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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

August 26, 2015


We’ve Heard You

Capitol_LStreet_2015When I took over as President of Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) in 2010, I made a commitment to our members to grow the association.  To that end, we have experienced membership growth each year for the last four years.

As part of this process, we have secured a contract with a third-party firm to conduct membership satisfaction surveys every other year.  Surveys have been conducted in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Our most recent survey focused on the newer members who joined Ag Council in the past three years.  We are pleased with the results.  Ag Council has an overall membership satisfaction of 90 percent.  Eighty percent cited legislative expertise and/or clout as reasons for joining.  The other 20 percent cited relationship-building opportunities.

On the other hand, when probed about areas of improvement, our members suggested enhancing our communications efforts.  Given the type of work we do, and the expertise of people we have on staff, this is not surprising.  Our team is entirely dedicated to policy work, outreach to legislators and regulatory officials and event planning.  And, with the amount of work Sacramento creates for us – with new developments in water, air, labor, Prop. 65 and numerous other issues on a daily basis – we need our staff committed to sorting out these critical issues and achieving the best possible outcomes for you.  That said, we look forward to finding enhanced ways to best share information and policy insight with our membership on a go-forward basis.

The funny part is – Ag Council comprises a team full of women.  And yet, our members suggest improving our communications efforts…Oh, the irony.

Lucky for us, this is a simple issue to resolve.  Using our member feedback, we are immediately improving our weekly newsletter, “In the Know.”

You can expect more timely legislative and regulatory updates, delivered mid-week.  We will commit a portion of the newsletter to bills moving through the Legislature that impact agriculture.  Additionally, regulatory developments will also be covered in a shorter format and for those of you interested in taking a deeper dive on a specific issue, a link will guide you to a website or information will be available to give appropriate staff a call.  The newsletter will also outline expectations for what’s up next on the legislative docket.  On occasion, we will also highlight influential legislators, as well as more editorial content and other items of interest to our membership.

We are hopeful that the changes will be of value to you.  If you have additional feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Ag Council.

Sincerely,
Emily Rooney
President

CDFA Develops the Office of Environmental Farming & Innovation

With budget funds moving more and more toward the nexus of farming and the environment, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is creating the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation. CDFA Science Adviser Dr. Amrith Gunasekara is leading the office to provide incentives to farmers and ranchers whose practices improve ecosystems, air quality, and wildlife and its habitat.

Examples of programs under the office’s purview include CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) and its Dairy Digester Research and Development Program. Both are recipients of funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund via the state cap and trade program. In addition, CDFA’s critical pesticide and Prop 65 advisory role to other agencies and departments falls under the new office’s jurisdiction.

In a recent statement, Steve Lyle with CDFA’s Office of Public Affairs said, “The Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation will build on the foundation of collaboration CDFA has already established with the scientific community–in the public and private sectors—to identify net environmental impacts of farming and ranching on the environment, including ecosystem services, or benefits provided by agriculture.”

Fiscal Committee Deadline This Week

August 28 is the last day for both the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees to meet and report bills to the floor of their respective chambers.  Ag Council has taken positions on the following policy bills, among others, under consideration in the fiscal committees this week.

Antibiotics
SB 27 by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo) – Antibiotics use in livestock & poultry
Position: Neutral /Working with the author

Climate Change
SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) – Mandates further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions
Position: Opposed

Energy
SB 350 by Senator de Leon (D-LA) – Mandates a 50 percent reduction of petroleum based fuels & a 50 percent increase in power generation from renewable fuels, among other provisions
Position: Opposed

Excavation 
SB 119 by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo) – Excavation/811-Call before you dig
Position: Neutral/Working with the author on ag-related issues

Fish & Wildlife
AB 1201 by Assemblyman Salas (D-Bakersfield) – Directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a science-based approach to address the predation of protected species by predators in the Delta
Position: Support

Labor
SB 3 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) – Minimum wage increase to $13 by 2017
Position: Opposed

AB 561 by Assemblywoman Campos (D-San Jose) – Limits due process at the Agricultural Labor Relations Board
Position: Opposed

Water
AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) – Improves the efficiency of groundwater adjudications
Position: Support

SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) – Makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Position: Opposed

August 21, 2015


Legislators Return to Sacramento

State Capitol

State Capitol

Legislators returned to the State Capitol from summer recess on August 17 for the final month of legislative work. The deadline for bills to be approved in the Legislature is September 11, 2015.  After that date, the Legislature is in adjournment and takes no further action on bills.  In the meantime, a flurry of activity is taking place in the Capitol, and Ag Council is engaged in several policy areas, including the following measures listed below.

