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in the KNOW

June 20, 2014

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 this week 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.

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.

“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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Celebrates Ntl. Dairy Month at the Capitol

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (shown 2nd from left), with dairymen (from L-R) Ben Curti, Case van Steyn and George Mertens.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (shown 2nd from left), with dairymen (from L-R) Ben Curti, Case van Steyn and George Mertens.

Assemblyman Perea and Assemblyman Salas enjoying ice cream at Dairyfest.

Assemblyman Perea and Assemblyman Salas enjoying ice cream at Dairyfest.

On June 10, Ag Council held a successful inaugural Dairyfest event, which was an ice cream social at the State Capitol in Sacramento recognizing National Dairy Month and celebrating California dairy producers. The event, attended by over 300 people, was sponsored by Ag Council’s three dairy members: California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes.

Numerous legislators attended Dairyfest, including Speaker Atkins, Assemblyman Salas, Assemblyman Gray, Senator Nielsen, Assemblyman Pan, and Assemblyman Perea, among others. Salas, who was our legislative sponsor along with Senator Cannella, spent time serving ice cream to attendees, and we thank them for their help.

Many of the 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 and our members. 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 nearly two hours serving ice cream. A dairy princess from Modesto was also in attendance.

Thank you, again, to our dairy members–all of whom helped make Ag Council’s inaugural Dairyfest a great event.

 

 

Ag Council & Others Raise Concerns Regarding Prop 65 Pre-Regulatory Proposal

Ag Council and other ag groups joined together to provide formal comments to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) about the pre-regulatory proposal on Prop 65 warnings.

The comments express agriculture’s desire to work on solutions with respect to food. The comment letter states that we do not support a one size fits all approach for food and agriculture. In particular, the comments highlight agriculture’s fear that new warning labels may confuse customers and give the false impression that food safety concerns exist when this is not accurate.

Agriculture wants to work with OEHHA to ensure that consumers are not misled when they should be eating more, not less, of the healthy food our members produce.

In addition, we are concerned the proposal as drafted would increase litigation against our members.

Given the concerns outlined, we hope to pursue alternatives to the proposed food warnings. Ag Council will be sure to keep members apprised of this very important issue as the discussions continue with OEHHA on Prop 65 warnings.

Please click HERE to read the formal comment letter from Ag Council and related trade groups.

Gov. Brown Signs State Budget

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2014-2015 state budget, which contains $156.3 billion in spending for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. The budget directs $1.6 billion into a rainy day fund, allocates $250 million for high speed rail from cap and trade revenues and increases funding for health care and schools, among other provisions.

The governor said in a statement, “This on-time budget provides for today and saves for the future. We’re paying off the state’s credit card, saving for the next rainy day and fixing the broken teachers’ retirement system.”

CDFA Funding
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) budget includes an increase of $3.1 million to ensure all 16 of CDFA’s border stations are staffed year-round. Ag Council advocated for these funds during the budget process in the Legislature. The border stations are the first line of defense to protect California agriculture from invasive species through the inspection of commodities transported in vehicles entering the state.

Also, CDFA received an additional $1.6 million in funding over last year’s budget for animal health. Specifically, $1 million is for the state animal health labs to identify disease, conduct research and respond to disease outbreaks. The remaining $600,000 in funds is for emergency preparedness for staff on the ground to assess and respond to animal health outbreaks. Ag Council supports this needed funding increase and will continue working on this issue given the ongoing threats to animal agriculture.

Governor Brown still has the opportunity to line item veto budget provisions, if he chooses. To read more about the state budget, click HERE to view Governor Brown’s press release.