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Advocacy in Action

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2017 Legislative Conference

A portion of Legislative Conference attendees in front of the State Capitol.

A portioLegislative Conference attendees in front of the State Capitol.

Ag Council members convened in Sacramento on May 16 for the association’s 2017 Legislative Conference. The outreach effort helps foster stronger relationships with legislators, as well as regulatory officials and other decision makers, and provides a platform to discuss critical policy issues.

This year, the conference attracted the largest delegation of participants since the event was created in 2011. Ag Council thanks all attendees for helping to make the event a success.

Legislative Conference – Morning Session

 

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ARB Assistant Division Chief for the Industrial Strategies Division, Rajinder Sahota and Chief Economist, Emily Wimberger.

California Air Resources Board, Assistant Division Chief for the Industrial Strategies Division, Rajinder Sahota and Chief Economist, Emily Wimberger

The morning agenda began with a presentation by Rajinder Sahota, who is Assistant Division Chief for the Industrial Strategies at the California Air Resources Board (ARB). Rajiner discussed ARB’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the state. She stressed that the existing programs, such as cap and trade, are delivering the emission reductions needed to achieve the state’s goals, while providing the most flexibility so that the California economy continues to grow.

Emily Wimberger, ARB’s Chief Economist, discussed the adoption of the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Strategy and the next steps the agency is taking to reduce dairy methane emissions. She stressed that ARB is currently focused on identifying barriers for the industry and helping dairies voluntarily reduce methane from manure management with incentive-based approaches.

Senator Isadore Hall, Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) Member

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Senator Isadore Hall, Agricultural Labor Relations Board Member

Senator Hall was recently appointed by Governor Jerry Brown and confirmed by the State Senate to serve as a member of the ALRB. By connecting with him during Ag Council’s Legislative Conference, our members were given the opportunity to hear about his background and political philosophy, as well as ask him questions.

As a former member of the State Senate and the Assembly, Senator Hall said he was a member of the Moderate Democrat Caucus. He spoke about his balanced perspective on business issues. He said that he has a pragmatic approach and an open-mind with regard to policy issues.

Senator Hall further remarked that with the ALRB appointment, he is meeting with farmers and listening to what members of the agricultural community are saying, in addition to taking tours to learn more about agriculture.

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced)

Assemblyman Gray, who is the new convener of the Moderate Democrats, spoke during the Legislative Conference. He highlighted the need for the Legislature to conduct more oversight over state laws already on the books, which Ag Council wholeheartedly agrees with as a policy to ensure there is increased accountability over regulatory agencies.

Assmeblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced)

Assmeblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced)

He also talked about how it is critical that agriculture stays united on issues to make a difference and urged the group to remember that we are all stronger together.

2017 Influential Legislator of the Year Award Presented to Assemblywoman Eggman

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) was presented with Ag Council’s 2017 Influential Legislator Award during the Legislative Conference. We thank Assemblywoman Eggman for her leadership on agricultural issues in the Legislature. Please see the detailed article below about Assemblywoman Eggman and the award.

Keynote Speaker at Lunch – California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary, Jenny Lester Moffitt

Jenny Lester Moffitt opened her remarks by laying out CDFA’s vision for continuing to protect and promote agriculture. She identified agriculture’s contributions to the economy, the diversity of farming operations and the industry’s role in leading on innovation. She recognized the regulatory and environmental challenges placed on agriculture and spoke about CDFA’s work to build resiliency and keep agriculture productive and profitable.

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Jenny Lester Moffitt, California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary

She also highlighted the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) and Dairy Digester programs, where CDFA receives cap and trade dollars to invest in on-farm water efficiencies and reduce manure methane emissions.

We thank all of our speakers for addressing many high profile issues facing agriculture and for interacting with our members in a meaningful way during the Legislative Conference.