Climate Change

SB 32 – Greenhouse gas emissions
Position: Opposed
SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and then to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Labor

SB 3 – Minimum wage increase
Position – Opposed
SB 3, by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), raises the minimum wage to $11 per hour in January 2016 and increases it to $13 per hour beginning July 2017. SB 3 then raises minimum wage according to inflation in subsequent years.

AB 561 – Limits due process at ALRB
Position – Opposed
AB 561 by Assemblywoman Campos (D-San Jose) limits an employer’s due process rights for appeals of an order by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and may discourage employers from appealing an adverse order altogether.

Energy

SB 350 – Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act
Position: Opposed
Ag Council opposes SB 350 by Senator de Leon (D-Los Angeles) because it mandates a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum-based fuels, requires a 50 percent reduction in energy use in existing buildings, and dictates a 50 percent increase in power generation from renewable energy sources – all by 2030. SB 350 is costly and threatens energy affordability.

Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

SB 27 – Antibiotics use in livestock & poultry
Position: Neutral /Working with the author

The bill, by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo), limits antibiotics use in livestock and poultry. Beginning January 2018, the bill prohibits the administration of medically important antibiotics to livestock unless ordered by a veterinarian through a prescription or via a veterinary feed directive. Medically important antibiotics are those used in humans, as well as livestock and poultry. SB 27 also prohibits the administration of a medically important antibiotic to livestock solely to increase weight gain or to improve feed efficiency.

Water

AB 1390 – Improving the efficiency of groundwater adjudications
Position – Support
AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) makes the groundwater adjudication process more efficient and facilitates earlier settlement of groundwater adjudications whereby courts determine groundwater rights in a basin.

SB 226 – Changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Position – Opposed
SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved in 2014, in a manner that raises concerns about water rights.

In addition to the above bills, and others not listed, Ag Council staff is engaged in other policy issues as they arise at the end of the legislative session.

CalRecycle Composting Regulation Update

For several months, Ag Council staff and other agricultural groups have worked with the department known as CalRecycle to address issues within a proposed regulation that originally cast a wide net to regulate certain common agricultural practices.

At a meeting held on August 18, staff at CalRecycle formally recommended that Department Director Scott Smithline move forward to adopt the proposed regulation – called the Composting Material, Transfer/Processing Regulation (known to some Ag Council members as the composting regulation).

This regulation now includes several changes requested by the agricultural community. Ag Council considers the changes recently made to the proposed regulation a positive improvement given where the regulation began. The regulation was overly broad, and Ag Council worked on behalf of affected members to lessen the regulatory burden, provide greater flexibility, and obtain exclusions where possible.

Given the improvements, Ag Council staff attended the August 18 meeting and expressed appreciation to CalRecycle staff for addressing specific agricultural issues within the regulation.  In addition, Ag Council relayed concern over the future unknown impact that this regulation may have on emerging technologies and practices within our industry.

Specifically, we worked to address three key areas:
· Changes were made in the definitions to exclude some agricultural practices from a piece of the regulation regarding land application of agricultural byproducts.  The original version of this language could have adversely impacted various products used for feed in dairies, such as almond hulls.

· The regulation now has greater flexibility for storing or stockpiling agricultural material, green material and compost.

· Recognizing that California is trying to incentivize the expansion of dairy digesters in the state, Ag Council worked to ensure that dairies performing co-digestion operations would be in the most minimal reporting notification category possible. This would apply to dairies that import solid waste to co-digest with manure in accordance with Waste Discharge Requirements issued by a Regional Water Quality Control Board. Dairies that co-digest manure and agricultural material derived on-site, imported agricultural material, and/or imported vegetative food material would not be subject to this regulation.

The composting regulation is available in its entirety by clicking HERE. Please contact Rachael O’Brien in Ag Council’s office with any questions at ph. (916) 443-4887.

UC Davis Releases New Economic Study of Drought Impacts

UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences released a report on August 19 entitled the Economic Analysis of the 2015 Drought for California Agriculture.

