in the KNOWN

In the Know Newsletter

May 20, 2016

Ag Council Hosts Legislative Conference

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

On May 17, Ag Council members assembled in Sacramento for the association’s 2016 Legislative Conference. During this annual event, our members foster stronger relationships with legislators, as well as regulatory officials and other decision makers.

During visits with nearly 50 legislators and staff in the State Capitol, Ag Council members conducted advocacy on critical policy issues, such as labor, climate change, nutrient stewardship and water.

Legislative Conference – Morning Session

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) 

The morning agenda began with Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), who is Chair of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Senator Mendoza welcomed the group and stressed the importance of advocacy and outreach with legislators to ensure our views are heard.

In 2013, the senator visited a Land O’Lakes dairy, a Sun-Maid farmer, and Valley Fig Growers in the San Joaquin Valley to learn more about our members. He also spoke at Ag Council’s World Ag Expo breakfast the same year. We appreciate the interest Senator Mendoza has shown in learning about agriculture and look forward to continuing working with him.

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Gordon Burns, Undersecretary for Cal/EPA

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Undersecretary Burns discussed the continued focus of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration on water, including the drought, the California Water Fix, implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and nitrate issues, among others.

Burns also talked about the challenges facing the dairy community. Though there are issues facing dairy, he said the industry has achieved positive success in reducing emissions over the years and there is a recognition of the need for more state funds to continue assisting in these efforts, particularly through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

On other policy issues, the undersecretary talked about how he worked to find a solution on BPA issues impacting food and agriculture and this effort is appreciated.

Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Director, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy discussed some of the obstacles at DPR, such as the need to improve information technology and allow registrations to take place online, which is something DPR is working toward.

Director Leahy spoke about recent work by DPR including:

  • The development of regulations to be released this summer relating to pesticide use and schools.
  • Regarding pollinators, Leahy said we need good science and mitigation as we work to protect bee health. DPR is working on a scientific reevaluation of neonicotinoids (neonics) with new control measures to follow.
  • DPR held listening sessions relating to soil fumigant notifications.
Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Kevin Leahy

Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy encouraged our members to educate others, including those in the legislative and regulatory arenas, about the nutrient tools we have in California and their importance to agriculture and modern life.

Keynote Speaker at Lunch – Deputy Cabinet Secretary & Senior Advisor to Governor Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Wade Crowfoot opened his remarks complimenting California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross for being a strong advocate for agriculture within Governor Brown’s administration on the issue of water, as well as other policy areas such as the regulatory burden placed on agriculture.

On water issues, he talked about the California Water Fix – saying it moves conveyance underground in a way that does not impair species. Crowfoot also discussed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and emphasized the local control component of the law. In addition, he highlighted the SWEEP program where cap and trade dollars are used to invest in ag water efficiencies.

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

We thank all of our speakers for addressing many high profile issues facing agriculture and for interacting with our members in a meaningful way during the Legislative Conference.

2016 Influential Legislator of the Year Award

Ag Council recognized Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with our Influential Legislator of the Year Award. We thank Assemblyman Cooper for his leadership on ag issues in the California State Legislature. Please see the detailed article below about Assemblyman Cooper and the award.

Capitol Meetings – Afternoon Session

During outreach with legislators in the State Capitol, Ag Council members advocated against the ag overtime wage measure, AB 2757 (Asm. Gonzalez), which would require overtime pay for ag workers after eight hours instead of the current 10 hours in California. With the new $15 minimum wage law, AB 2757 adds another regulatory burden onto California ag, makes it difficult to remain competitive, and will likely result in shorter shifts for workers leading to lower take home pay.

During meetings in the Capitol, our members also expressed opposition to SB 1317 (Sen. Wolk) to mandate groundwater extraction permits. The bill undermines the local control element of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which allows local entities the power to decide how to manage their basin. Members also urged legislators to vote against SB 1282 (Sen. Leno) to label neonicotinoid (neonics) pesticides and restrict their use.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees pose in front of the State Capitol.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees in front of the State Capitol.

