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in the KNOW

October 4, 2017

Legislators Connect with Ag Council Members During Farm and Food Processing Tours

CurryRubio Tour

Asm. Aguiar-Curry & Asm. Rubio with Frank Muller who is Chairman of the Board for Pacific Coast Producers.

Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry & Assemblywoman Rubio Visit a Farm During Harvest & Tour Pacific Coast Producers’ Woodland Facility

With the California State Legislature in adjournment, it is an excellent time of year to host legislators for farm and food processing tours. The site visits ensure that legislators hear firsthand from our members about the crucial policy issues facing agriculture. The positive relationships fostered during such tours are invaluable and result in lasting connections for years to come.

Just a few days after the Legislature’s adjournment, on September 18, Ag Council member Pacific Coast Producers hosted Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina) on a tour to experience the harvesting of processing tomatoes with the help of Frank Muller of Muller Ranch in Yolo County, who serves as chairman of the board for Pacific Coast Producers. The Muller family has farmed in the Yolo County region for more than 40 years and is one of the 150 family farms that own Pacific Coast Producers.

Muller discussed on-farm sustainability efforts with the legislators, such as soil health and water use, and they watched the harvesting of tomatoes firsthand. In addition, Muller discussed issues with labor availability, noting that his operation offers, to the extent possible, year-round work and above minimum wage rates.  Afterward, Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry and Assemblywoman Rubio visited Pacific Coast Producers’ tomato processing facility in Woodland where an in-depth tour highlighted the cooperative’s work to improve water and energy efficiency, as well as investments made to meet state climate change regulations through the cap and trade program. The tour concluded with a tasting of Pacific Coast Producers’ delicious tomato products, including salsa.

Asm. Grayson with Blue Diamond almond grower Ray Van Beek.

Asm. Grayson with Blue Diamond almond grower Ray Van Beek.

Ag Council thanks Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry and Assemblywoman Rubio for their enthusiasm to learn more about our members and California agriculture. Special thanks to Frank Muller with Muller Ranch, Mona Shulman and the team at Pacific Coast Producers, as well as the California Food Producers who collaborated on the tour.

Assemblyman Grayson Visits Almond and Dairy Members

On September 25, Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord) met with Ray Van Beek, who is a Blue Diamond almond grower, on his farm in Porterville. They discussed various challenges facing farming in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and had an engaging conversation about water supply, quality and storage. Assemblyman Grayson discussed recent legislative activity that took place prior to the adjournment of the Legislature, including water, climate change and other issues.

Assemblyman Grayson then connected with dairymen and others at Land O’Lakes to learn more about the cooperative and tour the processing facility. The group discussed the history of Land O’Lakes in Tulare and talked about the cap and trade extension measure that passed this year and funding for agriculture in the cap and trade expenditure plan. They also had a frank conversation about the unique labor challenges facing dairy farmers and spoke about water-related issues.

Asm. Grayson (3rd from L) visits Land O'Lakes and connects with Ag Council board member Pete Garbani (2nd from L) and others.

Asm. Grayson (3rd from L) visits Land O’Lakes and connects with Ag Council board member Pete Garbani (2nd from L) and others.

We appreciate Assemblyman Grayson for meeting with Ag Council members and engaging in an open dialogue with the farming and food processing community on issues of critical importance. Thanks to Blue Diamond Growers for coordinating the visit with Ray Van Beek. We also appreciate Land O’Lakes–including Pete Garbani, Joey Fernandes, and Cornell Kasbergen and others–for their participation and assistance with the meeting and tour.

Gov. Brown Nears Deadline to Decide the Fate of Hundreds of Bills

Governor Jerry Brown continues to work his way through the stack of hundreds of bills awaiting their fate on his desk. He has until October 15 to take action and sign or veto bills. Among the measures pending on the governor’s desk are the following bills that Ag Council was engaged in during the legislative session:

Buy American Requirement

SB 730 (Pan) 

Ag Council sponsored SB 730 to establish steps for California to monitor compliance with the federal Buy American provision in school lunch and breakfast programs. SB 730 ensures school children consume food of the highest quality and safety, supports locally grown products and benefits our economy.  Special thanks to Dr. Pan for authoring SB 730 and for his work to move it effectively through the legislative process.

POSITION: Ag Council supports SB 730 and is the sponsor of the bill. STATUS: The measure was approved by the Legislature and is pending Governor Brown’s review.

Labor

SB 63 (Jackson)

This measure mandates a new maternity and paternity leave policy on businesses and exposes businesses to litigation. SB 63 allows those working for a business with 20 more employees within a 75-mile radius, who meet specific criteria, to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child. SB 63 is an inflexible bill that creates a seven month protected leave of absence for certain employees when combined with other leave and subjects employers to more liability.

POSITION: Ag Council opposed SB 63 and is requesting a veto. STATUS: SB 63 passed the Legislature and is awaiting Governor Brown’s review.

AB 450 (Chiu) 

The bill prohibits an employer from providing a federal immigration enforcement agent access to a worksite without a properly executed warrant and prohibits employers from voluntarily consenting to an immigration enforcement agent to review or obtain employee records without a subpoena or court order, with limited exceptions. Ag Council moved from opposition to “no position” once the bill author removed punitive civil liability language against employers from the bill and eliminated the provision requiring employers to notify the Labor Commission of a federal immigration worksite enforcement action.

POSITION: Ag Council and others removed opposition due to amendments to address policy concerns in the bill. STATUS: Approved by the Legislature and pending Governor Brown’s consideration.

AB 1209 (Gonzalez Fletcher)

AB 1209 imposes a data collection requirement onto employers to collect and report data to the state pertaining to the mean and median salaries of men and women with the same job.  The bill requires that the information then be posted onto a public website. The purpose of this measure is to publicly shame employers for wage disparities.

POSITION: Ag Council opposes AB 1209 and is seeking a veto. STATUS: AB 1209 passed the Legislature and is awaiting Governor Brown’s consideration.

Water

AB 313 (Gray) 

The measure restructures the administration and enforcement of water rights at the State Water Resources Control Board in order to bring more accountability and transparency to California’s water management structure. AB 313 creates a new Water Rights Division where an administrative law judge would preside over water rights matters to improve objectivity. The Division would conduct hearings and make a recommendation to the board, which could accept, reject or modify recommendations.

POSITION: Ag Council supports AB 313 and is asking Governor Brown to sign it. STATUS: AB 313 was approved by the Legislature and it awaits Governor Brown’s review.

SB 252 (Dodd)

SB 252 adds new requirements onto well applicants located in critically overdrafted basins, such as: the proposed capacity and estimated pumping rate for the well, anticipated pumping schedule and an estimated annual extraction volume. After extensive lobbying by a coalition of ag groups, the author accepted amendments to SB 252 and removed the following provisions: 1) the requirement for well applicants to notify all adjacent landowners of the intent to obtain a new well permit and 2) the mandate that a public meeting be held before a new well permit could be issued.

POSITION: Ag Council removed opposition after amendments addressing policy concerns were adopted. Ag Council moved to a neutral position. STATUS: SB 252 passed the Legislature and is pending Governor Brown’s consideration.

CDFA Accepting Specialty Crop Grant Applications

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting proposals for the 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Phase I of the two-phase competitive application process is underway for projects enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops in California.

Previously awarded grants involve projects to increase sales of specialty crops by: leveraging the California Grown identity; increasing consumption through expansion of the consumer market; improving availability and providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices.

Phase I proposals must be submitted by 5 p.m. on October 13, 2017. Successful Phase I applicants will be invited to participate in Phase II and submit a detailed grant proposal. Further information is available on CDFA’s website by clicking HERE.