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Legislative Day 2015

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On May 19, Ag Council members gathered in Sacramento for the association’s annual Legislative Day. Various industries and commodities were represented, each concerned with California’s ongoing drought and interested in building relationships with legislators from various parts of the state.

During outreach with legislators, Ag Council members emphasized their efficient use of water and explained the extraordinary water cutbacks that agriculture has been facing for years. Ag Council members also conveyed the family farming connection at the core of the association and utilized informational pieces to explain that 93 percent of California farms are family owned.

(Pictured from left to right) Pete Garbani with Land O' Lakes, Governor Jerry Brown, Ag Council President Emily Rooney, and Bob Brown with CALAMCO enjoying the Legislative Reception at Chop's Steak Seafood and Bar.

(Pictured from left to right) Pete Garbani with Land O’ Lakes, Governor Jerry Brown, Ag Council President Emily Rooney, and Bob Brown with CALAMCO enjoying the Legislative Reception at Chop’s Steak Seafood and Bar.

To confront some of the recent misinformation about agricultural water use, Ag Council developed handouts communicating that agriculture uses 40 percent of the water in the state and that nearly 30 percent of irrigated farmland will receive no surface water at all this year, among other statistics. The handouts were so well-received by legislators that Ag Council received requests for more and is distributing them to all legislators.

Legislative Reception 
Ag Council kicked-off events the evening prior to Legislative Day with its annual Legislative Reception attended by over 80 guests, including more than 20 bipartisan legislators, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, and Governor Jerry Brown. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the governor and legislators.

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell)

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell)

Legislative Day – Morning Session

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) 
On Legislative Day, the morning agenda began with Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), a freshman member of the State Legislature, who said he believes the newly elected legislators are working to be proactive rather than reactive due in part to longer term limits and the ability to be more measured in their approach. He told attendees that we “don’t need a legislative answer for everything,” which is a message Ag Council members appreciate. Low is a member of Speaker Atkins’ (D-San Diego) Leadership Team in the Assembly serving as Assistant Majority Whip.

Influential Legislator Award Presented to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) 
Next, the inaugural Influential Legislator Award was presented to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) by Ag Council Chair Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers. This award will be given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California.

Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) with the inaugural Influential Legislator Award

Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) with the inaugural Influential Legislator Award

“Assemblyman Perea personifies what is good in a political leader,” Ag Council President Emily Rooney said. “He has found ways to collaborate on issues that have allowed him to help his constituents, but have also been good policy for the entire state. And, even on issues where we may not agree, he always maintains an open door policy to Ag Council and its members.”

Flynn said, “Assemblyman Perea was a leading advocate for securing the $2.7 billion in funding for water storage in the 2014 water bond package. At the same time, he spoke out against the overly burdensome Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, demonstrating he truly understands that a healthy ag economy is good for the entire state of California.”

Assemblyman Perea currently serves as the Assembly Ag Committee Chair and has embraced that role by seeking to learn more about California agriculture and its efforts to use water efficiently.

Deputy Director Gary Bardini, Department of Water Resources
In an address on water issues, Gary Bardini, Deputy Director for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), highlighted areas of Governor Brown’s Water Action Plan, such as statewide water management, flood management and costs. He discussed the acceleration of grants to address drought issues. Bardini emphasized the desire of Governor Brown and his Administration to implement local and regional solutions on drought issues.

Gary Bardini, Deputy Director, Department of Water Resources

Gary Bardini, Deputy Director, Department of Water Resources

When asked about water storage, Bardini said there is a high level of readiness on certain projects, such as Sites and Temperance Flat, given the studies undertaken in the past. He talked about the need for those in support of projects to build as much support as possible from different stakeholders during the decision-making process underway at the California Water Commission.

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) 
Legislative Day attendees also heard from Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). Levine is the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair. Regarding water storage funding within the water bond, Levine said the Legislature did a few things to “bind our hands” and gave the decision-making authority on storage funding to the California Water Commission where those decisions will be made.