Capitol Meetings – Afternoon Session

During outreach with legislators in the State Capitol, Ag Council members encouraged support for Ag Council’s bill, SB 730 by Dr. Pan (D-Sacramento), to ensure that California is monitoring and enforcing the Buy American provision in school food purchases. In addition, participants advocated against a bill, SB 602 by Senator Allen (D-Santa Monica), that would label neonicotinoid pesticides, given the bill is not based in science.

A group of Blue Diamond Growers and Young Leaders posing with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda)

A group of Blue Diamond Growers and Young Leaders posing with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda).

On labor issues, Ag Council members advocated against AB 450 by Assemblyman Chiu (D-San Francisco), which prevents employers from exercising discretion on their own property when dealing with federal immigration enforcement actions.  With severe fines for violations of the bill’s provisions, AB 450 is extremely punitive towards employers.  It also assumes noncompliance and needlessly puts employers who have not violated worker rights at legal risk.

With regard to water, Ag Council members expressed continued opposition to SB 252 by Senator Dodd (D-Napa) as the bill undermines the locally driven, collaborative Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) process already underway. Attendees expressed support for AB 313 by Assemblyman Gray (D-Merced) because it restructures the administration and enforcement of water rights at the State Water Resources Control Board in order to bring more accountability and transparency to California’s water management structure.

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(From L-R) Scott Woodard, Horizon Nut Co., Christine Ivory, Blue Diamond Growers, Asm. Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), and Kirk Squire, Horizon Nut Co., meet during Legislative Day.

During meetings in the Capitol, our members also communicated agriculture’s cap and trade priorities, developed in conjunction with other agricultural associations. Given Governor Brown is urging a June deadline for legislators to approve a cap and trade program extension through 2030, legislators are in the midst of considering various bills. In this process, it is critical that agriculture communicate our objectives with legislators. The objectives include: maintaining allowances for food processors at 90 percent, grant funding for farmers and food processors to lower emissions and maintaining offsets at 8 percent.

Legislative Reception

Ag Council concluded a strong advocacy day with a Legislative Reception, attended by many guests, including 15 bipartisan legislators. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to interact with legislators and other state officials.

Assemblywoman Eggman Honored with the 2017 Influential Legislator Award

Asm. Susan Eggman (D-Stockton)

Asm. Susan Eggman (D-Stockton)

Ag Council honored Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) with the 2017 Influential Legislator of the Year Award on May 16 during the organization’s annual Legislative Conference in Sacramento.  This award is given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California.

Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “Assemblywoman Eggman works strategically with others in the Legislature to achieve critical results for our members and does not seek out the limelight.  She has forged strong relationships with her colleagues and is a voice for agriculture among her peers.  She is also active behind the scenes to help amend bills or prevent legislation that negatively impacts agriculture from becoming law.”

Assemblywoman Eggman has proven to be a staunch ally of agriculture on a wide variety of policy issues.  As an example, she managed SB 1383 during debate on the Assembly floor last year and helped secure its passage.  The bill gave more certainty to dairy farming families in the state as it established parameters around the regulation of manure methane emissions from dairies and livestock.  Her efforts, along with bill author Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), helped SB 1383 cross the finish line and the bill was signed into law.

Currently, she is chair of the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee and serves as a member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, among others.  She is also the former chair of Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Assemblywoman Eggman is a veteran of the U.S. Army, built a career in social work, earned a Ph.D, and was an associate professor of social work at California State University, Sacramento prior to her election to the Assembly.  She grew up on an almond farm and apiary in Turlock, and her family continues to farm almonds and manage beehives today.

Her leadership is unmistakable, and Ag Council thanks her for being a steadfast advocate for our members. Congratulations to Assemblywoman Eggman for being named Ag Council’s Influential Legislator of the Year.

Ag Council Hosts Legislative Conference

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

On May 17, Ag Council members assembled in Sacramento for the association’s 2016 Legislative Conference. During this annual event, our members foster stronger relationships with legislators, as well as regulatory officials and other decision makers.

During visits with nearly 50 legislators and staff in the State Capitol, Ag Council members conducted advocacy on critical policy issues, such as labor, climate change, nutrient stewardship and water.

