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in the KNOW

August 21, 2015

Legislators Return to Sacramento

State Capitol

State Capitol

Legislators returned to the State Capitol from summer recess on August 17 for the final month of legislative work. The deadline for bills to be approved in the Legislature is September 11, 2015.  After that date, the Legislature is in adjournment and takes no further action on bills.  In the meantime, a flurry of activity is taking place in the Capitol, and Ag Council is engaged in several policy areas, including the following measures listed below.

Climate Change

SB 32 – Greenhouse gas emissions
Position: Opposed
SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and then to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Labor

SB 3 – Minimum wage increase
Position – Opposed
SB 3, by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), raises the minimum wage to $11 per hour in January 2016 and increases it to $13 per hour beginning July 2017. SB 3 then raises minimum wage according to inflation in subsequent years.

AB 561 – Limits due process at ALRB
Position – Opposed
AB 561 by Assemblywoman Campos (D-San Jose) limits an employer’s due process rights for appeals of an order by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and may discourage employers from appealing an adverse order altogether.

Energy

SB 350 – Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act
Position: Opposed
Ag Council opposes SB 350 by Senator de Leon (D-Los Angeles) because it mandates a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum-based fuels, requires a 50 percent reduction in energy use in existing buildings, and dictates a 50 percent increase in power generation from renewable energy sources – all by 2030. SB 350 is costly and threatens energy affordability.

Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

SB 27 – Antibiotics use in livestock & poultry
Position: Neutral /Working with the author

The bill, by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo), limits antibiotics use in livestock and poultry. Beginning January 2018, the bill prohibits the administration of medically important antibiotics to livestock unless ordered by a veterinarian through a prescription or via a veterinary feed directive. Medically important antibiotics are those used in humans, as well as livestock and poultry. SB 27 also prohibits the administration of a medically important antibiotic to livestock solely to increase weight gain or to improve feed efficiency.

Water

AB 1390 – Improving the efficiency of groundwater adjudications
Position – Support
AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) makes the groundwater adjudication process more efficient and facilitates earlier settlement of groundwater adjudications whereby courts determine groundwater rights in a basin.

SB 226 – Changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Position – Opposed
SB 226 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved in 2014, in a manner that raises concerns about water rights.

In addition to the above bills, and others not listed, Ag Council staff is engaged in other policy issues as they arise at the end of the legislative session.

CalRecycle Composting Regulation Update

For several months, Ag Council staff and other agricultural groups have worked with the department known as CalRecycle to address issues within a proposed regulation that originally cast a wide net to regulate certain common agricultural practices.

At a meeting held on August 18, staff at CalRecycle formally recommended that Department Director Scott Smithline move forward to adopt the proposed regulation – called the Composting Material, Transfer/Processing Regulation (known to some Ag Council members as the composting regulation).

This regulation now includes several changes requested by the agricultural community. Ag Council considers the changes recently made to the proposed regulation a positive improvement given where the regulation began. The regulation was overly broad, and Ag Council worked on behalf of affected members to lessen the regulatory burden, provide greater flexibility, and obtain exclusions where possible.

Given the improvements, Ag Council staff attended the August 18 meeting and expressed appreciation to CalRecycle staff for addressing specific agricultural issues within the regulation.  In addition, Ag Council relayed concern over the future unknown impact that this regulation may have on emerging technologies and practices within our industry.

Specifically, we worked to address three key areas:
· Changes were made in the definitions to exclude some agricultural practices from a piece of the regulation regarding land application of agricultural byproducts.  The original version of this language could have adversely impacted various products used for feed in dairies, such as almond hulls.

· The regulation now has greater flexibility for storing or stockpiling agricultural material, green material and compost.

· Recognizing that California is trying to incentivize the expansion of dairy digesters in the state, Ag Council worked to ensure that dairies performing co-digestion operations would be in the most minimal reporting notification category possible. This would apply to dairies that import solid waste to co-digest with manure in accordance with Waste Discharge Requirements issued by a Regional Water Quality Control Board. Dairies that co-digest manure and agricultural material derived on-site, imported agricultural material, and/or imported vegetative food material would not be subject to this regulation.

The composting regulation is available in its entirety by clicking HERE. Please contact Rachael O’Brien in Ag Council’s office with any questions at ph. (916) 443-4887.

UC Davis Releases New Economic Study of Drought Impacts

UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences released a report on August 19 entitled the Economic Analysis of the 2015 Drought for California Agriculture.

Though the analysis declares that “farmers are showing more resilience to the drought than many had anticipated,” the report also foretells more challenging times ahead if the drought persists stating the “continuation of the drought to 2016 or beyond with similar intensity is likely to slowly erode the state’s agricultural production and employment.”

Notable findings in the analysis include the following:
· In 2015, about 542,000 acres will be fallowed

· Groundwater use is offsetting nearly 70 percent of the water shortage

· This year, crop revenue losses of $902 million are estimated

· The drought is causing about $1.84 billion in direct agricultural costs and 10,100 seasonal job losses

· Economic losses in all sectors are predicted to soar up to $2.74 billion with about 21,000 total jobs lost in 2015

To read more in the detailed economic analysis, click HERE.

DWR Identifies Draft List of Critically Overdrafted Groundwater Basins

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently released the draft list of critically overdrafted groundwater basins in California, which are determined by analyzing subsidence, reduction of groundwater storage, declining water levels and sea water intrusion.

The designation is important because under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014, high and medium priority basins subject to conditions of critical overdraft are required to be managed under groundwater sustainability plans or coordinated groundwater sustainability plan by January 31, 2020.

Click HERE for a statewide map showing the basins in critical overdraft (draft document as determined by DWR and released in August).

DWR is holding an informational meeting on August 25 in Clovis, CA and an online webinar on August 26 to discuss the draft list of critically overdrafted basins, click HERE for further details. Ag Council staff will participate in the webinar.