions, including tax contributions
• worker’s compensation coverage and OSHA requirements

AB 1897 is an unprecedented expansion of liability against innocent parties and increases litigation against those entities using contractors as part of their usual course of business. Current law already protects against unlawful contracting practices and abuse of contracted labor.

Ag Council opposed AB 1897 throughout the legislative session this year. Given the many concerns with the bill, Ag Council and others have asked Governor Brown to veto AB 1897. He has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

SB 25 – Denies Due Process
SB 25 by Senator Steinberg (D-Sacramento) was amended during August and subsequently passed by the legislature. The new bill raises the standard of proof for a stay of an administrative order by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to “clear and convincing evidence” of “irreparable harm” and “likelihood of success.” This denies due process to ag employers given that ALRB could enforce an administrative order before a court has undergone a review of that order.

The legislature approved SB 25, and it is awaiting consideration by the governor. Ag Council and many other ag groups have asked Governor Brown to veto SB 25.

AB 1792 — Publicly Shames Employers
The legislature passed AB 1792, by Assemblyman Gomez (D-Los Angeles), at the end of the session. AB 1792 publicly shames employers by requiring California employers, with over 100 employees enrolled in Medi-Cal, to be listed online.

The listed employers could be subject to liability, protests, and media attacks. At the same time, the public would not have a full understanding of all costs borne by employers.

Given the absurdity of AB 1792, Ag Council opposed this measure. Unfortunately, it was approved by the legislature, and Ag Council joined with others to ask Governor Brown to veto the bill.

If you are an Ag Council member and have any questions about these or any other state legislative measures, please do not hesitate to contact Ag Council at ph. 916.443.4887.

September 12, 2014


Hundreds of Bills Await Action by Gov. Brown

With the recent adjournment of the 2014 legislative session, attention is now focused on Governor Jerry Brown as he continues to review the bills approved by the California State Legislature at the end of August. Measures regarding groundwater and labor issues are among the hundreds of bills on the governor’s desk.

Governor Brown must sign or veto bills approved at the end of the legislative session by September 30, as required by the California Constitution.

Ag Council is urging Governor Brown to veto several bills on his desk this month. Read on to learn more.

Ag Council Urges Gov. Brown to Veto Groundwater Package

Ag Council and many of our members sent a letter calling upon Governor Brown to veto the three groundwater measures passed by the Legislature, SB 1168 and SB 1319 authored by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and AB 1739 by Assemblyman Dickinson (D-Sacramento).

Among the concerns with the groundwater legislation is that it fails to recognize groundwater as a beneficial use, threatens existing water rights, requires millions of dollars in fees to implement, does not streamline adjudications, and the legislation was pushed through at the end of the legislative session without one policy hearing on the amended legislation.

We want to work with both the governor and the Legislature to more carefully develop groundwater legislation in a collaborative manner, similar to the process undertaken on the water bond, to create the best package possible that is not connected to chaos at the end of the legislative session.

Click HERE to read the veto letter from Ag Council and many of our members to Governor Brown.

Labor Measures on Gov. Brown’s Desk

Several labor bills opposed by Ag Council are among the measures sent to Governor Brown at the end of the legislative session. Ag Council, and a coalition of others, formally requested a veto of the following bills described below.

AB 1897 – Expanded Liability for Labor Contracting
The Legislature approved AB 1897 by Assemblyman Hernandez (D-West Covina), which invokes liability for wage and hour violations for those who contract labor. Specifically, any entity that obtains or is provided labor from a labor contractor is liable for: 1) payment of wages to the contractor’s employees, 2) all contributions, including tax contributions, and 3) worker’s compensation coverage and OSHA requirements.

AB 1897 is an unprecedented expansion of liability against innocent parties and increases litigation against those entities using contractors as part of their usual course of business. Current law already protects against unlawful contracting practices and abuse of contracted labor.

Ag Council has opposed AB 1897 throughout the legislative session. Given the many concerns with the bill, Ag Council and others have asked Governor Brown to veto AB 1897. He has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

SB 25 – Denies Due Process 
SB 25 by Senator Steinberg (D-Sacramento) was amended during August and subsequently passed by the Legislature. The new bill raises the standard of proof for a stay of an administrative order by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to “clear and convincing evidence” of “irreparable harm” and “likelihood of success.” This denies due process to ag employers given that ALRB could enforce an administrative order before a court has undergone a review of that order.

The Legislature approved SB 25, and it is awaiting consideration by the governor. Ag Council and many other ag groups have asked Governor Brown to veto SB 25.

AB 1792 — Publicly Shames Employers
The Legislature passed AB 1792, by Assemblyman Gomez (D-Los Angeles), at the end of the session.  AB 1792 publicly shames employers by requiring California employers, with over 100 employees enrolled in Medi-Cal, to be listed online.  The listed employers could be subject to liability, protests, and media attacks.  At the same time, the public would not have a full understanding of all costs borne by employers.

Given the absurdity of AB 1792, Ag Council opposed this measure. Unfortunately, it was approved by the Legislature, and Ag Council has joined with others to ask Governor Brown to veto the bill.

Wage Lien Bills Fails in Senate

The wage lien measure, AB 2416 by Assemblyman Stone (D-Scotts Valley), failed passage by a vote of 13-15 in the Senate at the end of August. Ag Council and many other organizations opposed this measure, and we are pleased the Senate rejected this dangerous and unfair bill.

As background, under AB 2416, employees and employees’ representatives, including creditors, could file unproven wage liens–for any wage violation–against the real and personal property of an employer. AB 2416 would violate due process by not providing a realistic opportunity for an employer to prevent the taking of their property through an unproven, pre-judgment wage lien.