Our dairy members discussed concerns with SB 1383 (Sen. Lara), a measure to mandate a 40 percent reduction of methane emissions by the year 2030, among other issues. Ag Council opposes the mandate and instead asks legislators to support voluntary incentives to fund research and projects that reduce methane. California dairy has worked extensively to reduce its emissions footprint and incentives will help it to achieve further reductions.

Legislative Reception 

Ag Council concluded a busy day of meetings with our annual Legislative Reception, attended by over 70 guests, including 15 bipartisan legislators. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to interact with legislators and other state officials.


Influential Legislator of the Year Award Presented to Assemblyman Jim Cooper

Ag Council honored Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with the Influential Legislator of the Year Award. This award is given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California. Ag Council Chair Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers, made the presentation to Assemblyman Cooper during Ag Council’s Legislative Conference on May 17.

Cooper said, “In my district alone, we produce more than $2.3 billion in agriculture commodities each year. California farmers feed and clothe the world and we must do everything we can to support them to ensure that California remains the country’s leader in agriculture.”

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblyman Cooper is co-chair of the moderate Democrats (Mod Dems) a coalition of business-friendly legislators. He has authored legislation to help fight invasive pests and disease threatening agriculture, among other bills.

Assemblyman Cooper is also highly engaged in outreach to help his colleagues better understand agriculture. As an example, he helped coordinate a dairy digester tour at Van Warmerdam Dairy, which is a member of Dairy Farmers of America, as well as Western United Dairymen. Attendees learned about the challenges and the benefits of dairy digesters as a tool to reduce manure methane emissions. Because of his efforts, the tour was well attended with five legislators and over 20 legislative and regulatory staff members.

Assemblyman Cooper is not afraid to address complex and controversial issues. He was the only legislator to attend an Air Resources Board workshop to speak out and raise concerns on behalf of the dairy industry regarding the Short Lived Climate Pollutants plan, which is an aggressive regulatory effort.

His leadership is evident, and Ag Council thanks him for being a strong voice for our members. Congratulations to Assemblyman Cooper for being named Ag Council’s Influential Legislator of the Year.

Legislative Conference Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 2016 Legislative Conference, please provide your feedback by responding to a brief survey. Your input helps us plan future events. Click HERE for the survey.


May 6, 2016

Legislators & Staff Tour Dairy & Visit Dairy Digester


From L- R: Leo Van Warmerdam, Asm. Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Peter Van Warmerdam, Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Asm. Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) & Asm. Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) at Van Warmerdam Dairy

Five legislators and over 20 legislative staff, in addition to key regulatory staff from the California Air Resources Board (ARB), attended a tour of Van Warmerdam Dairy in Galt on April 28 organized by Ag Council, Western United Dairymen and Sacramento County Farm Bureau. Van Warmerdam Dairy is a member of Dairy Farmers of America, an Ag Council member.

Ag Council thanks Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and his staff for helping to coordinate the tour and encouraging others to attend. We appreciate the participation of Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), and Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and the many legislative and regulatory staff who attended. Thank you to Leo and Peter Van Warmerdam for hosting the legislators and staff at their dairy. This type of outreach is critical to help educate decision-makers at the state level.

From L-R: Daryl Maas of Maas Energy Works, Inc., Asm. Jim Frazier, & Asm. Jim Cooper

From L-R: Daryl Maas of Maas Energy Works, Inc., Asm. Jim Frazier, & Asm. Jim Cooper

The main focus of the tour was to educate attendees about the digester at Van Warmerdam Dairy. With impending ARB regulations to mandate significant reductions in methane by the year 2030, as well as legislation making its way through the Legislature to require a 40 percent reduction in methane, the goal of the tour was to emphasize the need for state incentive funding to boost the number of voluntary methane reduction projects in California, such as digesters. California dairies have slashed their carbon footprint by 63 percent over 63 years for every glass of milk produced and want to continue to do so on a voluntary basis, rather than by mandates imposed by the state.

