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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

May 22, 2015


Ag Council's Legislative Reception from L-R: Pete Garbani with Land O'Lakes, Governor Jerry Brown, Ag Council President Emily Rooney and Bob Brown with CALAMCO.

Ag Council’s Legislative Reception from L-R: Pete Garbani with Land O’Lakes, Governor Jerry Brown, Ag Council President Emily Rooney and Bob Brown with CALAMCO.

Ag Council Members Connect with State Leaders on Key Issues During Legislative Day

On May 19, Ag Council members gathered in Sacramento for the association’s annual Legislative Day. Various industries and commodities were represented, each concerned with California’s ongoing drought and interested in building relationships with legislators from various parts of the state.

During outreach with legislators, Ag Council members emphasized their efficient use of water and explained the extraordinary water cutbacks that agriculture has been facing for years. Ag Council members also conveyed the family farming connection at the core of the association and utilized informational pieces to explain that 93 percent of California farms are family owned.

To confront some of the recent misinformation about agricultural water use, Ag Council developed handouts communicating that agriculture uses 40 percent of the water in the state and that nearly 30 percent of irrigated farmland will receive no surface water at all this year, among other statistics. The handouts were so well-received by legislators that Ag Council received requests for more and is distributing them to all legislators.

Legislative Reception 
Ag Council kicked-off events the evening prior to Legislative Day with its annual Legislative Reception attended by over 80 guests, including more than 20 bipartisan legislators, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, and Governor Jerry Brown. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the governor and legislators.

Legislative Day – Morning Session

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) 
On Legislative Day, the morning agenda began with Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), a freshman member of the State Legislature, who said he believes the newly elected legislators are working to be proactive rather than reactive due in part to longer term limits and the ability to be more measured in their approach. He told attendees that we “don’t need a legislative answer for everything,” which is a message Ag Council members appreciate. Low is a member of Speaker Atkins’ (D-San Diego) Leadership Team in the Assembly serving as Assistant Majority Whip.

Influential Legislator Award Presented to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) 
Next, the inaugural Influential Legislator Award was presented to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) by Ag Council Chair Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers. This award will be given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California.

“Assemblyman Perea personifies what is good in a political leader,” Ag Council President Emily Rooney said. “He has found ways to collaborate on issues that have allowed him to help his constituents, but have also been good policy for the entire state. And, even on issues where we may not agree, he always maintains an open door policy to Ag Council and its members.”

Flynn said, “Assemblyman Perea was a leading advocate for securing the $2.7 billion in funding for water storage in the 2014 water bond package. At the same time, he spoke out against the overly burdensome Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, demonstrating he truly understands that a healthy ag economy is good for the entire state of California.”

Perea currently serves as the Assembly Ag Committee Chair and has embraced that role by seeking to learn more about California agriculture and its efforts to use water efficiently.

Deputy Director Gary Bardini, Department of Water Resources
In an address on water issues, Gary Bardini, Deputy Director for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), highlighted areas of Governor Brown’s Water Action Plan, such as statewide water management, flood management and costs. He discussed the acceleration of grants to address drought issues. Bardini emphasized the desire of Governor Brown and his Administration to implement local and regional solutions on drought issues.

When asked about water storage, Bardini said there is a high level of readiness on certain projects, such as Sites and Temperance Flat, given the studies undertaken in the past. He talked about the need for those in support of projects to build as much support as possible from different stakeholders during the decision-making process underway at the California Water Commission.

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) 
Legislative Day attendees also heard from Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). Levine is the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair. Regarding water storage funding within the water bond, Levine said the Legislature did a few things to “bind our hands” and gave the decision-making authority on storage funding to the California Water Commission where those decisions will be made.

In response to a question about whether legislators will step-up their oversight of the state regulatory agencies, Levine said, “the muscle had atrophied on oversight” in the Legislature and there is resistance to oversight because the status quo works well for some people. He hoped people see him as an ally in this area given his recent oversight on how storage funds are being spent within the water bond.

Freight Transport Chief Heather Arias, California Air Resources Board 
Heather Arias, Freight Transport Branch Chief, California Air Resources Board (CARB) spoke about CARB’s recent coordination with other state agencies and stakeholders on a California Sustainable Freight Strategy. Arias said CARB staff is currently focused on analyzing and collecting both old and new data. In addition, staff is reaching out to the local air districts to assess regional enforcement and incentive funding needs.

Arias stated there is no commitment, as of now, to move forward with a facility-based emission cap for all types of major freight hubs and facilities. Arias also said CARB does not anticipate emission reduction requirements will be placed upon individual farmers. However, reductions in other areas could cause impacts from ripple effects. Given this, CARB economists will work on modeling to determine the potential challenges, such as cost recovery and infrastructure costs from moving to zero or near-zero emission technology.

CARB staff expects to bring a proposal to the full Board for consideration in the first half of 2016 including potential strategies, as well as the required environmental and economic analyses.

To view more photos from Legislative Day, click HERE.

Legislative Day Lunch with Sec. Ross

Sec. Ross with a group of Ag Council's members during Legislative Day.

