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Ag Council Holds Annual Legislative Day

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Ag Council Members pictured at the California State Capitol

Ag Council held its annual Legislative Day on May 14, 2013 in Sacramento with a day of events giving our members the opportunity to connect with state leaders on critical issues affecting their businesses.  Thank you to all of our members who attended this important outreach event.

Morning Session Speakers

Legislative Day kicked-off with Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) speaking to our members about his legislative priorities.  As Chair of the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee (ESTM), he discussed nitrate legislation to improve water quality for disadvantaged communities, which ESTM has jurisdiction over.

Assemblymember Alejo also spoke about his bill, AB 60, to allow undocumented residents who are not eligible for a social security account number to receive a driver’s license if all other qualifications are met, and they can provide proof of identity.

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DeeDee D’Adamo, State Water Resources Control Board member

Newly appointed State Water Resources Control Board member, DeeDee D’Adamo, spoke to Legislative Day attendees, as well. Previously, D’Adamo served on the California Air Resources Board from 1999-2013 and in this capacity worked closely with Ag Council on climate change regulations over the past few years.  Among other issues, D’Adamo spoke about nitrate in drinking water, and she discussed the Board’s work on the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan to update flow objectives for Delta tributaries. She urged our members to stay engaged with their local irrigation districts to remain apprised of the issues as the Plan progresses.

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Dr. Gina Solomon, Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at CalEPA

Next, Dr. Gina Solomon, Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at CalEPA, spoke with Ag Council’s members about Governor Brown’s Prop 65 reform plan that was revealed in early May.  Dr. Solomon said the Governor’s proposed reform plan focuses on reducing frivolous lawsuits, safe harbor levels for reproductive toxics and improving warning labels.  Dr. Solomon said the reforms must be consistent with the purposes of Prop 65 and any legislation will require a 2/3 vote in the Legislature.As background, Prop 65 was approved by voters in 1986 and was enacted with the intent to protect Californians from harmful chemicals. Prop 65 requires the governor to annually publish a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.  If a business sells a product containing chemicals listed by the state, the business must provide a clear warning to the public.  Ag Council and our members are very concerned about Prop 65 since attorneys want to extend Prop 65 warnings to food.  As such, Ag Council supports Governor Brown’s proposal.

Ag Council will remain engaged with CalEPA and the governor’s office on this crucial issue via stakeholder meetings, which are serving as a precursor to state legislation on Prop 65. Jason Peltier, Chief Deputy General Manager with Westlands Water District concluded the morning session with a brief update about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  The intent of this comprehensive plan is to restore endangered fish and improve reliability of freshwater supplies diverted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The plan would divert a portion of the Sacramento River into two 35-mile long tunnels constructed under the Delta.

Lunch with Senator Cannella 

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Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) speaking to Legislative Day attendees

Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) joined Ag Council members for a roundtable discussion during lunch where several issues were covered including dairy pricing, high speed rail, nitrate in groundwater and others.  The dialogue helped give our members a better understanding of these high profile state topics prior to their lobbying meetings.

Legislative Outreach & Issues

Ag Council members spent the afternoon in lobbying teams meeting with nearly 20 legislative offices.  It was a lively day in the Capitol building since Ag Council’s Legislative Day was the same day Governor Brown released his May budget revision. His revision assumes state revenues are $2.8 billion ahead of expectations, proposes a $1.1 billion reserve and emphasizes funding for public schools.  The Legislature is now considering Governor Brown’s budget revision given that the constitutional deadline to pass a state budget is June 15.

During their advocacy meetings for Legislative Day, Ag Council members encouraged support for Governor Brown’s Prop 65 reform proposal.  Also, there has been some discussion in the Capitol about inserting a fertilizer tax in the state budget to fund water quality improvements in disadvantaged communities.  Given this, Ag Council members urged legislative offices to refrain from moving forward with any such effort in the state budget.  Instead, our members asked legislators to create a funding mechanism to improve water quality for disadvantaged communities in the revised water bond, which will be on the Legislature’s agenda after the budget is completed.

Furthermore, Ag Council members asked for support of AB 8 by Assemblymember Perea (D-Fresno) and SB 11 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to extend the sunset dates of critical air quality programs for agriculture.  The bills include an extension of the Carl Moyer program to the year 2024.  This program provides incentive grants for cleaner-than-required vehicles, engines and equipment to achieve air quality reductions that would not otherwise occur.

In addition to the above issues, a lobbying team comprising a group of Ag Council’s dairy members advocated in favor of a bill regarding dairy pricing, AB 31, by Dr. Pan (D-Sacramento).  This bill is pending consideration in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

Reception 

Legislative Day concluded with a reception at The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento where Ag Council members had a chance to connect with numerous elected state leaders and agency officials.   Ag Council thanks all of our Legislative Day attendees for their participation.  We greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us for this important outreach effort.