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in the KNOW

May 6, 2016

Legislators & Staff Tour Dairy & Visit Dairy Digester

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From L- R: Leo Van Warmerdam, Asm. Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Peter Van Warmerdam, Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Asm. Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) & Asm. Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) at Van Warmerdam Dairy

Five legislators and over 20 legislative staff, in addition to key regulatory staff from the California Air Resources Board (ARB), attended a tour of Van Warmerdam Dairy in Galt on April 28 organized by Ag Council, Western United Dairymen and Sacramento County Farm Bureau. Van Warmerdam Dairy is a member of Dairy Farmers of America, an Ag Council member.

Ag Council thanks Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and his staff for helping to coordinate the tour and encouraging others to attend. We appreciate the participation of Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), and Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and the many legislative and regulatory staff who attended. Thank you to Leo and Peter Van Warmerdam for hosting the legislators and staff at their dairy. This type of outreach is critical to help educate decision-makers at the state level.

From L-R: Daryl Maas of Maas Energy Works, Inc., Asm. Jim Frazier, & Asm. Jim Cooper

From L-R: Daryl Maas of Maas Energy Works, Inc., Asm. Jim Frazier, & Asm. Jim Cooper

The main focus of the tour was to educate attendees about the digester at Van Warmerdam Dairy. With impending ARB regulations to mandate significant reductions in methane by the year 2030, as well as legislation making its way through the Legislature to require a 40 percent reduction in methane, the goal of the tour was to emphasize the need for state incentive funding to boost the number of voluntary methane reduction projects in California, such as digesters. California dairies have slashed their carbon footprint by 63 percent over 63 years for every glass of milk produced and want to continue to do so on a voluntary basis, rather than by mandates imposed by the state.

At Van Warmerdam Dairy, the digester (owned and operated by Maas Energy Works, Inc. under a lease) generates about two million kWh per year of renewable electricity. The attendees learned that for each cow’s manure that is digested, greenhouse gases are reduced by the equivalent of removing one car from the road. And, the manure from four cows in a digester can provide a house with year-round electricity.

The group also learned about the day-to-day operations of the dairy, including the importance of feed efficiency, which leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions per gallon of milk produced.

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Dairy tour attendees gather for a group photo.

The digester, which became operational in July 2013, cost $1.9 million with financing from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), bank loans and cash from the owner. Currently, the state budget includes $35 million from GGRF going toward the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Ag Council, our dairy members, and others have requested at least $100 million in cap and trade funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) over the next five years to build more digesters, solids separation projects and other efforts to continue to reduce methane in California. Given the cost of these projects, a long-term funding commitment by the state is needed to move voluntary projects forward now and in the future.

Again, Ag Council thanks the legislators and staff for attending the tour, and we also thank Leo and Peter Van Warmerdam for welcoming us all to their dairy.

Ag Overtime Wage Bill Update

Ag Council continues its advocacy against the ag overtime wage measure, AB 2757, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). The bill remains on suspense in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. The suspense file contains bills that are set aside due to their fiscal impact. Bills on suspense may be heard at a later hearing. Or, the bills could be held on suspense and not move forward.

We are working to build opposition to AB 2757 in the Legislature and encouraging legislators to hold the bill on suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, so that it does not move out of committee. Among the recent meetings, Ag Council’s Dairy Committee met with Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Kingsburg), who was recently elected in April, to discuss our opposition.

With the recent passage of the $15 minimum wage bill, and the pressure that new wage law places on the ag community, it is critical that legislators hear strong opposition from the ag community regarding AB 2757. We urge you to reach out to your legislators now by using the Learn More link below.

As background, AB 2757 repeals the current overtime wage requirement in California for agricultural workers, which pays overtime after 10 hours of work in a day and over 60 hours of work in a week, and phases in a new overtime wage law over the course of four years culminating in a requirement to pay overtime after eight hours in one day or 40 hours in a week by the year 2020.

TAKE ACTION – Click HERE to go to our Action Center and easily email an opposition letter to your legislators. Your voice at this time is critical to help stop AB 2757.

Ag Council Speaks at ARB Workshop

On April 26, Ag Council provided comments during a workshop on the Proposed Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy (SLCP Strategy) put forth by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

Ag Council joined partners from the dairy industry to push back on the recently released draft strategy that is proposing aggressive timelines and further regulation of California dairies. The proposed regulatory approach for dairies may have broad implications for the industry. We are particularly concerned about the loss of greenhouse gas (GHG) offset credits, which would have far reaching implications for already strained dairy economics by eliminating a significant revenue stream. During the workshop, Ag Council stated that ARB should consider whether voluntary approaches could be more effective in achieving reductions without causing leakage of California dairies to other states.

Ag Council believes that progress cannot be made without a coordinated effort and long-term commitment to state funding. While the SLCP plan acknowledges the need for a minimum of $100 million in each of the next five years in incentive funding just to get started, that funding is not currently being made available. The Administration’s proposed 2016-2017 state budget only allocates $35 million for dairy methane reduction projects. There is a significant disconnect between the goals that are being set and the funding needed to achieve those goals. Ag Council will continue to work to drive attention toward these issues on behalf of our members.

ARB will consider the proposed SLCP Strategy and Draft Environmental Analysis (EA) on May 19, 2016, and Ag Council will be in attendance. A final decision on the matter will be made at a later meeting, in either late summer or early fall. Public comments on both documents are due by May 26, 2016.

Click HERE to read Ag Council’s detailed overview of the SLCP Reduction Strategy.