Legislative Conference – Morning Session

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) 

The morning agenda began with Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), who is Chair of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Senator Mendoza welcomed the group and stressed the importance of advocacy and outreach with legislators to ensure our views are heard.

In 2013, the senator visited a Land O’Lakes dairy, a Sun-Maid farmer, and Valley Fig Growers in the San Joaquin Valley to learn more about our members. He also spoke at Ag Council’s World Ag Expo breakfast the same year. We appreciate the interest Senator Mendoza has shown in learning about agriculture and look forward to continuing working with him.

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Gordon Burns, Undersecretary for Cal/EPA

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Undersecretary Burns discussed the continued focus of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration on water, including the drought, the California Water Fix, implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and nitrate issues, among others.

Burns also talked about the challenges facing the dairy community. Though there are issues facing dairy, he said the industry has achieved positive success in reducing emissions over the years and there is a recognition of the need for more state funds to continue assisting in these efforts, particularly through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

On other policy issues, the undersecretary talked about how he worked to find a solution on BPA issues impacting food and agriculture and this effort is appreciated.

Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Director, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy discussed some of the obstacles at DPR, such as the need to improve information technology and allow registrations to take place online, which is something DPR is working toward.

Director Leahy spoke about recent work by DPR including:

  • The development of regulations to be released this summer relating to pesticide use and schools.
  • Regarding pollinators, Leahy said we need good science and mitigation as we work to protect bee health. DPR is working on a scientific reevaluation of neonicotinoids (neonics) with new control measures to follow.
  • DPR held listening sessions relating to soil fumigant notifications.

Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Kevin Leahy

Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy encouraged our members to educate others, including those in the legislative and regulatory arenas, about the nutrient tools we have in California and their importance to agriculture and modern life.

Keynote Speaker at Lunch – Deputy Cabinet Secretary & Senior Advisor to Governor Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Wade Crowfoot opened his remarks complimenting California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross for being a strong advocate for agriculture within Governor Brown’s administration on the issue of water, as well as other policy areas such as the regulatory burden placed on agriculture.

On water issues, he talked about the California Water Fix – saying it moves conveyance underground in a way that does not impair species. Crowfoot also discussed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and emphasized the local control component of the law. In addition, he highlighted the SWEEP program where cap and trade dollars are used to invest in ag water efficiencies.

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

We thank all of our speakers for addressing many high profile issues facing agriculture and for interacting with our members in a meaningful way during the Legislative Conference.

2016 Influential Legislator of the Year Award

Ag Council recognized Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with our Influential Legislator of the Year Award. We thank Assemblyman Cooper for his leadership on ag issues in the California State Legislature. Please see the detailed article below about Assemblyman Cooper and the award.

Capitol Meetings – Afternoon Session

During outreach with legislators in the State Capitol, Ag Council members advocated against the ag overtime wage measure, AB 2757 (Asm. Gonzalez), which would require overtime pay for ag workers after eight hours instead of the current 10 hours in California. With the new $15 minimum wage law, AB 2757 adds another regulatory burden onto California ag, makes it difficult to remain competitive, and will likely result in shorter shifts for workers leading to lower take home pay.

During meetings in the Capitol, our members also expressed opposition to SB 1317 (Sen. Wolk) to mandate groundwater extraction permits. The bill undermines the local control element of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which allows local entities the power to decide how to manage their basin. Members also urged legislators to vote against SB 1282 (Sen. Leno) to label neonicotinoid (neonics) pesticides and restrict their use.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees pose in front of the State Capitol.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees in front of the State Capitol.

Our dairy members discussed concerns with SB 1383 (Sen. Lara), a measure to mandate a 40 percent reduction of methane emissions by the year 2030, among other issues. Ag Council opposes the mandate and instead asks legislators to support voluntary incentives to fund research and projects that reduce methane. California dairy has worked extensively to reduce its emissions footprint and incentives will help it to achieve further reductions.

