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in the KNOW

April 17, 2015

Legislative Update

In the California State Legislature, hearings are in full swing given that May 1 is the deadline for policy committees to hear bills with a fiscal impact, and May 15 is the deadline for policy committees to hear nonfiscal measures. Hearings were held on water and excavation-related bills, among others. A more detailed description is provided below along with Ag Council’s engagement and positions on those issues. As always, please contact Ag Council at ph. (916) 443-4887 if you have any questions.

Bill to Streamline Groundwater Adjudications Moves Forward

Ag Council supports AB 1390 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), which is intended to streamline the process for groundwater adjudications and allow courts to more efficiently move through the process. AB 1390 addresses delays in groundwater adjudications through the development of standardized forms, processes and requirements.

Adjudications were a part of the discussion during the debate on the groundwater package, known as Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), in 2014. Agricultural advocates supported the inclusion of a streamlined process for adjudications. However, it was not included in SGMA. AB 1390 is needed, as Assemblyman Alejo says, in order to “ease the burden on the courts, provide the parties with the most efficient resolution possible, protect individual rights, all while integrating adjudication actions with SGMA.”

As background, in groundwater adjudications, groundwater users can request a court to hear arguments for and against the right to use groundwater resources. The court can then assign water rights to users and require others to limit groundwater pumping.

The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife approved AB 1390 on April 14 by a vote of 14-0. The measure is now under consideration in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

Click HERE to read the April 8 letter of support for AB 1390.

SB 20 Threatens Confidentiality of Well Reports

On April 15, Ag Council opposed SB 20 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) during a Senate Committee on Environmental Quality hearing. The measure would allow well completion reports–also known as well logs or drillers logs–to be made publicly available. Well logs are a record of the drilling and construction of a well.

Well logs must currently be submitted to the Department of Water Resources and are available to the appropriate public agencies. Ag Council opposes SB 20 since agencies that need well log data already have access to the information. The data is confidential and releasing it to the public does not provide any advantage, except to render it subject to litigation.

SB 20 passed the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality by a vote of 5-2, and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water approved the measure on March 24 by a vote of 7-2. It now moves to the Committee on Appropriations.

Ag Council Opposes Excavation Measure Unless Amended

Ag Council opposes SB 119, relating to excavations (811-Call Before You Dig), unless the measure is amended to address agricultural concerns. SB 119 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) authorizes the state to adopt a program to enforce excavation violations, among other actions, in order to address safety concerns relating to underground infrastructure.

Ag Council and other ag organizations have worked to highlight the unique nature of agriculture and how our industry could be impacted if the bill moves forward. For example, we are raising concerns about how the bill defines which activities prompt a call to 811.

Senator Hill expressed a commitment to address agriculture’s concerns during a hearing in the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization, and we continue to work on language to meet that goal on behalf of our members.

SB 119 was approved in the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization by a vote of 9-2, and passed by the Senate Committee on Business, Professions & Economic Development on April 6 by a vote of 9-0. The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

To read the letter detailing our position on SB 119, click HERE.

Grant Funds Available for Dairy Digester Research

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting proposals for the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program Phase II.

Approximately $500,000 in grant funding will be awarded to research proposals studying manure management practices that directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate an understanding of the economic and environmental benefits of diary digesters.

Applicants can access instructions, eligibility requirements, and scoring criteria HERE. Applications are due electronically to grants@cdfa.ca.gov no later than May 15 at 5 p.m.