March 9, 2009
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

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State Legislation
  • DPR posts list of recently enacted pesticide laws - - The California Department of Pesticide regulation has posted on its website links to legislation under its policy jurisdiction that was passed and signed during the 2008 legislative session and became law in January 2009. Click here to review the legislation.

  • Budget deal approved by Governor; special election set for May 19 - - After a long, hard-fought battle, the state Legislature in late February passed and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a budget deal designed to address the state's massive budget deficit. The budget measure requires a special election May 19 to help implement many components of the agreement.  Here are the budget measures that will be on that ballot:

    Proposition 1A: Implements a spending cap based on the rate of growth from the last 10 years. If approved, it would extend the length of the taxes approved by the Legislature.

    Proposition 1B: Changes the state's education funding law -- Proposition 98 -- for supplemental education payments to local districts due to recent budget cuts.

    Proposition 1C: Borrows from future lottery earnings.

    Proposition 1D: Takes money from the First 5 Commissions -- aka Proposition 10 funds -- to help balance the budget.

    Proposition 1E: Takes money from the Mental Health Services Act -- aka Proposition 63 funds -- to help balance the budget.

    Proposition 1F: Prevents state-level elected officials from receiving pay raises in years when the state is running a deficit. Feb. 24, 2009  Capitol Alert

  • Aerial Applications - AB 622 (Swanson) Requires the observance of a safety zone of no less than 3.3 miles when pesticides are aerially applied around residential areas, including known sensitive sites, if the pesticide contains any active or inert ingredient that is known to be or suspected to be a carcinogen, a mutagen or an endocrine disruptor. 

Global Warming

  • Delay sought on emissions reduction bill - - A Republican state senator has introduced legislation to put California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction plan on hold. Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga (San Bernardino County), has introduced a bill to halt the California Air Resources Board from developing regulations to implement the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. He wants the delay until June at the earliest. The bill also would mandate myriad studies on the economic impact of the measure and require that the state unemployment rate be lower than 5.8 percent for three consecutive months before the delay would be lifted.

Air Quality

  • Federal court upholds EPA's rural dust rule - - A federal appeals court has denied an industry request to order U.S. EPA to reconsider its decision to regulate dust in rural areas, a move that agricultural groups say could stifle farmers unnecessarily. In its response to a host of legal challenges brought against the Bush administration's 2006 standards for airborne soot and dust, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to exempt the regulation of farm dust. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council challenged EPA in 2006 over its decision to regulate coarse particulate matter -- or dust -- in rural areas, arguing that the agency had failed to show any negative health effects associated with the dust. EPA had considered exempting farming and mining operations, but the agency ultimately decided it could not exclude particular industries. In its opinion, the court upheld EPA's rule for farm dust, saying that the industry petitioners "mistakenly equated an absence of certainty about dangerousness with the existence of certainty about safety." While the judges acknowledged that evidence about the dangers of rural dust is "inconclusive," they said that the agency was not required to wait for conclusive results before regulating a pollutant believed to pose a significant risk to public health.

Water

  • February rain improves California runoff estimate - - The heavy February rains have prompted California water officials to revise their runoff forecasts upward, but they say the state is still far from overcoming a drought that's in its third year. In an updated forecast issued Tuesday, March 10, the state Department of Water Resources predicted the state will record 65 percent of normal runoff for the current water year and 75 percent of average runoff from April through July. The forecasts rose 10 percent from predictions in the agency's Feb. 1 report, which the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation used to determine that there would be no agricultural water available to Central Valley Project contractors this year. Bureau officials have said it could take them a week or two to examine the updated forecast and come up with any revisions in allocations. According to the state report, snowpack levels are at about 80 percent of normal for this time of year compared to 130 percent last year. Though February precipitation was well above average statewide, runoff was only 65 percent of average for the month, according to the department's report. Reservoir storage is about 70 percent of average statewide compared to 85 percent last year.

  • Lawmakers seek billions to expand, improve California's water supply - - With California's budget crisis resolved for the moment, state lawmakers Thursday turned their attention to another emergency: a three-year drought that has left key reservoirs at 35% of capacity. Legislators stepped forward with plans to ask voters to borrow as much as $15 billion for projects to expand and improve the state's water supply. "This is the session to aggressively solve California's water challenges," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Thursday. He added, however, that the state should spend some of the $7 billion in bonds previously approved for water projects before going back to voters for money needed to complete the work. The issue has renewed urgency after the California Department of Water Resources last week said it may be unable to provide more than 15% of the water sought by contractors such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water districts throughout the Los Angeles area. <more> Feb. 27, 2009 LA Times  

  • Governor’s Water Bond SB 371(Cogdill) Enacts the Safe, Clean, Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2009 which, if approved by the voters, would authorize, for the purposes of financing specified water supply reliability and water source protection programs, the issuance of bonds in the amount of $9,980,000,000.

  • Water Bond - SB 301 (Florez) Enacts the Water Supply Reliability and Ecosystem Recovery and Restoration Act of 2009, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize, for the purposes of financing specified water supply reliability and ecosystem recovery and restoration programs, the issuance of bonds in the amount of $15,000,000,000.

Food safety

  • Rep. Costa introduces food safety reform bill   - - Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) has joined Florida Republican Rep. Adam Putnamin in unveiling an industry-backed bill that would impose stricter safety requirements on imported foods. The bill would extend nationwide some strict rules now applied in California and Florida. "The last time our food safety laws were modernized, President Eisenhower was in office," Costa said at a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday. "A lot has changed, obviously." The legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration power to order recalls of potentially contaminated foods. Food recalls now are voluntary. It would give the FDA authority to set production, harvesting and packaging standards for fruits and vegetables. Costa and Putnam introduced The Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act, “Safe FEAST Act,” which would establish new food safety requirements for domestically produced and imported food to identify and prevent potential sources of food-borne illness.  For the first time, the measure grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statutory power to recall contaminated food in the case of adulteration. The bill does not cover meat or beef products, which are handled by the USDA. To learn more about the bill, please click here. March 6, 2009     

Washington DC

  • Merrigan to be nominated as USDA Deputy Secretary - -  President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Kathleen A. Merrigan to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. "We at the U.S. Department of Agriculture welcome the President's intention to nominate Dr. Merrigan," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "She will bring to USDA extensive expertise in agricultural marketing and nutrition and in legislative affairs and will provide excellent, experienced leadership as we move President Obama's agricultural and nutritional agenda forward." Merrigan currently is an assistant professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston. In 1999, she was appointed administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service by then-President Clinton. Prior to that, Merrigan was a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and an expert consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.

 

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