Legislative Reception 

Ag Council concluded a busy day of meetings with our annual Legislative Reception, attended by over 70 guests, including 15 bipartisan legislators. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to interact with legislators and other state officials.

Influential Legislator of the Year Award Presented to Assemblyman Jim Cooper

Ag Council honored Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with the Influential Legislator of the Year Award. This award is given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California. Ag Council Chair Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers, made the presentation to Assemblyman Cooper during Ag Council’s Legislative Conference on May 17.

Cooper said, “In my district alone, we produce more than $2.3 billion in agriculture commodities each year. California farmers feed and clothe the world and we must do everything we can to support them to ensure that California remains the country’s leader in agriculture.”

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblyman Cooper is co-chair of the moderate Democrats (Mod Dems) a coalition of business-friendly legislators. He has authored legislation to help fight invasive pests and disease threatening agriculture, among other bills.

Assemblyman Cooper is also highly engaged in outreach to help his colleagues better understand agriculture. As an example, he helped coordinate a dairy digester tour at Van Warmerdam Dairy, which is a member of Dairy Farmers of America, as well as Western United Dairymen. Attendees learned about the challenges and the benefits of dairy digesters as a tool to reduce manure methane emissions. Because of his efforts, the tour was well attended with five legislators and over 20 legislative and regulatory staff members.

Assemblyman Cooper is not afraid to address complex and controversial issues. He was the only legislator to attend an Air Resources Board workshop to speak out and raise concerns on behalf of the dairy industry regarding the Short Lived Climate Pollutants plan, which is an aggressive regulatory effort.

His leadership is evident, and Ag Council thanks him for being a strong voice for our members. Congratulations to Assemblyman Cooper for being named Ag Council’s Influential Legislator of the Year.

Leveraging our Strength

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Clockwise from left to right: Asm. Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), Asm. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) address Ag Council members at the Annual Dinner.

Leveraging Our Strength

by Emily Rooney

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross

We had record attendance at our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa last week, and given our strong turnout, it is appropriate that this year’s meeting theme was “Leveraging our Strength.” It is also a fitting motto for our organization, as we are a small staff, but we have found effective ways to work cooperatively with members of both parties to protect agricultural businesses in California.

As our chairman Brendon Flynn said in his remarks, “Ag Council represents a wide breadth of agriculture and while we historically only represented just farmer cooperatives, we now embody all facets of agriculture, which makes us a unique and powerful voice in Sacramento.”

During my annual address, I discussed our organization’s work in building bridges with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. We have invested significant efforts in reaching out to moderates to help them understand the importance of agriculture to job growth and California’s economic health.

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Left to right: Political Communication Specialists Tracy Sefl & Doug Heye and moderator Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, Inc.

Our message continues to be heard by many. While there are serious ongoing challenges for agriculture, including the need for more water storage and emerging issues with Proposition 65, I am optimistic about the changes occurring in the Legislature.

Further solidifying that opinion were some of the comments made by three members of the Moderate Democrats Caucus, or “Mod Dems,” who were keynote speakers during our Annual Dinner.  “We have to steer policies forward in a way that makes sense for farmers,” Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said. “The Legislature has not treated you like the breadbasket of the world that you are—that needs to change. The economic impact of California agriculture is undeniable, and we need to make sure your industry stays robust and sustainable.”

Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), co-chairs of the Mod Dems echoed those sentiments in their comments: “We all want a strong California and we all want a strong economy,” Salas said. “Your industry is key to our state’s economic viability and you do have champions [in the Legislature] that want to take a pragmatic approach.”

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

The General Session held the following day, and moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, featured Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Karen Ross and Armando Quintero, member of the California Water Commission. The General Session was rounded out with a lively panel discussion between Democratic Communications Specialist Tracy Sefl and Republican Communications Specialist Douglas Heye about the presidential election.

Impact Report

Ag Council released the 2015 Impact Report during our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa. Ag Council’s regulatory and legislative advocacy work is detailed in the report, among other efforts.

