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in the KNOW

May 20, 2016

Ag Council Hosts Legislative Conference

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) addresses the group of Legislative Day attendees.

On May 17, Ag Council members assembled in Sacramento for the association’s 2016 Legislative Conference. During this annual event, our members foster stronger relationships with legislators, as well as regulatory officials and other decision makers.

During visits with nearly 50 legislators and staff in the State Capitol, Ag Council members conducted advocacy on critical policy issues, such as labor, climate change, nutrient stewardship and water.

Legislative Conference – Morning Session

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) 

The morning agenda began with Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), who is Chair of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Senator Mendoza welcomed the group and stressed the importance of advocacy and outreach with legislators to ensure our views are heard.

In 2013, the senator visited a Land O’Lakes dairy, a Sun-Maid farmer, and Valley Fig Growers in the San Joaquin Valley to learn more about our members. He also spoke at Ag Council’s World Ag Expo breakfast the same year. We appreciate the interest Senator Mendoza has shown in learning about agriculture and look forward to continuing working with him.

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Gordon Burns, Undersecretary for Cal/EPA

CalEPA Undersecretary for Environmental Protection, Gordon Burns

Undersecretary Burns discussed the continued focus of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration on water, including the drought, the California Water Fix, implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and nitrate issues, among others.

Burns also talked about the challenges facing the dairy community. Though there are issues facing dairy, he said the industry has achieved positive success in reducing emissions over the years and there is a recognition of the need for more state funds to continue assisting in these efforts, particularly through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

On other policy issues, the undersecretary talked about how he worked to find a solution on BPA issues impacting food and agriculture and this effort is appreciated.

Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Director, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy discussed some of the obstacles at DPR, such as the need to improve information technology and allow registrations to take place online, which is something DPR is working toward.

Director Leahy spoke about recent work by DPR including:

  • The development of regulations to be released this summer relating to pesticide use and schools.
  • Regarding pollinators, Leahy said we need good science and mitigation as we work to protect bee health. DPR is working on a scientific reevaluation of neonicotinoids (neonics) with new control measures to follow.
  • DPR held listening sessions relating to soil fumigant notifications.
Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Kevin Leahy

Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Brian Leahy

Director Leahy encouraged our members to educate others, including those in the legislative and regulatory arenas, about the nutrient tools we have in California and their importance to agriculture and modern life.

Keynote Speaker at Lunch – Deputy Cabinet Secretary & Senior Advisor to Governor Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Wade Crowfoot opened his remarks complimenting California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross for being a strong advocate for agriculture within Governor Brown’s administration on the issue of water, as well as other policy areas such as the regulatory burden placed on agriculture.

On water issues, he talked about the California Water Fix – saying it moves conveyance underground in a way that does not impair species. Crowfoot also discussed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and emphasized the local control component of the law. In addition, he highlighted the SWEEP program where cap and trade dollars are used to invest in ag water efficiencies.

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

Senior Advisor for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, Wade Crowfoot

We thank all of our speakers for addressing many high profile issues facing agriculture and for interacting with our members in a meaningful way during the Legislative Conference.

2016 Influential Legislator of the Year Award

Ag Council recognized Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with our Influential Legislator of the Year Award. We thank Assemblyman Cooper for his leadership on ag issues in the California State Legislature. Please see the detailed article below about Assemblyman Cooper and the award.

Capitol Meetings – Afternoon Session

During outreach with legislators in the State Capitol, Ag Council members advocated against the ag overtime wage measure, AB 2757 (Asm. Gonzalez), which would require overtime pay for ag workers after eight hours instead of the current 10 hours in California. With the new $15 minimum wage law, AB 2757 adds another regulatory burden onto California ag, makes it difficult to remain competitive, and will likely result in shorter shifts for workers leading to lower take home pay.

During meetings in the Capitol, our members also expressed opposition to SB 1317 (Sen. Wolk) to mandate groundwater extraction permits. The bill undermines the local control element of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which allows local entities the power to decide how to manage their basin. Members also urged legislators to vote against SB 1282 (Sen. Leno) to label neonicotinoid (neonics) pesticides and restrict their use.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees pose in front of the State Capitol.

A group of Ag Council Legislative Day attendees in front of the State Capitol.

Our dairy members discussed concerns with SB 1383 (Sen. Lara), a measure to mandate a 40 percent reduction of methane emissions by the year 2030, among other issues. Ag Council opposes the mandate and instead asks legislators to support voluntary incentives to fund research and projects that reduce methane. California dairy has worked extensively to reduce its emissions footprint and incentives will help it to achieve further reductions.

Legislative Reception 

Ag Council concluded a busy day of meetings with our annual Legislative Reception, attended by over 70 guests, including 15 bipartisan legislators. Our members enjoyed the opportunity to interact with legislators and other state officials.

 

Influential Legislator of the Year Award Presented to Assemblyman Jim Cooper

Ag Council honored Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) with the Influential Legislator of the Year Award. This award is given on an annual basis to legislators who embody a collaborative approach to finding positive outcomes for agriculture and all of California. Ag Council Chair Brendon Flynn, a farmer with Sunsweet Growers, made the presentation to Assemblyman Cooper during Ag Council’s Legislative Conference on May 17.

Cooper said, “In my district alone, we produce more than $2.3 billion in agriculture commodities each year. California farmers feed and clothe the world and we must do everything we can to support them to ensure that California remains the country’s leader in agriculture.”

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

Assemblyman Cooper is co-chair of the moderate Democrats (Mod Dems) a coalition of business-friendly legislators. He has authored legislation to help fight invasive pests and disease threatening agriculture, among other bills.

Assemblyman Cooper is also highly engaged in outreach to help his colleagues better understand agriculture. As an example, he helped coordinate a dairy digester tour at Van Warmerdam Dairy, which is a member of Dairy Farmers of America, as well as Western United Dairymen. Attendees learned about the challenges and the benefits of dairy digesters as a tool to reduce manure methane emissions. Because of his efforts, the tour was well attended with five legislators and over 20 legislative and regulatory staff members.

Assemblyman Cooper is not afraid to address complex and controversial issues. He was the only legislator to attend an Air Resources Board workshop to speak out and raise concerns on behalf of the dairy industry regarding the Short Lived Climate Pollutants plan, which is an aggressive regulatory effort.

His leadership is evident, and Ag Council thanks him for being a strong voice for our members. Congratulations to Assemblyman Cooper for being named Ag Council’s Influential Legislator of the Year.

Legislative Conference Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 2016 Legislative Conference, please provide your feedback by responding to a brief survey. Your input helps us plan future events. Click HERE for the survey.