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in the KNOW

March 20, 2015

Emergency Drought Package Announced

Governor Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders announced a $1 billion emergency drought package on March 19 to expedite bond and other funding for local drought relief and infrastructure projects.

The drought package does not provide new state funding. It is an acceleration of funds for the following purposes, among others: $272 million in Prop 1 water bond funds for safe drinking water and water recycling, $660 million from Prop 1E for flood protection to prepare for future weather events, $17 million for emergency food aid to drought-affected areas, $4 million for emergency drinking water to disadvantaged communities, $5 million to the Department of Water Resources to provide emergency drinking water support for small communities, as well as other funding.

Chart courtesy of Department of Water Resources. (Click photo to enlarge)

Chart courtesy of Department of Water Resources. (Click photo to enlarge)

Ag Council appreciates the state government’s attention to the drought issue. However, with water content in Central Sierra snowpack at 20 percent of average and only 16 percent of average in the Northern Sierra, as well as strict regulatory policies in place, agriculture will continue bear a heavy burden in the midst of this drought. The State Water Project is delivering just 20 percent of water to farmers and the Central Valley Project is projecting a zero percent water allocation to agricultural water users. This means less food grown here in California and fewer jobs.

We hope the acceleration of state funding helps the state better prepare for future droughts, so that the suffering in our agricultural communities can end and our members can do what they do best—grow safe and affordable food for families.

The Legislature is expected to consider the drought package during the week of March 23.

State Water Board Revises Emergency Conservation Measures

The State Water Resources Control Board on March 17 voted to extend and expand emergency regulations to prohibit certain types of water use, such as washing down sidewalks and creating a minimum standard for outdoor irrigation restrictions by urban water suppliers.

The Board took action to require urban water suppliers to limit outdoor irrigation to two days a week and also mandated that water agencies ban landscape irrigation on rainy days and within 48 hours of rain. In addition, the Board approved new rules on retail businesses including a ban on serving water in restaurants unless requested and a mandate for hotels to offer to guests the option to not wash linens.

To enforce the regulations, local water agencies can impose fines of up to $500 per violation, and the water agencies can be fined up to $10,000 per day by the state for violations.

Click HERE to read the emergency regulations approved by the Board on March 17.

Prop 65 Update

The business community had a meaningful victory on March 17 in the Environmental Law Foundation v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp decision by the First District Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling that interpreted Prop 65 regulations to allow businesses to average the level of exposure to lead in food products over multiple days instead of evaluating the exposure on the day the food is actually consumed. A copy of the decision can be found HERE.

On the legislative front, Ag Council supports AB 543 by Assemblymember Quirk (D-Hayward) to address “overwarning” concerns in the business community as a result of Prop 65. AB 543 provides that a person, in the course of doing business, does not knowingly and intentionally expose an individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity if an exposure assessment is conducted and meets specified requirements.

To read the letter in support of this measure, click HERE. AB 543 is awaiting consideration in the legislative hearing process.

Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015

Ag Council opposes AB 67 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), entitled the Double Pay on the Holiday Act, which would mandate that employers pay employees at least two times the regular rate of pay on “family holidays” defined in AB 67 as December 25 and the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving).

Given that AB 67 will raise costs on employers and create a competitive disadvantage for businesses with a physical presence in California, Ag Council spoke in opposition to AB 67 during a hearing in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The committee members approved the bill on a 5-2 vote, and the measure now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Impact ReportImpactReportCover_2014.114919

In case you missed it, Ag Council released the 2014 Impact Report. Ag Council’s regulatory and legislative advocacy work is detailed in the report, among other efforts.

Click HERE to view the 2014 Impact Report.