in the KNOW

March 21, 2014

Ag Council Works Against Bill to Label Genetically Engineered Food

With the legislative session in full swing, one of the bills under consideration that Ag Council ardently opposes is SB 1381 by Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa). SB 1381 would mandate labeling of genetically engineered food products in California.

The bill is similar to Proposition 37, which failed on the California ballot in November 2012. Ag Council opposed Proposition 37 and strongly opposes SB 1381 as it increases food costs and is not grounded in science. It is also unnecessary and expands liability.

Grocery bills for consumers will escalate by up to $400 per year according to economic studies undertaken on Proposition 37, which again is analogous to SB 1381. Consumer prices will rise as a result of farmers, food processors and companies being forced to incur huge costs due to the labeling, packaging, distribution and other implementation requirements of a genetically engineered labeling scheme.

The American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization and United States Food and Drug Administration all have studied genetically engineered ingredients and found them to be safe. Additionally, the measure is unnecessary given that consumers can already purchase food products made without genetically engineered products under the “certified organic” label.

SB 1381 also creates a new category of lawsuits where a private citizen can sue without any proof of harm and therefore the measure incentivizes lawsuits. This is misguided and simply serves to boost the coffers of trial attorneys.

Ag Council Action & Bill Status

Ag Council is actively advocating against SB 1381 in the Legislature. The Senate Health Committee will consider the bill on March 26, and it is also slated for consideration in both the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ag Council is a member of a coalition opposed to SB 1381 and will keep our members apprised of the opposition effort during committee consideration.

Coalition Letter

Please click HERE to read a copy of the opposition letter to Chairman Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) of the Senate Health Committee.

State Water Board Announces Changes to Temporary Order

State and federal water agencies this week asked the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) to modify the Board’s previous temporary order that required retention of water in upstream reservoirs to preserve storage only for health and safety purposes due to drought conditions. Many in the agricultural community were extremely concerned by this temporary order and its potential impact on the ag economy and beyond.

On Tuesday this week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) requested a modification in the temporary order to allow agricultural, municipal and other water uses once public health and safety needs are met. This request to somewhat ease the restrictions in the previous order was granted this week by the Board.

Tom Howard, Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board said, “We’ve been very lucky. The month of February was above normal in rainfall in Northern California, at least, so while the drought is still of an incredibly critical nature – there’s been some ability to relax the public health and safety restriction and allow water that’s available to be used for other uses.”

In addition, the Board made another change this week to allow more water to be held back and stored in reservoirs. Normally, Delta outflows increase at the end of March to protect fish. DWR and the Bureau asked that outflow requirements for fish be modified by the Board in order to maximize supplies, and the Board made this modification. Normal outflows would be 11,000 cfs in March and the new standard lowers outflows to 7,100 cfs.

California still remains in a serious drought, and the Board can still make changes to the tempoarary order next month if dry conditions continue.

Prop 65 Draft Regulations Released on Warnings

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), within Cal/EPA, recently released a pre-regulatory draft of proposed changes to Prop 65 warning regulations.

Given the importance of this issue to many of our members, Ag Council is in the process of reviewing the proposal and is involved in discussions with our agricultural counterparts and others regarding the draft regulations. Cal/EPA has stated the proposed draft regulations are meant to serve as the starting part for discussions on Prop 65 warnings.

Ag Council will attend an upcoming OEHHA public workshop on possible regulatory changes to Prop 65 warnings on April 14, and Ag Council will communicate updates to our members about this issue.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or if you like further details regarding the proposed draft regulations, please call Ag Council at ph. (916) 443-4887.

In Case You Missed It

Ag Council recently held its 95th Annual Meeting in Huntington Beach, California. Click HERE for highlights including comments by the general session speakers and the recognition of the 2014 California Cultivator Award recipient, Gray Allen.

Gray Allen (l) receives the Cultivator Award from Ag Council Chair Rich Hudgins (r).

Gray Allen (l) receives the Cultivator Award from Ag Council Chair Rich Hudgins (r).