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael)

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael)

In response to a question about whether legislators will step-up their oversight of the state regulatory agencies, Levine said, “the muscle had atrophied on oversight” in the Legislature and there is resistance to oversight because the status quo works well for some people. He hoped people see him as an ally in this area given his recent oversight on how storage funds are being spent within the water bond.

Freight Transport Chief Heather Arias, California Air Resources Board 
Heather Arias, Freight Transport Branch Chief, California Air Resources Board (CARB) spoke about CARB’s recent coordination with other state agencies and stakeholders on a California Sustainable Freight Strategy. Arias said, in the initial phase, CARB staff is focused on analyzing and collecting both old and new data. In addition, staff is reaching out to the local air districts to assess regional enforcement and incentive funding needs.

Heather Arias, Freight Transport Branch Chief, California Air Resources Board

Heather Arias, Freight Transport Branch Chief, California Air Resources Board

Arias stated there is no commitment, as of now, to move forward with a facility-based emission cap for all types of major freight hubs and facilities. Arias also said CARB does not anticipate emission reduction requirements will be placed upon individual farmers. However, reductions in other areas could cause impacts from ripple effects. Given this, CARB economists will work on modeling to determine the potential challenges, such as cost recovery and infrastructure costs from moving to zero or near-zero emission technology.

CARB staff expects to bring a proposal to the full Board for consideration in the first half of 2016 including potential strategies, as well as the required environmental and economic analyses.

Legislative Day Lunch with Sec. Ross

During lunch, which featured products produced by Ag Council’s members, CDFA Secretary Ross spoke to Legislative Day attendees. She reminded attendees of her background as a former staff member at Ag Council, and she briefed the group on recent policies affecting agriculture.

Legislative Day attendees with Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross

Legislative Day attendees with Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross

Ross talked about Governor Brown and his Administration’s efforts to defend agriculture and how they have worked to tell the media and the public about the water cutbacks already in place for agricultural water users, as well as explain the significant toll the drought has taken on the agricultural community over the past four years.

Ross also discussed some of the beneficial funding for agriculture in Governor Brown’s May Budget Revision. Those funds include the following programs of which Ag Council members supported during their visits with elected officials during Legislative Day:

• $40 million for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) for grants to help farmers invest in water distribution and irrigation systems to save water. Funds for SWEEP derive from the Cap and Trade Program.

• $20 million for CDFA’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program to assist with the installation of dairy digesters in California and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The funds come from the Cap and Trade program.

Ag Council Members Meet with Legislators in the State Capitol

A grouop of Legislative Day attendees in front of the State Capitol

A group of Legislative Day attendees in front of the State Capitol

To prepare for visits in the Capitol with over 20 bipartisan legislators, Ag Council staff briefed attendees on the most critical issues and bills before the Legislature. Given the current state of the drought, water bills were a focus. Key issues and legislation discussed during the Capitol visits with legislators included the following (this is not a comprehensive list):

• Support for AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) regarding streamlining adjudications

• Opposition to SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), which threatens water rights • Opposition to SB 20 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) allowing well logs to be made publicly available

• Opposition to SB 687 by Senator Allen (D-Santa Monica) to require a renewable gas mandate in California

Senator Cathleen Galgiani (pictured 3rd from left) meets with (from left to right) Mary Mohler, Leroy Ornellas, Merlin Mohler, Steve DeBrum, and Kevin Ornellas

Senator Cathleen Galgiani (pictured 3rd from left) meets with (from left to right) Mary Mohler, Leroy Ornellas, Merlin Mohler, Steve DeBrum, and Kevin Ornellas

• Opposition to SB 20 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) allowing well logs to be made publicly available

• Support for funding within Governor Brown’s May Budget Revisions for the SWEEP and dairy digester programs as detailed above

• Ag Council members also spoke about their efficient use of water and explained the toll of the longstanding drought on the ag community

In the most robust outreach effort to date, Ag Council members connected with about 50 legislators in all during their day and a half in Sacramento and helped make an impact on crucial issues pending before the State Legislature. Thank you to all who joined Ag Council for this important outreach effort.