in the KNOW

August 25, 2012

Legislature Enters Final Week of Session

The Legislature is entering its final week of session, and the deadline for legislators to approve state bills is August 31st. Given the pressure of this timeline, there’s a high level of activity in the Capitol with around 600 bills still pending. Many measures remain fluid, and Ag Council is engaged on a variety of labor, water, climate change and energy bills.

Regarding a few high priority items of strong interest to our members, Ag Council continues its opposition to the following measures:

Overtime Wages
AB 1313, authored by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa), would repeal current state law where agricultural workers are paid overtime wages after 10 hours of work and replace it with a requirement that overtime be paid after an eight hour workday/40 hour work week.

No other state requires overtime pay for agricultural workers once they have exceeded 40 hours of work in a work week, and California is the only state currently requiring overtime pay after a 10 hour workday for agricultural workers.

AB 1313 was recently approved out of the Senate and it is pending reconsideration in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment where it will be heard next week. Ag Council and others remain opposed this bill because, among other concerns, it would make the California ag community less competitive against other states and foreign countries by increasing production and labor costs.

Heat Illness
Ag Council continues to oppose Assemblywoman Betsy Butler’s (D-Torrance) heat illness measure, AB 2346, in the Legislature.

The newly amended version of AB 2346 would establish a private right of action against farmers and would create new joint liability against farmers for violations of the heat illness regulation by farm labor contractors. These provisions apply toward “repeat offenders” and any farmer who contracts with them. “Repeat offenders” would be any employer who violates the heat illness regulation on “two or more days within a three-year period.” The bill would also impose fines of up to $200,000 for heat illness violations.

AB 2346 is supported by the United Farm Workers. Despite opposition from ag and business groups, AB 2346 continues to move through the Legislature and is now pending consideration on the Senate floor where Ag Council remains actively opposed, along with a coalition of organizations.

Medfly Finding

Ag Council participated in a conference call yesterday with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to better understand the recent finding of four Mediterranean Fruit Flies (known as medflies) in California near Rancho Cucamonga.

Three males and one female were found on August 16th on the edge of the sterile release program area. Ground treatment has begun and an increase in sterile insects is taking place.

Quarantines of 4.5 miles will likely go into effect early next week and will probably continue through March (this is an estimate of how long it will take to get through the third generation).

Further details will be available on CDFA’s website on Monday, August 27th.  Click HERE for the website.

Cap and Trade Report

This week, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released a report, requested by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) and Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), regarding opportunities to reduce the negative effects of the state cap and trade regulation on businesses in California.

LAO states in the report that a 100 percent free allocation of emissions allowances during the cap and trade auction “would significantly offset more of the marginal cost increase resulting from compliance with the cap and trade program as compared with the Air Resources Board (ARB) approach and reduce the potential for leakage while preserving the environmental integrity of the program.”

As background, under the state climate change law (AB 32), greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Entities emitting over 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, including some Ag Council members, must abide by the cap and trade regulation developed by the ARB.

Under Ag Council’s analysis of the regulation, some of our members will be required to purchase allowances during the quarterly auctions, and the cost of allowances could potentially be in the millions of dollars per year for regulated entities. Given this, Ag Council continues to be actively involved in the regulatory process as it moves forward.

To read a statement regarding the LAO report by Assemblyman Perea and Senator Rubio, click HERE.

Click HERE to read about a recent Cap and Trade Forum held in Fresno by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) where Ag Council members spoke about their concerns (scroll halfway down the link to view the article).


Fertilizer Research and Education Program

A vacancy on the Fertilizer Research and Education Program’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee was recently announced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The subcommittee reviews and recommends fertilizer research and education programs to the Fertilizer Inspection Advisory Board.

The Fertilizer Research and Education Program’s purpose is to manage and fund research and technical assistance to ensure the environmentally safe use and handling of fertilizer in the ag community.

For details about the qualifications needed to serve on the subcommittee and how to apply, click HERE.