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Ag Council Holds Annual Legislative Day

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Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross addresses Legislative Day attendees

Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross addresses Legislative Day attendees

More than 20 Ag Council members met with state leaders and elected officials in June 2014 in Sacramento to discuss issues critical to agriculture. Attendees of this year’s Legislative Day represented a diverse array of commodities and allied industries.

California’s drought and ongoing water challenges dominated the morning session, which included a briefing from Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and DeeDee D’Adamo who serves on the State Water Resources Control Board.

“For the farmers and ranchers who are ‘on the ground,’ it is hard to see how far we have come in seeing cooperation among agencies,” Ross said. “All of our efforts are driving towards a comprehensive goal that pairs groundwater and surface water. While we hope to see some recovery during the fall of 2014, we have to plan conservatively and be prepared for the potential of a fourth year of below-average precipitation.”

A group of Ag Council members at the State Capitol on Legislative Day

A group of Ag Council members at the State Capitol on Legislative Day

Ross emphasized that the communication and collaboration between state agencies helped develop solutions to the immediate crisis and has helped shape more long-lasting conservation strategies that, if implemented, will prepare the state for the ongoing issue of limited water supplies.

During her remarks, Secretary Ross also touched on the budget process and the role that the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) plays in securing California’s valuable export markets. “Proportionally, our department has suffered more cuts than anyone else, so we have streamlined and focused on our core purpose—protecting California agriculture,” she said. “The current administration recognizes the fiscal importance of your industry and will continue to support those critical services CDFA offers related to invasive pest species and inspection.”

DeeDee D’Adamo, who has served on the State Water Resources Control Board since March 2013, also discussed the current drought situation and pending curtailments that many of the state’s water rights holders may be facing. “Our board has two priorities,” said D’Adamo. “We are here to promote water quality and to protect water rights.” She discussed the recent notifications regarding potential curtailments that have been sent to California water rights holders, and expressed her ongoing commitment to protecting agricultural water usage. “Unfortunately, there is just not a lot of water to ‘fight’ over right now, which makes this a very challenging time.”

Like many, D’Adamo believes because the drought has been so significant, the time is ripe for making critical, long-term investments in California’s future by developing increased storage and adopting other measures, including promoting water conservation among the general populace, as methods to ensure the state has enough water to supply its burgeoning population.

Senator Tom Berryhill (pictured on the left) meets with (from left to right) George Goshgarian, George Goshgarian Jr. and Susan Brauner—all three representing Blue Diamond Growers.

Senator Tom Berryhill (pictured on the left) meets with (from left to right) George Goshgarian, George Goshgarian Jr. and Susan Brauner—all three representing Blue Diamond Growers.

To prepare attendees for their legislative visits, Ag Council staff briefed participants on some of the most critical bills currently moving through the Legislature. Most notable are several water bond bills designed to replace the one that is currently on the November ballot. Ag Council supports the bipartisan measure, AB 2686 by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and other Central Valley legislators, as it provides $3 billion in continuous funding specifically for water storage.

Ag Council members also visited with legislators about several pending labor bills that are duplicative of existing regulations and only increase the liability risk for California employers.

“Our Legislative Day is about building relationships,” said Emily Rooney, president of Ag Council. “These visits help legislators understand our positions on certain issues, but more importantly, they are an opportunity to connect our members’ farms and businesses with legislators and help them see their importance to their individual districts.” Ag Council members met with more than 19 elected officials and staffers during their Capitol visits.

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Susan Eggman (5th from left) with Legislative Day attendees.

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Susan Eggman (5th from left) with Legislative Day attendees.

In addition, Ag Council appreciates Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) who held a small private reception for Ag Council members, which was attended by several other legislators and provided an excellent opportunity for further outreach on the critical issues being discussed in the Capitol.

The evening concluded with a large reception, with over 80 attendees, at Chops Steak Seafood & Bar where more than 18 members of the Legislature and dozens of staff had a chance to visit with Ag Council members.