in the KNOW

March 16, 2012

Nitrate Study

On Tuesday this week, the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, released a report entitled, Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water. The report was required under a state law approved by the Legislature in 2008. The law required the State Water Resources Control Board, in consultation with other agencies, to prepare a Report to the Legislature to “improve understanding of the causes of (nitrate) groundwater contamination, identify potential remediation solutions and funding sources to recover costs expended by the State…clean up or treat groundwater and ensure the provision of safe drinking water to all communities.” UC Davis developed the report under contract with the State Water Board.

Data examined for the report represented 100,000 samples from 20,000 wells in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Monterey County area of the Salinas Valley. The report states 1 in 10 wells exceeded Nitrate Maximum Contaminant Levels under state law and that 96 percent of total excess nitrogen comes from cropland. The report also states that regulatory actions to date have been “insufficient to control nitrate contamination” in groundwater.  Recommendations in the report include mandatory testing, education of farmers to improve nitrogen use efficiency, a cap and trade system for nitrogen management, and taxes and fees on nitrogen, among other suggestions.

The day before the report was released, Ag Council staff held a webinar to discuss findings and recommendations in the report with members. Ag Council stands ready to provide background information and resources to assist our members regarding this issue. Please call our office at 916-443-4887 if you would like additional details.

In addition, the State Water Resources Control Board will conduct a public workshop regarding the report on May 23, 2012 at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Hearing Room, Second Floor, at Cal/EPA 1001 I Street Sacramento, CA 95814. A live video stream of the public workshop will be broadcast on May 23, which you can access here.

To read an Executive Summary of the nitrate report, click here. To read the full report, click here.


Tax Hike Compromise

On Wednesday, a compromise was reached to combine two seperate ballot measures into one measure that would raise income and sales taxes to pay for public education and other state programs.

The deal reached between Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a “millionaire’s tax” joins elements of the Governor’s original tax measure with a ballot proposal backed by the California Federation of Teachers and others.

Under the deal negotiated this week, the new ballot measure compromises a quarter-cent sales tax increase for four years (down from a half-cent in the Governor’s original proposal), along with a one percent income tax increase for joint filers earning over $500,000, a two percent income tax increase on incomes over $600,000 for joint filers and a two to three percent increase on incomes over $1 million for joint filers. The income tax increase would last for seven years beginning this year.

For weeks, the Governor sought to find common ground with backers of the “millionaire’s tax” and obtain their support for his ballot measure to help improve his ability to pass the tax hike in November. In order to qualify for the November ballot, the new ballot measure must be reviewed by the state officials and then petition signatures need to be collected by May.

Click here to read more about the deal on the Governor’s website.


Rural Fire Fee

Legislation to overturn the new rural fire tax was announced this week by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) and others. The bill, AB 1506, repeals the $84 million in taxes imposed upon rural California residents as part of the 2011-2012 state budget.

At a press conference this week, Assemblyman Jeffries said, “It’s time for the Legislature to stop this uncalled-for and needless assault on rural residents. The state should not be taxing these homeowners more for providing the same level of fire service they have come to expect. It’s unfair, it’s unnecessary, and it’s very likely unconstitutional.”

Rural communities are often in designated as “State Responsibility Areas” and depend upon state crews for fire prevention and protection, particularly during the height of the wildfire season. Many local areas already impose fees on residents for fire services, so supporters of AB 1506-including Ag Council-believe property owners are being forced to pay twice for the same service.

Without the bill, rural property owners will likely soon be billed $300 for fire service ($150 for fiscal year 2011-2012 and $150 for fiscal year 2012-2013) and will receive no additional benefits for these increased costs.

Ag Council will support AB 1506 during the legislative process. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled for the bill.


Upcoming Summit

The California Agriculture Communications Coalition (CACC) is holding a Summit on March 21, 2012 to update the ag community on the progress of Know a California Farmer.

Ag Council is a member of CACC and encourages your attendance at the Summit, which takes place after Ag Day events conclude in Sacramento on March 21.

Over 200 commodity organizations across California are members of CACC. A website called www.knowacaliforniafarmer.com was launched by CACC as a communications tool where farmers tell their stories about farming and ranching. An update on the communications effort will be provided at the Summit.

Location: California Farm Bureau Federation
2300 River Plaza Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Date: March 21, 2012
Time: 3:00-4:30 p.m.
RSVP: eric@knowacaliforniafarmer.com