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in the KNOW

January 9, 2015

Gov. Brown Reveals $113 Billion State Budget

Today, Governor Jerry Brown released his state budget containing $113 billion for 2015-2016, which is a five percent increase above the previous general fund budget.

At a press conference, Brown said, “This carefully balanced budget builds for the future by saving money, paying down debt and investing in our state’s core needs. Our long-term fiscal health depends on the wise and prudent actions we take today.”

Of interest to the ag community, the governor’s 2015-2016 budget includes $532.5 million in funding from the water bond, Prop 1, for ongoing work to implement the Water Action Plan, including efforts to improve access to safe drinking water, water storage, water recycling, and groundwater sustainability, among other priorities. This is the first expenditure of funds from Prop 1 and legislators must approve the funding prior to implementation. In addition, Brown’s budget contains $1.1 billion from a 2006 flood bond to augment flood protection in California.

The governor’s budget also reflects his continued focus on lowering carbon emissions with $1 billion in cap-and-trade funding going toward low-carbon transportation, sustainable communities, energy efficiency, urban forests and high-speed rail.

Given the significant expansion of Medi-Cal to over 12 million people and the unfunded liabilities for retiree health care benefits estimated at $72 billion, Brown said, “The budget is precariously balanced and will get more challenging down the road.”

Now that the governor has formally released his budget, the California State Legislature will hold budget hearings over the next few months prior to developing a final budget, which must be approved by June 15, 2015.

Click HERE to read the governor’s budget press statement.

CalRecycle Pulls Ag into Proposed Regs

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is proposing new regulations regarding the land application of agricultural and food processing byproducts, storage and disposal of those byproducts and a new definition of agricultural materials and in-vessel digestion.

CalRecycle states that they are trying to address a specific nuisance issue with municipal green waste composting operations. However, Ag Council is concerned that CalRecycle unnecessarily places agricultural and food processing byproducts under a layer of repetitive and possibly conflicting laws for some in our industry.

Ag Council is concerned the newly proposed regulations cause more confusion than clarity in the agricultural community and unnecessarily place agricultural and food processing by-products within a regulatory structure that is really intended to regulate composting operations and final deposition of finished composts.

This proposed regulation flies in the face of other efforts within the Administration, such as the work at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), which streamlines the permit process and works to create a more business-friendly environment.

Ag Council submitted written comments reflecting our concerns and provided testimony at the December public meeting to express that CalRecycle has cast its net too wide and–because of drafting issues and changes to underlying definitions–the entire scope of the regulation is not clear.

Ag Council remains engaged in this matter and would be pleased to share our comment letter with members. To receive a copy of the comment letter, or to learn more about this issue, please email Rachael O’Brien at: rachael@agcouncil.org.

CalOSHA Proposes Unrealistic and Unjustified Heat Illness Regs

Ag Council joined together with other ag organizations recently to provide comments regarding Cal/OSHA’s proposed modifications to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.

In particular, the regulatory agency is proceeding with impractical changes to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard without any substantive reasoning for such changes. In addition to the fact the proposed revisions are not justified, they also include unrealistic shade and break requirements. To read the detailed comment letter, click HERE.