Click HERE to view the 2015 Impact Report.

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From left to right: Ag Council Vice President of Government Affairs Tricia Geringer, California Cultivator Award Recipient Paul Martin, and Ag Council President Emily Rooney

Annual Meeting Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 97th Annual Meeting in Napa, please help us plan future meetings by responding to a brief survey available HERE. Thank you, in advance, for your feedback.

Paul Martin Honored with California Cultivator Award

Ag Council recognized Paul Martin as the recipient of the 2016 California Cultivator Award. Martin was lauded for his work with the California dairy industry. He worked as director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen (WUD) and served in Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development from 2012 to 2014 before returning to WUD as interim CEO for the organization. He recently retired.

To read more about the accomplishments of Paul Martin, click HERE.

2016 Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Winning Team

2016 Ag Council Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Winning Team from Blue Diamond Growers. From left to right: Joe Huston, Steve Van Duyn, Gail Yee, Don Yee, and Dale Van Groningen

Dairyfest Recognizes June as Dairy Month

(Pictured from left to right) Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) at Dairyfest.

(Pictured from left to right) Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R- Bieber) at Dairyfest.

Over 350 guests, including legislators and staff, joined Ag Council’s dairy members for the second annual Dairyfest event.  Dairyfest is an ice cream social at the State Capitol in Sacramento recognizing June as Dairy Month and celebrating California’s dairy producers. The event is sponsored by Ag Council’s three dairy members California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes.

Thank you to the legislators who attended Dairyfest, including: Assemblyman Alejo, Assemblywoman Brown, Assemblyman Dahle, Assemblyman Chu, Assemblyman Cooper, Assemblyman Perea, Senator Anderson, Senator Cannella, Senator Wieckowski, and Senator Nguyen. Ag Council extends a special thank you to our legislative sponsors, Assemblyman Perea and Assemblyman Cannella, for their support.

Senator Bob Wieckowski (pictured 2nd from left) with Ag Council dairymen (from left to right) Joey Fernandes, Ben Curti, and Steve DeBrum.

Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) (pictured 2nd from left) with Ag Council dairymen (from left to right) Joey Fernandes, Ben Curti, and Steve DeBrum.

Legislators had an opportunity to speak with our dairy members directly, and the event was a great opportunity to raise the profile of Ag Council, as well as highlight the importance of the dairy community in California. Dairyfest also gave members a chance to talk about the positive economic impact of dairy in California.

Ag Council appreciates the volunteer help provided by a group of high school students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program from Lodi High School who spent the afternoon assisting with Dairyfest by helping set-up, serve ice cream and clean-up after the event. Two dairy princesses from Escalon were also in attendance and helped greet attendees.

Thank you to our dairy members who helped make Ag Council’s Dairyfest a successful outreach event.

 

Legislative Day 2015

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.

Asm. Perea Recognized with Influential Legislator Award

During its annual Legislative Day held on May 19, Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) recognized Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) with the inaugural Influential Legislator Award.

Ag Council Chairman, Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers and Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno)

Ag Council Chairman, Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers and Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno)

“Assemblyman Perea personifies what is good in a political leader,” Emily Rooney, President of Ag Council 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.”

Since coming into office in 2010, Perea has tackled some of California’s toughest issues head-on, including water policy. His district represents the heart of agriculture in California, and as a moderate Democrat he’s been sensitive to not only how important the industry is to the economy, but also in providing employment to many of his constituents.

Brendon Flynn, Chairman of Ag Council who presented the award to Perea 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 last year, demonstrating the he truly understands that a healthy ag economy is good for the entire state of California.”

Perea’s leadership has made impacts in several areas of agricultural policy. He is currently serving as the Assembly Ag Committee Chair and has embraced that role by seeking to learn more about California agriculture. Assemblyman Perea has authored a bill to help fix some of the implementation issues with last year’s groundwater legislation. In 2013, he brought together a diverse coalition to pass Assembly Bill 8, which provides funds to help lower costs for farmers who choose cleaner burning vehicles.

