in the KNOW

May 4, 2013

State Legislature Hits Deadline

The Legislature was buzzing with activity this week given that May 3rd was the deadline for policy committees to hear fiscal bills. Among the many bills considered throughout the week were measures addressing dairy pricing, the water bond, CEQA and farmers’ markets. Further details are provided below.

Ag Committee Holds Dairy Hearing

This week, legislation regarding dairy pricing, AB 31, was considered in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. The author of the bill is Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).

Photo courtesy of Tim Hearden with Capital Press.

AB 31, in its original form, would have implemented changes in the Food and Agricultural Code to set a minimum price for California milk sold to cheese manufacturers and would also provide a credit to the cheese makers. Ag Council and our dairy members supported the original text of AB 31 given that California has not kept pace with price opportunities in the formula used to price whey (a protein created when cheese is produced).

Since the original bill was strongly opposed by some entities in the cheese processing industry, AB 31 was amended to contain benign “intent” language. This was done in order to keep the bill moving–and prevent it from dying in committee–with the hope that the stakeholders can continue working together to come to agreement to move the legislation forward. The amended version of AB 31 was approved out of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday.

Ag Council has a neutral position on the new language because it does not provide the certainty our dairy farmers need right now. At the same time, Ag Council recognizes the importance of continuing conversations with stakeholders, and we are involved in the ongoing discussions, per the direction of Assembly Committee on Agriculture Chairwoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton).

Water Bond Legislation

A hearing was held this past week in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife to discuss three bills pertaining to the water bond, which is scheduled for the November 2014 ballot in California.

The bills are: AB 143, authored by Assemblymember Perea (D-Fresno), AB 295 by Assemblymember Salas (D-Bakersfield) and AB 1331 (an Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee bill).

The bills are placeholders for what will later become legislation to rework the existing water bond. Leaders in the Legislature have indicated that substantive discussions on the water bond will likely not take place until after passage of the state budget this year. The Legislature is expected to make reductions to the existing $11.4 billion bond in order to help aid in the passage of the bond on the 2014 ballot.

CEQA Measure Passes Committee

A bill to make changes to CEQA moved through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee this week. SB 731, by Senate President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is intended to reduce project delays due to CEQA. More details about the bill are expected to emerge over the coming months.

Steinberg said he is “trying to find the middle path” and “modernize” CEQA.  Many unions and environmental groups oppose CEQA reform, which creates difficulties for the bill to pass in the Legislature.

Farmers’ Market  Bill Moves Forward

Ag Council supported AB 996 in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture this week on behalf of our members: Certified Farmers’ Markets of Sacramento and Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association.

The bill by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) makes needed improvements to procedures for the direct marketing of agricultural products and Certified Farmers’ Markets (CFMs).

The measure, approved out of committee on Wednesday,  strengthens enforcement provisions relating to the operations and governance of California’s Certified Farmers’ Markets. Among other provisions, AB 996 creates a statewide certification process for direct market producers and establishes a set procedure for an operator to obtain a CFM license.

In addition, AB 996 would prohibit false or misleading claims about the origin of an ag product, the identity of producers, method of production, and the use of the phrase “California Grown” for products grown outside of the state. The bill contains a sunset provision of January 1, 2016.

Food Safety Meetings

Ag Council Allied Member, DFA of California, is holding upcoming District Meetings to highlight DFA’s new Food Safety and Quality Tools to help entities meet food safety regulations and customer requirements.

A District Meeting will be held in Fresno on May 9 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center at 5 p.m. and another District Meeting will be held on May 14 in Yuba City at The Plaza Room at 5 p.m. Click HERE to register and for cost information. To read more about DFA of California, click HERE.

Please contact Katie Ward (katiew@agfoodsafety.org) or Amber Bernhard (amberb@agfoodsafety.org) with any questions.

USDA Export Grants Available

The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it is soliciting applications for five grant programs that support ag exports.  The grants open for applications are:

Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program (Federal Register notice HERE),

Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (Federal Register notice HERE)

Market Access Program (Federal Register notice HERE)

Emerging Markets Program (Federal Register notice HERE)

Quality Samples Program (Federal Register notice HERE)

Applications are due by May 28, 2013. For further assistance, Ag Council Allied Member, Morrison & Company, provides specialized grant writing for clients. Recently, 97 percent of all funding awarded in California for the USDA Value Added Producer Grants went to clients of Morrison & Company. Please contact Brent Morrison or Stacy Kennedy for more details at ph. 530.893.4764 or read more on their website HERE.

Join Us on May 14

2013LegDayPostcard.inddWe invite our members to connect with state legislators and officials at our annual Legislative Reception on May 14.

Legislative Reception May 14, 2013 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The Citizen Hotel 926 J Street Sacramento, CA 95814

RSVP by May 9 to Rebecca Osumi at ph. 916.443.4887   If you are an Ag Council member and would like details about the series of events taking place on Legislative Day (May 14), please contact Rebecca at the number above.