<
in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

September 24, 2015


Assemblywoman Irwin Visits Rice Harvest in Butte County

Asm. Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) visits BUCRA’s facilities with Pres. & CEO Carl Hoff and VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong

Asm. Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) visits BUCRA’s facilities with Pres. & CEO Carl Hoff and VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong

Ag Council member, Butte County Rice Growers Association (BUCRA), hosted Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), in Richvale for a tour on September 17 during rice harvest. Assemblywoman Irwin graciously spent an afternoon learning about the rice industry ranging from harvest to drying to the milling process.

Assemblywoman Irwin toured BUCRA’s drying and storage facilities with President & CEO Carl Hoff and learned about the cooperative, which began 100 years ago to meet the needs of farmers planting and harvesting rice. The drought was a particular area of discussion during the tour. Hoff discussed water conservation, showed Assemblywoman Irwin fallowed fields due to water cutbacks and talked about the critical importance of rice fields to 230 species of wildlife, including waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway.

The legislator also visited Gorrill Ranch, one of BUCRA’s over 400 members, where she took the opportunity to demonstrate her rice harvesting skills by driving a harvester in the field. Before leaving Richvale, she also viewed the milling process at Far West Rice.

As background, Assemblywoman Irwin is a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. We appreciate her strong interest in agriculture and thank her for taking the time to learn more about the rice industry.

Ag Council extends a special thank you to the following individuals for their help during the tour: BUCRA President & CEO Carl Hoff, BUCRA Chairman Carl Lindahl, BUCRA VP of Drying/Storage Steve Birdsong, Gorrill Ranch CEO Daniel Robinson, Gorrill Ranch Farm Manager Mark Breckenridge, and Far West Rice CEO Chris Davis.

In Case You Missed It – That’s a Wrap for the Legislature

With the California State Legislature in adjournment, Ag Council recently provided members with a wrap-up of 2015 legislative activity and the status of specific bills important to our members, including key measures that landed on Governor Brown’s desk. The governor has until October 11 to sign or veto legislation pending before him. In case you missed Ag Council’s summary from the previous newsletter, click HERE to read about the status of legislation in crucial issue areas.

CDFA Announces Vacancies on the Market Enforcement Committee

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is looking to fill vacancies on the newly created Market Enforcement Committee (MEC).  The MEC is an ad hoc committee that will advise the Market Enforcement Branch (MEB) on various issues within the administration, as well as enforcement functions of the branch.

The MEB enforces laws created to ensure stability in the agricultural marketplace and protect against unfair business practices between producers, handlers, and processors of California farm products.

To obtain further information and details on how to apply, along with the deadline, click HERE.

 

 

 

September 12, 2015


“That’s a Wrap” for the Legislature

State Capitol - Photo Credit : Reuters

State Capitol – Photo Credit: Reuters

On September 11, the California State Legislature wrapped up the 2015 regular session with the Assembly concluding after midnight, and the Senate finishing-up just prior to the Assembly.

As usual, it was a dramatic ending, with one major climate change measure stalling and another significantly pared-down in order to garner final approval. In addition, a deal on the regulation of marijuana in California came together while the special session on transportation funding remains pending with work continuing in the coming months to find a path forward to fund ailing transportation infrastructure in California. Also, a resolution denouncing Donald Trump – due to his comments about immigrants – even made its way through the State Senate.

With the Legislature adjourning , please read on for an overview of the measures Ag Council has been involved in over the past several months on behalf of our members, as well as the status of those bills.

Antibiotics

SB 27 by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo)

  • Addresses antibiotic resistance in humans via changes in how medically important antibiotics are used in livestock & poultry – provisions include the following:
    • Requires a veterinary prescription or a veterinary feed directive for medically important antibiotics used in livestock and poultry
    • CDFA to develop a voluntary monitoring system in coordination with the federal government to gather information on sales and use of medically important antibiotics and then review whether there is any correlation between use and findings of antibiotic resistance
    • CDFA must also develop stewardship guidelines for medically important antibiotics
  • Position: Neutral
  • Status: Approved by Legislature and heading to Gov. Brown’s desk

Climate Change

SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)

  • Mandates further reductions to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) specifically requiring that the Air Resources Board take action to lower GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and then 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Position: Opposed
  • Status: SB 32 did not have the votes to pass and will be considered next year

SB 350 by Senator de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

  • By 2030, the bill:
    • Raises the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% power generation from renewable fuels
    • Requires a 50% increase energy efficiency in buildings
  • The section requiring a 50% reduction of petroleum-based fuels was eliminated from the bill in order to garner enough votes for passage – many ag & business groups opposed the petroleum provision, including Ag Council
  • Position: No position after the petroleum reduction mandate was removed
  • Status: Passed by Legislature and signed by Governor Brown on October 7, 2015.