“This award was created to recognize legislators who might go outside of traditional roles, whether they be Republican or Democrat, and do what is actually best for the state, its residents, and the future of agriculture,” Rooney said.

Assemblyman Perea received the Influential Legislator Award during the Ag Council Annual Legislative Day in Sacramento. This award will be given on an annual basis to legislators who embody that same collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California.

Ag Council Holds Annual Legislative Day

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.

Ag Council Holds Annual Legislative Day

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Ag Council Members pictured at the California State Capitol

Ag Council held its annual Legislative Day on May 14, 2013 in Sacramento with a day of events giving our members the opportunity to connect with state leaders on critical issues affecting their businesses.  Thank you to all of our members who attended this important outreach event.

Morning Session Speakers

Legislative Day kicked-off with Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) speaking to our members about his legislative priorities.  As Chair of the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee (ESTM), he discussed nitrate legislation to improve water quality for disadvantaged communities, which ESTM has jurisdiction over.

Assemblymember Alejo also spoke about his bill, AB 60, to allow undocumented residents who are not eligible for a social security account number to receive a driver’s license if all other qualifications are met, and they can provide proof of identity.

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DeeDee D’Adamo, State Water Resources Control Board member

Newly appointed State Water Resources Control Board member, DeeDee D’Adamo, spoke to Legislative Day attendees, as well. Previously, D’Adamo served on the California Air Resources Board from 1999-2013 and in this capacity worked closely with Ag Council on climate change regulations over the past few years.  Among other issues, D’Adamo spoke about nitrate in drinking water, and she discussed the Board’s work on the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan to update flow objectives for Delta tributaries. She urged our members to stay engaged with their local irrigation districts to remain apprised of the issues as the Plan progresses.

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Dr. Gina Solomon, Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at CalEPA

Next, Dr. Gina Solomon, Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at CalEPA, spoke with Ag Council’s members about Governor Brown’s Prop 65 reform plan that was revealed in early May.  Dr. Solomon said the Governor’s proposed reform plan focuses on reducing frivolous lawsuits, safe harbor levels for reproductive toxics and improving warning labels.  Dr. Solomon said the reforms must be consistent with the purposes of Prop 65 and any legislation will require a 2/3 vote in the Legislature.As background, Prop 65 was approved by voters in 1986 and was enacted with the intent to protect Californians from harmful chemicals. Prop 65 requires the governor to annually publish a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.  If a business sells a product containing chemicals listed by the state, the business must provide a clear warning to the public.  Ag Council and our members are very concerned about Prop 65 since attorneys want to extend Prop 65 warnings to food.  As such, Ag Council supports Governor Brown’s proposal.

Ag Council will remain engaged with CalEPA and the governor’s office on this crucial issue via stakeholder meetings, which are serving as a precursor to state legislation on Prop 65. Jason Peltier, Chief Deputy General Manager with Westlands Water District concluded the morning session with a brief update about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  The intent of this comprehensive plan is to restore endangered fish and improve reliability of freshwater supplies diverted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The plan would divert a portion of the Sacramento River into two 35-mile long tunnels constructed under the Delta.

Lunch with Senator Cannella 

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Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) speaking to Legislative Day attendees

Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) joined Ag Council members for a roundtable discussion during lunch where several issues were covered including dairy pricing, high speed rail, nitrate in groundwater and others.  The dialogue helped give our members a better understanding of these high profile state topics prior to their lobbying meetings.

Legislative Outreach & Issues

Ag Council members spent the afternoon in lobbying teams meeting with nearly 20 legislative offices.  It was a lively day in the Capitol building since Ag Council’s Legislative Day was the same day Governor Brown released his May budget revision. His revision assumes state revenues are $2.8 billion ahead of expectations, proposes a $1.1 billion reserve and emphasizes funding for public schools.  The Legislature is now considering Governor Brown’s budget revision given that the constitutional deadline to pass a state budget is June 15.

