in the KNOW

July 2, 2015

Senate Rules Committee Confirms Felicia Marcus as State Water Board Chair

Felicia Marcus speaks at Ag Council's Annual Meeting in March 2015.

Felicia Marcus speaks at Ag Council’s Annual Meeting in March 2015.

On July 1, the Senate Rules Committee voted to confirm Governor Jerry Brown’s reappointment of Felicia Marcus as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. A vote by the full Senate is expected to occur within the next few weeks.

Ag Council spoke in favor of Ms. Marcus’ reappointment during the Rules Committee hearing given that she strives to achieve a balanced approach while weighing diverse and often competing interests at the Board. With the severe drought, the Board continues to face enormous challenges, and Ms. Marcus has met with Ag Council members, hears us out regarding critical issues and takes our views into account. Though we may not always agree, we value this level of engagement.

Ms. Marcus has served as chair of the Board since 2012. Confirmation by the full Senate-anticipated in the coming weeks-will reappoint her to this position for another four-year term.

Bill Addressing Antibiotics Use in Livestock & Poultry Passes Assembly Ag Committee

On July 1, the Assembly Agriculture Committee approved SB 27, a measure by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo) to restrict 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. SB 27 also prohibits the administration of a medically important antibiotic to livestock solely to cause increased weight gain or to improve feed efficiency.

Ag Council and other ag groups have been engaged in negotiations on SB 27 on behalf of our members over the past several months to address our issues. Given the recent amendments accepted by the author, Ag Council took a neutral position on the bill in the Assembly Agriculture Committee and conveyed this position during the July 1 hearing.

Some of the crucial issues addressed in the bill include the following:

1) Removing an assessment on producers from the bill
2) Significantly lowering the fines for violations
3) Ensuring that medically important antibiotics can be used to prevent disease or infection
4) The monitoring program is voluntary, not mandatory
5) Requiring that the monitoring program be developed in coordination with the federal government while ensuring it is compatible, not duplicative, of federal efforts and
6) Any information/data provided under SB 27 shall be held confidential. In addition, SB 27 does not allow disclosure of such information unless the data is aggregated to prevent the identification of a farm or business.

SB 27 now moves to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations for consideration, and Ag Council remains involved in the discussions regarding the bill.

CoBank Releases Drought Report

Ag Council member, CoBank, released a report in late June entitled “California Drought in 2015 and its Economic Impact on Agriculture.” To read the detailed report, which includes regional information and impacts to various crops and commodities, click HERE.

The report’s findings include the following drought impacts:

• The economic impact of the drought on agriculture resulted in $1.5 billion in lost revenue in 2014
• 2015 projected lost revenue is between $1.8 billion and $2 billion
• 2012-2014 is the driest three-year period on record for statewide precipitation
• Farmers are expected to fallow 30 percent more farmland this year than in 2014, amounting to about 550,000 to 600,000 acres in 2015