AB 1496 by Assemblyman Thurmond (D-Richmond)

  • Requires the Air Resources Board (ARB) to complete a comprehensive study of Short Lived Climate Pollutants, including an analysis of methane
  • Author accepted an amendment pursued by Ag Council and others to remove the provision in the bill that would have given authority to the ARB to reclassify methane as an air pollutant
  • Without the amendment, ARB would have been given the authority to bypass the existing science-based process required to reclassify methane, which includes an extensive public process
  • Position: Neutral with the ag amendment accepted by the author
  • Status: Passed Legislature and awaiting Gov. Brown’s consideration

AB 1288 by Assemblywoman Atkins (D-San Diego)

  • AB 1288 is a last minute “gut & amend” bill to expand the current Air Resources Board (ARB) membership from 12 to 14 and requires the two new members to be individuals who work directly with pollution burdened and vulnerable populations
  • Unlike other ARB members, AB 1288 does not require that the two new individuals have any experience, interest, and proven ability in the field of air pollution control
  • Position: Opposed and veto requested
  • Status: Approved by the Legislature and pending before Governor Brown where Ag Council and others have requested a veto

Excavation
SB 119 by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo)

  • Excavation/811-Call before you dig measure relating to the safety of subsurface installations
  • Among other provisions, requires an advisory committee in consultation with CDFA to address the long-term treatment of ag to ensure safe ag practices around high priority subsurface installations, such as natural gas infrastructure
  • Position: Neutral due to amendment stating that ag is treated as a unique industry with input from CDFA
  • Status: Approved by Legislature & sent to Gov. Brown for consideration

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
  • Status: Stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee

Food Labeling

ABX2-14 by Assemblyman Gatto (D-Silver Lake)

  • Bill would label food that is irrigated with water from the oil extraction process
  • After being provided with the facts about this issue, the author gave his commitment that the bill will not move forward
  • Position: Opposed
  • Status: Bill was not referred to policy committee and was not considered before the end of the legislative session

Labor


AB 561 by Assemblywoman Campos (D-San Jose)

  • Limits due process at the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) by requiring an employer, seeking a review of an ALRB decision, to post a bond in the amount of the entire economic value of the order as determined by ALRB
  • Position: Opposed and veto requested
  • Status: Passed by Legislature and sent to Gov. Brown for his review where Ag Council and others have requested a veto

AB 1513 by Assemblyman Williams (D-Ventura)

  • Voluntary “safe harbor” for employers paying piece rate to affirmatively defend against claims for failure to pay employees for rest and recovery periods and non-productive time
  • Position: This measure arose at the end of the legislative session, and Ag Council expressed support, if amended – however – requested amendments were not taken in the waning days of the session, so Ag Council did not take a position on the bill.
  • Status: Passed the Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Brown

SB 406 by Senator Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)

  • Significant expansion of the California Family Rights Act creating a separate 12 week protected leave of absence for employees
  • Increases costs, risk of litigation and is out of conformity with federal law by expanding the type of family members (in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, etc.) for whom leave may be taken
  • Position: Opposed and veto requested
  • Status: Passed Legislature and sent to Gov. Brown’s desk where Ag Council and others have requested a veto

SB 3 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)

  • Minimum wage increase to $13 by 2017
  • Position: Opposed
  • Status: Stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee

Water

AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville)

  • Improves the efficiency of groundwater adjudications during the court process – procedural bill that does not alter water rights
  • Position: Support
  • Status: Passed by Legislature and sent to Gov. Brown’s desk where Ag Council and others will ask that he sign the bill

SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)

  • Ensures adjudication process does not conflict with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – procedural measure that does not interfere with water rights
  • Position: Support
  • Status: Approved in the Legislature and awaiting Gov. Brown’s consideration where Ag Council and others will urge him to sign the bill

 

 

September 2, 2015


State Capitol

State Capitol

End of Legislative Session Brings Leadership Changes

With the end of the legislative session fast approaching on September 11, the State Capitol is full of activity. Sometimes amidst the hectic end of the session, along with the consideration of bills, comes leadership changes in the political parties and such changes have occurred in recent days.

In the Assembly, the Republican Caucus held a vote on September 1 and–starting in January 2016–Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) will replace Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) as the Republican Leader.

Olsen told the media, “One of the main purposes of having a transition timeline is to make sure the new leader, the incoming leader, can meet all the key partners that we work with across the state.”