Though the analysis declares that “farmers are showing more resilience to the drought than many had anticipated,” the report also foretells more challenging times ahead if the drought persists stating the “continuation of the drought to 2016 or beyond with similar intensity is likely to slowly erode the state’s agricultural production and employment.”

Notable findings in the analysis include the following:
· In 2015, about 542,000 acres will be fallowed

· Groundwater use is offsetting nearly 70 percent of the water shortage

· This year, crop revenue losses of $902 million are estimated

· The drought is causing about $1.84 billion in direct agricultural costs and 10,100 seasonal job losses

· Economic losses in all sectors are predicted to soar up to $2.74 billion with about 21,000 total jobs lost in 2015

To read more in the detailed economic analysis, click HERE.

DWR Identifies Draft List of Critically Overdrafted Groundwater Basins

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently released the draft list of critically overdrafted groundwater basins in California, which are determined by analyzing subsidence, reduction of groundwater storage, declining water levels and sea water intrusion.

The designation is important because under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014, high and medium priority basins subject to conditions of critical overdraft are required to be managed under groundwater sustainability plans or coordinated groundwater sustainability plan by January 31, 2020.

Click HERE for a statewide map showing the basins in critical overdraft (draft document as determined by DWR and released in August).

DWR is holding an informational meeting on August 25 in Clovis, CA and an online webinar on August 26 to discuss the draft list of critically overdrafted basins, click HERE for further details. Ag Council staff will participate in the webinar.

August 6, 2015


California Competes Tax Credit- Applications Open

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has opened up the California Competes Tax Credit Application Periods for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.

California Competes is an income tax credit available to businesses that want to stay and grow in California or come to California. Accountability for the credit is tied to achieving contractual (hiring/investment) milestones. The program has approximately $200 million in available tax credits.

Previously, this tax credit has been awarded to businesses in the areas of dairy products manufacturing, food processing, agricultural shipping product manufacturing, and bee hive cultivation, among others.

GoBiz is hosting an online webinar about the California Competes Tax Credit on August 10, 2015. Click HERE to register. Small, medium, and large businesses are encouraged to join the webinar and learn more about how to apply. GoBiz also has a team available to assist applicants with the application process.

Applications for the California Competes Tax Credit are accepted online HERE during the following periods:
1. July 20, 2015, through August 17, 2015
2. January 4, 2016, through January 25, 2016
3. March 7, 2016, through March 28, 2016

Ag Groups Provide Comments to DPR on Pesticide Use

Ag Council and other ag organizations provided comments to the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) on July 31 urging against the adoption of further regulations relating to pesticide use near schools.

Existing regulations already protect public health and the environment. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DPR undertake a rigorous scientific review process of pesticides to ensure no unreasonable adverse effects. In addition, among other regulatory measures, California is the only state with a system to issue permits to prevent possible adverse effects.

Ag Council and others support the current science-based regulations in place in California and there is no justification for regulatory changes regarding pesticides.

Click HERE to read the detailed comment letter to DPR.

Take Action to Oppose the Minimum Wage Hike

With San Francisco raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 and Los Angeles raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, some in the State Legislature continue to push for SB 3, by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), to increase the minimum wage in California by 63 percent in two phases: 1) raise it to $11 per hour in January 2016 and 2) increase it to $13 per hour beginning July 2017. SB 3 then raises minimum wage according to inflation in subsequent years.

Ag Council and numerous other ag and business groups are advocating against this mandate given that SB 3 imposes more costs onto the business community in California and limits job growth. California’s minimum wage is currently $9 per hour and will be raised to $10 in January 2016 under the existing law passed by the Legislature in 2013.

Ag Council encourages members to join us in opposing SB 3 by using the link in the “Take Action” section below.

TAKE ACTION
With SB 3 pending in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Ag Council urges members to go to our Action Center by clicking HERE to easily send a letter to your Assembly representative. Though the Legislature is currently in recess, SB 3 is expected to be considered soon after legislators return on August 17.

Next Newsletter

Ag Council’s In the Know e-newsletter is on a brief hiatus next week and returns the week of August 17 when the California State Legislature reconvenes. If there is any pertinent activity in the meantime, Ag Council will be sure to inform our members.