Sec. Ross with a group of Ag Council’s members during Legislative Day.

During lunch, which featured products produced by Ag Council’s members, CDFA Secretary Ross spoke to Legislative Day attendees. She reminded attendees of her background as a former staff member at Ag Council, and she briefed the group on recent policies affecting agriculture.

Ross talked about Governor Brown and his Administration’s efforts to defend agriculture and how they have worked to tell the media and the public about the water cutbacks already in place for agricultural water users, as well as explain the significant toll the drought has taken on the agricultural community over the past four years.

Ross also discussed some of the beneficial funding for agriculture in Governor Brown’s May Budget Revision. Those funds include the following programs, which Ag Council members supported during their visits with elected officials during Legislative Day:
• $40 million for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) for grants to help farmers invest in water distribution and irrigation systems to save water. Funds for SWEEP derive from the Cap and Trade Program.

• $20 million for CDFA’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program to assist with the installation of dairy digesters in California and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The funds come from the Cap and Trade program.

Ag Council Members Meet with Legislators in the State Capitol

To prepare for visits in the Capitol with over 20 bipartisan legislators, Ag Council staff briefed attendees on the most critical issues and bills before the Legislature. Given the current state of the drought, water bills were a focus.  Key issues and legislation discussed during the Capitol visits with legislators included the following (this is not a comprehensive list):

Assemblywoman Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), third from right, with a team of Ag Council members from Blue Diamond Growers.

Assemblywoman Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), third from right, with a team of Ag Council members from Blue Diamond Growers.

• Support for AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) regarding streamlining adjudications

• Opposition to SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), which threatens water rights

• Opposition to SB 20 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) allowing well logs to be made publicly available

• Opposition to SB 687 by Senator Allen (D-Santa Monica) to require a renewable gas mandate in California

• Support for funding within Governor Brown’s May Budget Revisions for the SWEEP and dairy digester programs as detailed above

• Ag Council members also spoke about their efficient use of water and explained the toll of the longstanding drought on the ag community

In the most robust outreach effort to date, Ag Council members connected with about 50 legislators in all during their day and a half in Sacramento and helped make an impact on crucial issues pending before the State Legislature. Thank you to all who joined Ag Council for this important outreach effort.

 

May 8, 2015


Ag Council Testifies on Emergency Water Conservation Regulations

In early May, Ag Council President, Emily Rooney, testified before the State Water Resources Control Board (the Board) on the emergency regulation mandating water reductions in urban areas.

While many think agriculture does not participate in this program, some of Ag Council’s food processing members utilize water from municipal sources. Additionally, as an example, some farmers in the San Diego area utilize municipal water for agricultural production. Ag Council highlighted the need for water for food safety purposes and emphasized a willingness to work with the Board in order to address those needs.

As background, Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order on April 1, requiring the Board to issue a mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction of water usage in urban areas. Implementation of this program begins June 1.

Ag Council Comments on CalRecycle Composting Regulations

On April 21, California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) released a revised proposal for the Compostable Materials, Transfer/Processing Regulations for a 15-day comment period.

In a May 6 comment letter, Ag Council expressed appreciation that CalRecycle addressed some of our members’ concerns with a revised definition of land application and the inclusion of the agricultural by-product material definition.

However, Ag Council remains concerned about the proposal adding another layer of regulation where there is already adequate environmental oversight from another authority. In particular, Ag Council urged CalRecycle staff to provide more clarity regarding the need for the proposed regulations as they pertain to dairy farms and to include our recommendations.

Click HERE to read Ag Council’s letter highlighting our concerns.

Air Board Releases Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Concept Paper

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a concept paper on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) on May 7. In 2014, SB 605 was signed into law requiring ARB to develop, in coordination with other state agencies and local air districts, a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of SLCPs. As background, SLCPs include methane, black carbon and fluorinated gases.

ARB’s release of the concept paper marks the first step in developing that strategy. A public workshop is scheduled on May 27 to discuss the concept paper and overall strategy development and Ag Council is engaged in this process, given this issue affects agriculture.

ARB is fast-tracking the development of an initial draft strategy through public workshops over the summer. The draft strategy will be presented to ARB in the fall and will include specific actions over a broad array of economic sectors.

Click HERE to read the concept paper.

Next week….

Among other activities on the regulatory front, Ag Council is participating in the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) workshops on May 12-13 regarding Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) to ensure our members are represented.

CDFA’s objective at the workshops is to hear presentations on different strategy types and to discuss the feasibility and applicability of each strategy. CDFA then plans to identify and develop recommendations on reduction strategies for SLCPs to share with the California Air Resources Board for consideration in the SLCP mitigation plan that is underway.

May 1, 2015


Activity in the CapitolState_Capitol_2012jpg.150414

The State Capitol was bustling with activity in early May given the deadline for policy committees to hear and report fiscal bills to fiscal committees. Ag Council is engaged in and lobbying on legislation relating to water, climate change, excavation and other issues. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown made two major announcements pertaining to water and climate change this week. Please read on for further details.

