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in the KNOW

October 18, 2013

Legislators Visit Ag Council Members

As Ag Council continues its outreach to key members of the Legislature, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) and Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) recently joined our members from Allied Grape Growers, Almond Hullers and Processors Association (AHPA), California Dairies Inc. (CDI), and Central California Almond Growers Association for a day of tours.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, dairyman Bob LaSalle, Assemblyman Bigelow & Darrin Monteiro with CDI

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, dairyman Bob LaSalle, Assemblyman Bigelow & Darrin Monteiro with CDI

Bob LaSalle, a dairyman with CDI, hosted the legislators at his dairy in Firebaugh. He talked about some of the struggles facing the California dairy industry including high input costs and regulations that can be overwhelming when aggregated. The assemblymen saw his milking barn and discussed the interconnection between dairies and the almond industry given that hulls and shells are used for feed and bedding. This first-hand, on-the-ground experience at a dairy is invaluable as Ag Council reaches out to legislators about the difficulties confronting dairy families.

Next, the legislators met with Mathew Andrew, who is a wine grape grower and board chairman of Allied Grape Growers. He is also an almond grower with Central California Almond Growers Association. The legislators spoke with Andrew about taxes and labor issues, as well as the need to increase regulatory oversight. Bigelow and Frazier watched almonds being harvested and also saw raisins drying in the sun on paper trays.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Mathew Andrew & Assemblyman Bigelow in front of harvesting equipment.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Mathew Andrew & Assemblyman Bigelow in front of harvesting equipment.

The legislators then visited Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Cooperative, a member of AHPA. Bigelow and Frazier toured the hulling and shelling facility, and Hamilton discussed key state issues, such as Proposition 65 and how regulatory decisions on this matter could affect food safety. Hamilton also talked about how important it is for state officials to consider the cost of compliance on businesses as regulations are implemented. Ag Council is engaged in an effort at the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce the cost of the compliance and increase the efficiency of the compliance process.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Co-op, Kelly Covello with AHPA & Assemblyman Bigelow.

From L-R: Assemblyman Frazier, Jeff Hamilton of Minturn Huller Co-op, Kelly Covello with AHPA & Assemblyman Bigelow.

One of the themes that emerged from the legislators is the desire to strengthen the legislative oversight of regulatory agencies. Ag Council supports such an effort and looks forward to working with Assemblyman Bigelow and Assemblyman Frazier, and their counterparts in the Legislature, in this endeavor.

Ag Council greatly appreciates the help of each of the farmers and businesses involved with the tours. We thank our members Allied Grape Growers, AHPA, CDI, and Central California Almond Growers Association for their commitment to this outreach. The tours are an important part of our effort to connect with legislators and discuss the critical issues facing our members.

We also very much appreciate the time that Assemblyman Bigelow and Assemblyman Frazier devoted in order to spend the day with Ag Council members.

 

Legislative Wrap-Up

Gov. Brown signs bills. Photo by Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press.

Gov. Brown signs bills. Photo by Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press.

Governor Jerry Brown finalized consideration of legislation on his desk earlier this week in order to meet the October 13 deadline for him to sign or veto bills. Overall in 2013, the Governor signed just over 800 bills and vetoed 96. Ag Council was engaged in several measures throughout the legislative session. Please read on for the outcome of key measures important to our members.

Labor

Minimum wage hike passes & mandatory mediation bill stalls

AB 10 (Alejo) –Signed by the Governor– Raises California’s current $8 minimum wage to $9 starting in July 2014 and then raises it again to $10 in January 2016. Ag Council and many business and ag groups staunchly opposed a minimum wage hike.

Unfortunately, after Democrat leaders garnered the support of Governor Jerry Brown prior to the end of the legislative session, the momentum existed to move forward with the bill and the measure was recently signed into law.

SB 25 (Steinberg) – Held in the Legislature – Ag Council is pleased to report the mandatory mediation measure, SB 25, was not considered prior to Senate adjournment this year. It would have allowed a party to prolong collective bargaining negotiations under the Ag Labor Relations Act and then call for mandatory mediation of a renewal contract. The contract would not have been subject to worker ratification, which marginalizes workers.

Ag Council and many agricultural organizations had worked to oppose SB 25 throughout the year, and the fact the bill did not move out of the Legislature is a positive outcome for the ag community.