During their advocacy meetings for Legislative Day, Ag Council members encouraged support for Governor Brown’s Prop 65 reform proposal.  Also, there has been some discussion in the Capitol about inserting a fertilizer tax in the state budget to fund water quality improvements in disadvantaged communities.  Given this, Ag Council members urged legislative offices to refrain from moving forward with any such effort in the state budget.  Instead, our members asked legislators to create a funding mechanism to improve water quality for disadvantaged communities in the revised water bond, which will be on the Legislature’s agenda after the budget is completed.

Furthermore, Ag Council members asked for support of AB 8 by Assemblymember Perea (D-Fresno) and SB 11 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to extend the sunset dates of critical air quality programs for agriculture.  The bills include an extension of the Carl Moyer program to the year 2024.  This program provides incentive grants for cleaner-than-required vehicles, engines and equipment to achieve air quality reductions that would not otherwise occur.

In addition to the above issues, a lobbying team comprising a group of Ag Council’s dairy members advocated in favor of a bill regarding dairy pricing, AB 31, by Dr. Pan (D-Sacramento).  This bill is pending consideration in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

Reception 

Legislative Day concluded with a reception at The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento where Ag Council members had a chance to connect with numerous elected state leaders and agency officials.   Ag Council thanks all of our Legislative Day attendees for their participation.  We greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us for this important outreach effort.

Ag Council Hosts Dairy Lobby Day

Fifteen dairymen and staff from Land O’Lakes, California Dairies Inc., and Dairy Farmers of America joined Ag Council for a Dairy Lobby Day at the state Capitol to support AB 31, which is a measure regarding dairy pricing authored by Dr. Richard Pan (D-Lodi).

Asm. Adam Gray (D-Merced) & Asm. Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley)

Asm. Adam Gray (D-Merced) & Asm. Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley)

The dairymen convened in Sacramento on Wednesday for a morning briefing with Ag Council staff before heading into the Capitol for meetings. The farmers met with legislators who sit on the Ag Committee, as well as others, to urge their support for AB 31. The meetings included visits with: Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), Assemblymember Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), among others. In addition, Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) stopped by to meet the dairymen during lunch, and Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) swung by to say hello as the farmers wrapped-up their day.As background, AB 31 would implement needed changes in the Food and Agricultural Code to set a minimum price for California milk sold to cheese manufacturers and would also provide a credit to the cheese makers. The bill is being opposed by some entities in the cheese processing industry. Ag Council and our dairy members support AB 31 given that California has not kept pace with price opportunities in the formula used to price whey (a protein created when cheese is produced).

The measure is scheduled to be considered in the Assembly Agriculture Committee on May 1st.

Ag Council Builds Bridges to Find Solutions under Prop. 65

On an issue of importance to many Ag Council members, the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently issued a proposed regulation to establish a Proposition 65 Maximum Allowable Dose Level (MADL) for sulfur dioxide (SO2).

In its proposed rule, OEHHA concluded that “consumption by the average consumer of dried fruit treated with SO2 will not result in exposure to SO2 exceeding the proposed MADL. Therefore, a warning is not required under Proposition 65 at this time for exposure to SO2 from consumption of dried fruit.”

Ag Council worked with the Dried Fruit Association (DFA) and the CA League of Food Processors to present data to OEHHA demonstrating the use of sulfur dioxide on fruit. Once OEHHA analyzed the data, they provided the proposed rule.

Proposition 65 was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986 and was intended to protect Californians and the state’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause harm and to inform citizens via labeling or signage about exposure to such chemicals.

However, Proposition 65 has led to unintended consequences towards California agriculture. The recently announced proposed rule has been a high priority regulatory matter for Ag Council and many of our members because healthy California-grown foods can be negatively impacted by Proposition 65 listings and labels.

Please contact our office at ph 916.443.4887 if you would like further details about the proposed rule. Click HERE to read the regulatory notice.