Mayes is a freshman legislator whose district encompasses parts of both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Olsen is termed out the Assembly in 2016 and has a campaign account open to run for Senate, though she has not yet formally announced her candidacy.

On August 27, Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) was elected by the Senate Republican Caucus as the new Minority Leader taking over the helm immediately from the previous leader Senator Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) who is running for election on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. After the election, Fuller said, “I’m eager to get started.”

In the majority party, much of the speculation regarding leadership changes has centered around Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) given that she faces a 2016 term limit in the Assembly and plans to run for Senate. Atkins recently circulated a letter requesting that Democratic lawmakers commit to a January 2016 vote to replace her in an effort to “ensure lawmakers were not distracted during the final, crucial stretch of the legislative year,” according to a spokesperson for Speaker Atkins.

Ag Council appreciates the leadership of our elected officials and looks forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of our members with those selected to serve in leadership positions in the Legislature.

Prop 65 Update

By Ag Council President Emily Rooney
Originally printed in Almond Advantage – a publication by the Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) 

As summer winds down and kids return to school, I’m reminded of how our job at Ag Council is about constant education. Due to a recent leadership change at the Office of Environmental Health (OEHHA), which oversees Proposition 65 and a number of other environmental regulations, we are once again educating agency officials about how Prop 65 impacts the food and agricultural industries in California.

Prop 65 was approved as a voter initiative in 1986, with the goal of protecting drinking water and reducing exposure to chemicals that may cause cancer or birth defects. The broadly written law has considerable implications for agriculture. For example, some substances on the list are naturally occurring in the environment and therefore are absorbed by plants. If potential exposure levels exceed regulations, a warning label could be required on healthy foods.

There are two significant materials currently up for consideration before OEHHA that impact agriculture directly—bisphenol A (BPA) and lead.

BPA is utilized in minimal amounts for food safety purposes in a handful of food packaging materials. There have been concerns raised about BPA and possible hazards to fetuses, infants, and young children. However, several comprehensive assessments conducted by FDA, including one as recent as July 2014, state, “BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods.” Due to buyer demand, many in the food industry are conducting studies to seek out replacements for BPA, but there are not many alternatives readily available and it takes years to determine whether other formulations hold up to the same food safety standards.

Lead is prevalent throughout the environment in California. It is a compound in our soil, absorbed by plants and manifests itself in a variety of foods. The FDA studies lead and other contaminants and nutrients in the food supply in its “Total Diet Study.” In the most recent study, there are 10 pages of foods tested for lead, with varying degrees of its presence in a wide variety of foods.

The outcomes of OEHHA’s determinations on these two substances will influence how they manage similar chemicals in the future. BPA is used for food safety purposes. OEHHA is likely going to amend its regulation regarding naturally occurring compounds and routes of exposure regarding lead.

These two regulations could be precedent-setting given that many other food safety and naturally occurring chemicals found in food production are on the Prop 65 list. Therefore, Ag Council is heavily engaged with the agency and other stakeholders.

To help the new leadership at OEHHA understand how strict interpretations of the law can be detrimental to food production, and not necessarily have any clear benefit for the general public, Ag Council hosted a tour with OEHHA officials, at Pacific Coast Producers’ facility in Woodland in August. The agency representatives were impressed with the efficiency of PCP’s production facility and asked questions related to the regulation to gain a better understanding of food production.

A broad-based coalition of industry stakeholders are already coordinating a response to future regulations and hearings.   However, with the new leadership presence at OEHHA, it will be important to do as much “prerequisite” education as possible, and the recent facility tour provided an excellent learning opportunity for regulatory and legislative officials to better understand our issues.

We are hopeful that our education efforts with OEHHA will assist in their ability to develop meaningful regulations while recognizing the complexity of an evolving food system.

Coming Soon…Drought Rebate & Grant Program

In response to California’s drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order in the spring to establish a drought-focused rebate and grant program for the agricultural and industrial sectors.  One of the directives is to accelerate incentive funding for innovative water and energy saving technologies reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Energy Commission is tasked in the Executive Order with administering a Water Energy Technology (WET) program to provide state funding for projects that are beyond the research and development stage, and are commercially available, but not yet widely deployed in California.

The Energy Commission is proposing a potential allocation of up to $30 million assigned in three phases.  Phase one focuses on agriculture while phase two targets competitive grants for the industrial, commercial, and residential sector followed by a final phase for renewable energy powered desalination.

The program launch is expected this fall–contingent upon the Legislature funding the program.  Ag Council will keep our members up to date on the development of the program and where and when our members can take advantage of incentive dollars.

The Energy Commission developed a presentation about the proposed WET program, which can be viewed HERE.