At Van Warmerdam Dairy, the digester (owned and operated by Maas Energy Works, Inc. under a lease) generates about two million kWh per year of renewable electricity. The attendees learned that for each cow’s manure that is digested, greenhouse gases are reduced by the equivalent of removing one car from the road. And, the manure from four cows in a digester can provide a house with year-round electricity.

The group also learned about the day-to-day operations of the dairy, including the importance of feed efficiency, which leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions per gallon of milk produced.


Dairy tour attendees gather for a group photo.

The digester, which became operational in July 2013, cost $1.9 million with financing from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), bank loans and cash from the owner. Currently, the state budget includes $35 million from GGRF going toward the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Ag Council, our dairy members, and others have requested at least $100 million in cap and trade funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) over the next five years to build more digesters, solids separation projects and other efforts to continue to reduce methane in California. Given the cost of these projects, a long-term funding commitment by the state is needed to move voluntary projects forward now and in the future.

Again, Ag Council thanks the legislators and staff for attending the tour, and we also thank Leo and Peter Van Warmerdam for welcoming us all to their dairy.

Ag Overtime Wage Bill Update

Ag Council continues its advocacy against the ag overtime wage measure, AB 2757, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). The bill remains on suspense in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. The suspense file contains bills that are set aside due to their fiscal impact. Bills on suspense may be heard at a later hearing. Or, the bills could be held on suspense and not move forward.

We are working to build opposition to AB 2757 in the Legislature and encouraging legislators to hold the bill on suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, so that it does not move out of committee. Among the recent meetings, Ag Council’s Dairy Committee met with Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Kingsburg), who was recently elected in April, to discuss our opposition.

With the recent passage of the $15 minimum wage bill, and the pressure that new wage law places on the ag community, it is critical that legislators hear strong opposition from the ag community regarding AB 2757. We urge you to reach out to your legislators now by using the Learn More link below.

As background, AB 2757 repeals the current overtime wage requirement in California for agricultural workers, which pays overtime after 10 hours of work in a day and over 60 hours of work in a week, and phases in a new overtime wage law 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.

TAKE ACTION – Click HERE to go to our Action Center and easily email an opposition letter to your legislators. Your voice at this time is critical to help stop AB 2757.

Ag Council Speaks at ARB Workshop

On April 26, Ag Council provided comments during a workshop on the Proposed Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy (SLCP Strategy) put forth by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

Ag Council joined partners from the dairy industry to push back on the recently released draft strategy that is proposing aggressive timelines and further regulation of California dairies. The proposed regulatory approach for dairies may have broad implications for the industry. We are particularly concerned about the loss of greenhouse gas (GHG) offset credits, which would have far reaching implications for already strained dairy economics by eliminating a significant revenue stream. During the workshop, Ag Council stated that ARB should consider whether voluntary approaches could be more effective in achieving reductions without causing leakage of California dairies to other states.

Ag Council believes that progress cannot be made without a coordinated effort and long-term commitment to state funding. While the SLCP plan acknowledges the need for a minimum of $100 million in each of the next five years in incentive funding just to get started, that funding is not currently being made available. The Administration’s proposed 2016-2017 state budget only allocates $35 million for dairy methane reduction projects. There is a significant disconnect between the goals that are being set and the funding needed to achieve those goals. Ag Council will continue to work to drive attention toward these issues on behalf of our members.

ARB will consider the proposed SLCP Strategy and Draft Environmental Analysis (EA) on May 19, 2016, and Ag Council will be in attendance. A final decision on the matter will be made at a later meeting, in either late summer or early fall. Public comments on both documents are due by May 26, 2016.

Click HERE to read Ag Council’s detailed overview of the SLCP Reduction Strategy.