Air Quality

Penalty bills shelved & Carl Moyer measure passes

SB 691 (Hancock) – Held in the Legislature – SB 691 would have subjected Title V permit holders under the Clean Air Act to a $100,000 strict liability penalty for the first day of a nuisance violation that releases a toxic air contaminant. Ag Council strongly advocated against this measure and, in a win for our members with Title V air permits, this bill was not considered before the Legislature adjourned.

AB 1330 (Speaker Perez) – Held in the Legislature – This last minute “gut and amend” measure would have, among other provisions, doubled certain regulatory penalties (including air violations) against businesses located in areas identified by the California Environmental Protection Agency as Environmental Justice Communities. Ag Council and many ag and business groups ardently opposed this bill, which was not considered before adjournment.

AB 8 (Perea) –Signed by the Governor – Extends funding for the Carl Moyer program, among other air quality and transportation programs. Ag Council supported this measure because it is a useful tool in agriculture to incentivize significant reductions in air emissions by funding cleaner than required engines.

Energy

Changes to NEM contracts

AB 327 (Perea) –Signed by the Governor – Written to prevent energy cost increases on low-income ratepayers. Unfortunately, AB 327 was amended in a manner that could considerably raise energy costs, particularly for those who have installed renewable energy projects and provide energy back to utilities under the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program.

The final bill includes intent language stating that by March 31, 2014 the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will consider how long exiting NEM contracts operating under the previous NEM tariff will be allowed to continue. Ag Council remains concerned about costs for those with existing NEM contracts and will work with other organizations to try and protect these contracts in the PUC process.

Climate Change

Ag groups join together to prevent more on-farm regulations

SB 726 (Lara) – Signed by the Governor – An attempt to regulate on-farm carbon emissions was thwarted in early September by a united group of agricultural organizations, including Ag Council, California Farm Bureau Federation and others. SB 726, addressing transparency issues relating to the World Climate Initiative, was amended with language that would have further regulated black carbon (soot) and methane in agriculture.

Agriculture groups are already working with the California Air Resources Board to reduce on-farm greenhouse gases through voluntary measures, which would be compatible with the state’s climate change law, AB 32. Additionally, given that black carbon is already being reduced under current state and federal regulations, very strong opposition built up against the proposed provision and the language affecting farms was successfully removed from SB 726.

Driver’s Licenses

Bill extends the right to drive to undocumented immigrants in California

AB 60 (Alejo) – Signed by the Governor – Allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a California driver’s license if a person can prove their identity and California residency, as well as pass all required exams. The Department of Motor Vehicles will develop and adopt regulations detailing how applicants can prove identity and California residency. The new licenses will be marked differently from other licenses and are expected to be issued starting Jan. 1, 2015.

Taxes

Income tax penalty reduced

AB 1173 (Bocanegra) – Signed by the Governor– Reduces the additional 20 percent California income tax penalty to five percent for Internal Revenue Code Section 409A violations for nonqualified deferred compensation. Essentially, the bill provides partial relief from this penalty tax, which must be paid by workers, not the employer. Ag Council supported this measure.

Water

Governor signs bills to improve drinking water for disadvantaged communities

AB 21 (Alejo) – Signed by the Governor – AB 21 creates the Safe Drinking Water Small Community Emergency Grant Fund to provide grants for emergency drinking water projects to serve disadvantaged communities.

AB 115 (Perea) –Signed by the Governor – AB 115 expands the eligibility for grants and loans from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allowing multiple water systems to apply as a single applicant and allows funding of a project to benefit a disadvantaged community.

AB 118 (Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee) – Signed by the Governor – AB 118 improves flexibility in the disbursement of loans from the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to help underprivileged communities pay for the cost of rectifying deficiencies in small water systems.

Cal/OSHA

Unnecessary and costly bill vetoed

AB 1165 (Skinner) – Governor vetoed this measure — AB 1165 would have created an expensive, duplicative appeals process relating to workplace safety violations that presumed an employer’s guilt. Ag Council opposed this bill given that a regulation was recently adopted for an expedited appeals process at Cal/OSHA and because the measure would undermine due process.

Governor Brown vetoed the bill stating, in part, “Unfortunately, this measure would require the creation of a separate hearing process at the Division of Occupational Safety and Health duplicating an expedited Cal/OSHA Appeals Board process which was recently adopted.”

Annual Mtg. March 2-4, 2014

SavetheDate_frontWe invite all members to join us March 2-4, 2014 for Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting to be held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in Huntington Beach, California.

This event is held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting. Further details will be available at a later date. In the meantime, please save March 2-4, 2014 on your calendars.