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in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

March 24, 2016


California Air Resources Board staff during a tour with Ag Council and others at the Kern Dairy Cluster on March 26, 2016.

California Air Resources Board staff during a tour with Ag Council and others at the Kern Dairy Cluster on March 16, 2016.

 

Dairy Tour with Air Resources Board Staff

On March 16, a dozen staff from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) made their way down the San Joaquin Valley to Bidart Dairy outside of Bakersfield. Ag Council organized this tour, along with Michael Boccadoro from Dairy Cares, for the purpose of educating regulatory staff and decision makers on the day-to-day operations of a dairy, and to show them how dairies can lead the way on manure management in California.

CARB staff began the afternoon with a tour from John Bidart, owner and operator of Bidart Dairy and co-founder of CalBio. The tour included a visit to his covered lagoon digester, the largest dairy digester in California. Following the tour, the group discussed air quality issues such as short-lived climate pollutants and a renewable compressed natural gas pilot project, fueled with dairy biogas, to advance the development of California’s sustainable freight transportation system.

The group ended the tour with a bus ride around the proposed pilot project for the Kern Dairy Cluster. The cluster is undertaking an ongoing effort to build digesters with duel electricity and fuel generation on neighboring dairies to not only contribute to the reduction of manure methane but also play an innovative role in the future of sustainable transportation.

Specifically, Bidart Dairy’s digester became operational and began delivering commercial electricity in 2013 and two other dairies received funding from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 2015. Several more will follow in the coming years to build out this groundbreaking effort that benefits both the dairy industry and improves air quality for the local community.

Ag Council appreciates staff from CARB for taking the time to learn more about dairies in California.

We also thank Bidart Dairy, a member of California Dairies, Inc., for opening up their dairy to state officials. Tours are an important part of Ag Council’s effort to connect with legislators and regulatory officials to discuss critical issues facing our members. Click HERE to learn more.

Ag Overtime Wage Measure Set for Committee Hearing

342917201The bill to phase-in new ag overtime wage requirements is scheduled for consideration in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment on April 6. The measure is opposed by Ag Council and others.

The bill, AB 2757 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), repeals the current overtime wage requirement in California for agricultural workers, which pays overtime after 10 hours of work in a day, and phases in a new overtime wage law for agricultural workers over the course of four years culminating in a requirement to pay overtime after eight hours in one day or 40 hours in a week by the year 2020.

Existing state law, requiring overtime pay for agricultural workers after 10 hours, recognizes the flexibility that farmers and employees need given the variable nature and seasonality of farming. Our state is only one of a few in the nation to provide overtime pay for agricultural workers.

AB 2757 adds an unnecessary regulatory burden onto agriculture, makes it difficult to remain competitive, and may result in shorter shifts for workers leading to less take home pay.

TAKE ACTION – Send an opposition letter to your legislator via Ag Council’s Action Center by clicking HERE.

State Awards Over $6 Million in Sustainable Groundwater Grants

Twe321998601nty-one counties are the recipients of a total of $6.7 million from the Proposition 1 Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program to develop groundwater plans consistent with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is awarding the funds to counties with high and medium priority groundwater basins, including some in critical overdraft, in order to create long-term sustainable groundwater management plans for California’s groundwater basins. SGMA requires basins in critical overdraft to be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan two years sooner than other high and medium-priority basins.

DWR gave priority to applications benefiting disadvantaged communities, critically over-drafted basins, basins exhibiting stressed conditions, and proposals to enact ordinances to address groundwater sustainability.

Click the DWR link HERE to view the counties, and their and projects, receiving funding through the grant program.

Take the Annual Meeting Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 97th Annual Meeting in Napa, please help us plan future meetings by responding to a brief survey available HERE.

Thank you, in advance, for your feedback.

March 18, 2016


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Clockwise from left to right: Asm. Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), Asm. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) address Ag Council members at the Annual Dinner.

 

Leveraging Our Strength

by Emily Rooney

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross

We had record attendance at our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa last week, and given our strong turnout, it is appropriate that this year’s meeting theme was “Leveraging our Strength.” It is also a fitting motto for our organization, as we are a small staff, but we have found effective ways to work cooperatively with members of both parties to protect agricultural businesses in California.

As our chairman Brendon Flynn said in his remarks, “Ag Council represents a wide breadth of agriculture and while we historically only represented just farmer cooperatives, we now embody all facets of agriculture, which makes us a unique and powerful voice in Sacramento.”

During my annual address, I discussed our organization’s work in building bridges with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. We have invested significant efforts in reaching out to moderates to help them understand the importance of agriculture to job growth and California’s economic health.

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Left to right: Political Communication Specialists Tracy Sefl & Doug Heye and moderator Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, Inc.

Our message continues to be heard by many. While there are serious ongoing challenges for agriculture, including the need for more water storage and emerging issues with Proposition 65, I am optimistic about the changes occurring in the Legislature.

Further solidifying that opinion were some of the comments made by three members of the Moderate Democrats Caucus, or “Mod Dems,” who were keynote speakers during our Annual Dinner.  “We have to steer policies forward in a way that makes sense for farmers,” Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said. “The Legislature has not treated you like the breadbasket of the world that you are—that needs to change. The economic impact of California agriculture is undeniable, and we need to make sure your industry stays robust and sustainable.”

Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), co-chairs of the Mod Dems echoed those sentiments in their comments: “We all want a strong California and we all want a strong economy,” Salas said. “Your industry is key to our state’s economic viability and you do have champions [in the Legislature] that want to take a pragmatic approach.”

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

The General Session held the following day, and moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, featured Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Karen Ross and Armando Quintero, member of the California Water Commission. The General Session was rounded out with a lively panel discussion between Democratic Communications Specialist Tracy Sefl and Republican Communications Specialist Douglas Heye about the presidential election.

Impact Report

Ag Council released the 2015 Impact Report during our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa. Ag Council’s regulatory and legislative advocacy work is detailed in the report, among other efforts.

Click HERE to view the 2015 Impact Report.

Annual Meeting Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 97th Annual Meeting in Napa, please help us plan future meetings by responding to a brief survey available HERE. Thank you, in advance, for your feedback.

Paul Martin Honored with California Cultivator Award

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From left to right: Ag Council Vice President of Government Affairs Tricia Geringer, California Cultivator Award Recipient Paul Martin, and Ag Council President Emily Rooney

Ag Council recognized Paul Martin as the recipient of the 2016 California Cultivator Award. Martin was lauded for his work with the California dairy industry. He worked as director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen (WUD) and served in Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development from 2012 to 2014 before returning to WUD as interim CEO for the organization. He recently retired.

To read more about the accomplishments of Paul Martin, click HERE.

Upcoming Public Meetings on the Draft Groundwater Sustainability Emergency Regs

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is holding public meetings March 21-25, as well as a webinar, on the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations. The public meetings are being held in Visalia, Santa Ana and Sacramento, and we encourage interested members to attend. Click the “Learn More” link below for specific locations, dates and times, in addition to details about the webinar.

The regulations are being developed as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) approved by the Legislature and signed into law in 2014. Ag Council members may recall that the groundwater regulations were discussed during a breakfast with the DWR program manager of the sustainable groundwater program, David Gutierrez, at the World Ag Expo in February and also during a presentation by Armando Quintero, a member of the California Water Commission, at Ag Council’s recent Annual Meeting in March.

Ag Council participates in the ag stakeholder advisory group providing guidance to DWR in the regulatory process. Ag Council will provide formal written comments regarding the draft emergency groundwater regulations to DWR in the coming weeks.

Click HERE for the upcoming public meeting dates, times and locations.