 Legislation Considered this Week

AB 1390 (Alejo) – Groundwater Adjudications 
Ag Council supports Assemblyman Alejo’s (D-Watsonville) legislation pertaining to groundwater adjudications. The bill streamlines the groundwater adjudication process by which courts may undertake determinations of groundwater rights in a basin. AB 1390 protects water rights. The measure passed the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on April 28 where Ag Council spoke in favor of the bill. It now awaits action in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

SB 226 (Pavley) — Groundwater
Ag Council is strongly opposed to this groundwater bill by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) because the measure makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved in 2014, in a manner that raises concerns about water rights. SB 226 authorizes the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to intervene in a court proceeding to determine water rights if those agencies assert an interest in the proceeding.

AB 226 passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary on April 28 where Ag Council opposed the bill, and it is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

SB 20 (Pavley) – Well Logs 
Ag Council opposes legislation by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to make well logs publicly available. Agencies that need well log data already have access to the information. This data is confidential and releasing it to the public does not provide any advantage, except to render it subject to litigation.

SB 20 is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Ag Council is working with a coalition to build opposition to the measure in the Senate.

AB 1242 (Gray) — Impacts on Groundwater Basins 
Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) introduced AB 1242 in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to divert 350,000 acre-feet of water away from irrigators and municipalities on the Merced, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne rivers.

The bill requires the State Water Resources Control Board to take into account impacts on groundwater basins and consider alternatives when adopting or approving a water quality control plan. It also bars the Board from adopting plans without mitigating measures to minimize significant adverse impacts. Ag Council supports the bill.

On April 27, during consideration in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, Assemblyman Gray accepted amendments to require the State Water Resources Control Board to identify projects to restore fish populations rather than diverting water from local agencies. AB 1242 passed the Natural Resources Committee with the amendments on April 27 where Ag Council supported the measure. The bill moves to consideration in the Committee on Appropriations.

AB 311 (Gallagher) —Water Infrastructure
This measure to fast track water infrastructure projects funded by the water bond failed to pass this week during a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee.

In an attempt to build support for AB 311, Assemblyman Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) and others held a rally at the State Capitol to tout the merits of the bill. The rally was attended by many in the ag community, including Ag Council members. Unfortunately, the measure failed passage on reconsideration in the Natural Resources Committee. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Gallagher, would have provided the same streamlined environmental reviews that were given to the new entertainment and sports arena in Sacramento, which is now under construction.

SB 119 (Hill) – Excavations/811-Call Before You Dig
SB 119 establishes enforcement provisions relating to excavation violations under the 811-Call Before You Dig program. It is authored by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo). Ag Council recently participated in developing amendments to SB 119, along with others in the ag community, to address our concerns. The amendments limit the circumstances around which farmers and landowners must call 811. After recently receiving a commitment from the author that our amendments are acceptable, we are working to ensure the amendment language is included in SB 119 as the bill moves forward. The bill is pending review in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

SB 687 (Allen) – Biomethane mandate
AB 687 by Senator Allen (D-Santa Monica) creates a biomethane mandate. Ag Council is opposed to SB 687 because this measure would lead to higher costs, is a double tax on businesses in the cap & trade program and makes California businesses less competitive. SB 687 was approved by the Senate Committee on the Environmental Quality Committee on April 29 and is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Gov. Brown Unveils New Water Proposal

On April 30, Governor Brown released a plan to fix California’s water infrastructure system and accelerate Delta environmental projects, such as critical habitat, wetlands and floodplain restoration.

The plan includes a “refined tunnel option” supported by the Governor.  It is about half the size of the previous tunnel proposal, allows for gravity flow and lowers the electricity requirements.  Revised environmental documents for the proposal will be made public and available for comment in June 2015.  The cost of the project, estimated at $14.9 billion, will be paid for by the water agencies that benefit from the project.

Brown said, “We can’t just cross our fingers, hoping for the best in the Delta. Fish populations are at an all-time low. Bold action is imperative. We’ve listened to the public and carefully studied the science. This revised plan is the absolute best path forward.”

Click HERE for detailed information about the proposal.

Gov Brown Announces Aggressive Emissions Targets

On April 29, Governor Brown issued an executive order establishing an aggressive target for California to reduce greenhhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. The Governor views this action as an interim step toward later attaining an 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050. You can read the governor’s statement HERE.

The state is working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020 under the existing cap and trade program established by the Air Resources Board (ARB) to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which was signed into law in 2006.

Ag Council has members participating in the existing cap and trade program, and we are concerned about this extreme move by Governor Brown and are engaged in this issue.

In the Legislature, Ag Council opposes SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 32 was approved by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 29 and is under consideration in the Committee on Appropriations.

Ag Council supports AB 21 by Assemblyman Perea (D-Fresno) directing the ARB to recommend a 2030 target for cost-effective statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions to the Legislature and the Governor by Jan. 1, 2018 and consult with other state agencies regarding energy efficiency and electrification of the transportation system. AB 21 passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 28.