in the KNOW

November 18, 2015

School District Halts Chinese Peach Purchases After Concerns Raised by Ag Council MemberClingPeaches_Aug2015

Sacramento City Unified School District has ceased future purchases of canned peaches, pears and applesauce from China after the California Canning Peach Association, an Ag Council member, raised concerns and cited the Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act.

The Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act provide federal guidance on school food purchases and were created to ensure the American agricultural industry, and the jobs it creates, are supported though the purchase of U.S. products.  As such, food products should be domestically sourced where possible.

Further, California food and fiber are grown with care for the environment. This includes a commitment to emissions reductions critical to tackling climate change, which is a significant priority for Governor Brown and the Legislature. California farmers also prioritize food safety, worker safety, and pesticide use is strictly regulated. The same cannot be said of many other nations.

Recently, Sacramento City Unified School District purchased canned peaches and other fruit from China.  This is troubling given that California farmers grow nearly 100 percent of the domestic peaches that are canned or sold in plastic packages.

Rich Hudgins, chief executive officer of the California Canning Peach Association, as well as Rep. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield), raised concerns about the purchases in separate letters to the school district citing the Buy American provisions and other issues. The letters led to an article published in the SacBee.  Sacramento City Unified is now stopping future fruit purchases from China.  However, concerns remain about whether other districts have purchased imported products, particularly fruit, vegetables and nuts, which are grown locally in California.

The lack of transparency regarding school district food purchases from China, a country not known for being a pillar of food safety, is certainly an issue. Clearly, many parents would like to be made aware of such purchases since the food is part of their child’s diet.

Ag Council is working with elected leaders on further steps to help ensure better monitoring and enforcement of the Buy American provisions for schools here in California.

Click HERE to read the SacBee article and HERE to watch an ABC news story.

Ag Council Weighs-In on Cap & Trade Investment Plan

Ag Council provided comments this week on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan.  The plan identifies greenhouse gas emission goals and guides the investment of carbon market revenues raised in the quarterly auctions under the cap-and-trade regulation.

Ag Council’s comment letter encourages the state to make investments in agriculture in order to help our members meet the regulatory requirements of the cap-and-trade program. Investing a portion of the revenue in our agricultural community helps sustain and grow jobs in addition to making the latest emissions reduction technologies accessible and more economically feasible for our members.

As background, the cap-and-trade system is the regulatory mechanism created by CARB to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act signed into law in 2006. The law requires greenhouse gas emissions in California to be reduced to 80 percent of 1990 levels (a 20 percent reduction from 1990 levels) by 2020.

Ag Council’s comment letter is available HERE.

Ag Council Raises Critical Issues in Prop 65 Comments

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a number of proposals in its efforts to update Prop 65, and Ag Council provided written comments on these proposals this month. Ag Council is working with a broad coalition of agriculture and business groups to address the issues affecting our members.

Naturally Occurring Letter
Ag Council and others submitted a letter addressing OEHHA’s pre-regulatory proposal pertaining to the naturally occurring concentration of chemicals and naturally occurring concentrations of arsenic in rice, as well as lead in certain foods. The main issue raised in the letter is the definition of naturally occurring is currently too narrow and needs to be inclusive of the vast number of commodities produced in California. In addition, flexibility is needed in the regulation. OEHHA’s proposal relating to naturally occurring is a step in the right direction, and Ag Council will continue to work on this crucial issue for our members. Click HERE to read the letter.

Prohibiting the Ability to Average Across Lots

Ag Council and others also submitted a comment letter to OEHHA regarding its pre-regulatory proposal prohibiting averaging of concentration levels across lots. Among the issues raised in the letter are the following concerns: 1) OEHHA’s proposed definitions conflict with one another, 2) testing logistics are unworkable with perishable products, and 3) the proposal as written is cost-prohibitive.

Though we are unable to find a way to standardize lots to achieve the goals of OEHHA, we would like to work together in other areas to come to more meaningful outcomes on Prop 65. Click HERE to read the letter (scroll past the “naturally occurring” letter to view the letter regarding “lots”).