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in the KNOW

March 28, 2014

Ag Council Speaks Out Against Food Labeling Measure

This week, Ag Council spoke out against a bill to label genetically engineered food, SB 1381 by Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), at a hearing in the Senate Committee on Health. Ag Council member Mona Shulman, VP and General Counsel with Pacific Coast Producers, testified in opposition to SB 1381 detailing the costly impacts on farmer-owned businesses, including liability and compliance costs, which will result in higher grocery bills for consumers.

Unfortunately, despite significant opposition to SB 1381 by Ag Council and others over the past few weeks, the Committee on Health approved the bill by a vote of 5-2.

As background, SB 1381 is markedly similar Proposition 37, which was a measure to label genetically engineered food that failed on the California ballot in November 2012. Ag Council opposed Proposition 37 and strongly opposes SB 1381 because it increases food costs and is not grounded in science. It is also unnecessary and expands liability.

SB 1381 is now pending in the Senate Committee on Rules.

Coalition Letter
To read the opposition letter sent to the Senate Health Committee, click HERE.

Labor Committee Approves New Minimum Wage Bill Opposed by Business & Ag Groups

The Senate Labor Committee this week approved a measure, SB 935 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $13 by the year 2017. Ag Council opposes SB 935, along with numerous other agricultural and business organizations.

SB 935 indexes minimum wage increases to inflation beginning in 2018, which is very disconcerting because economic factors and costs are not contemplated with such automatic increases.

The California Legislature approved, and Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, a minimum wage increase last year that raises the current $8 minimum wage to $9 this July and then increases it to $10 in January 2016. Of note, a recent Congressional Budget Office report reveals increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 as proposed by some at the federal level would provide a higher wage for some workers.  However, “some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.”

SB 935 is now pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Ag Council continues to oppose the bill in the Legislature.

State Senate Formally Suspends Three Members

The California State Senate today voted to suspend three senators accused of various crimes including corruption, perjury and conspiracy to traffic weapons, among other counts. All three continue to receive pay.

Senate President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said this week, “They will not come back, period, unless and until they are acquitted of the charges.”

Steinberg also said of the three legislators, “One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Three? I am calling on our entire body to take a deeper look at our culture.” Steinberg is conducting an ethics review of each individual Senate office in April.

As background, Senator Rod Wright (D-Baldwin Hills) was convicted of voter fraud and perjury, and Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) has been indicted on 24 counts of corruption. In addition, just this week, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested on corruption charges and conspiracy to traffic firearms.

Given that the three senators continue to receive pay during their suspension, Steinberg is expected to initiate a constitutional amendment permitting the Legislature to suspend members without pay. This action requires a two-thirds vote of approval by the Legislature and then it must be passed by voters on the ballot.

Click HERE to read more in a San Francisco Chronicle article.

CDFA Water Efficiency Meetings

The emergency drought measure, SB 103, recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown includes $10 million in funding for on-farm water conservation practices. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is creating a grant fund called the Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program with the funding.

Two upcoming stakeholder meetings are being held by CDFA to discuss the new program and to consider public comments. Dates, times and locations for the meetings are as follows:

Friday, April 11, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
CDFA Headquarters Main Auditorium – 1st floor
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Friday, April 18, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Stanislaus County Agricultural Center Harvest Hall, Room DE 3
800 Cornucopia Way
Modesto, CA 95358

The program is expected to be implemented by July 1, 2014. Click HERE for more details and an overview of the grant program.

In Case You Missed It

Ag Council’s 2013 Impact Report is now available online. The Impact Report details legislative and regulatory achievements and also covers Ag Council’s important outreach to legislators. Click HERE to view the Impact Report.