Dec. 8, 2009
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

Water

  • What is in the water package? - - Water laws signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promise changes to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, whether or not an accompanying $11 billion bond is approved. The bills create agencies to oversee Delta management. Here's a look:

     SBx7-1, THE SACRAMENTO-SAN JOAQUIN DELTA REFORM

     Creates the Delta Conservancy: 11 voting members, one each from five Delta counties – four appointed by the governor and two by legislators. This body will fund and oversee habitat restoration. It comes, however, with a loophole: If voters reject a November 2010 bond measure, the conservancy may have no money to operate.

     Creates Delta Stewardship Council: Seven voting members – four appointed by the governor and two by legislators – with one serving as chair of the existing Delta Protection Commission. This council would replace the CalFed Bay-Delta Authority; by Dec. 31, 2010, it must build the "Two Gates" project in coordination with other agencies. And by Jan. 1, 2012, it must adopt a "Delta Plan" for ecosystem restoration and water management. The loophole: The council gets operational funds now allocated to the CalFed Authority, but no guarantee in future years. Also, the council must hear appeals of state and local projects, but lacks power to make changes.

     Requires the State Water Resources Control Board to develop "flow criteria" to protect habitat in Delta waterways: The board must conduct instream flow studies for rivers in the Delta watershed by 2012, and for all rivers outside the Sacramento River watershed by 2018. 

    SBx7-7, WATER CONSERVATION 

    Requires 10 percent urban conservation statewide by 2015, 20 percent by 2020: It imposes penalties of losing eligibility for state water grants and loans. 

    SBx7-6, GROUNDWATER 

    Requires statewide groundwater monitoring, starting Jan. 1, 2012: State officials must report results every five years. Failure to report could cost well owners eligibility for state water grants and loans. 

    SBx7-8, ENFORCEMENT 

    Requires that anyone who began diverting surface water after Dec. 31, 1965, must file annual reports: The bill creates 25 state enforcement positions, funded initially by a 2009 budget amendment, and later by fee revenue. Penalties for not reporting include $1,000 fines, plus $500 more for each day the filing is late, and lost eligibility for state water grants and loans. 

  • Lowest State Water Project allocation in history - - The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced Dec. 1, 2009 an initial allocation of 5 percent of total contracted water deliveries to the State Water Project (SWP) contractors for 2010. Five percent is the lowest initial allocation percentage since the SWP began delivering water in 1967. The previous low for an initial allocation as a percentage of SWP contractors’ requests was 10 percent in 1993, but that number was increased to 100 percent during the year as supply conditions improved. The initial figure for 2009 of 15 percent was increased to a final allocation of 40 percent in May. The historical average of final SWP allocations as a percentage of initial requests over the past 10 years has been 68 percent. The initial allocation is a very conservative estimate of what DWR expects it can deliver as a percentage of SWP contractors’ initial requests for contracted water deliveries for a calendar year. The initial allocation figure reflects the low carryover storage levels in the state’s major reservoirs, ongoing drought conditions and federally mandated environmental restrictions on water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect endangered fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. DWR said it “will continue to monitor water supply conditions and drought impacts to identify any necessary supplemental response actions this year and will move aggressively to plan for a potentially dry 2010 in coordination with other state, federal and local agencies and the water community.”

U.S. Climate Change

  • Climate bill pushed back to next year, says Boxer  - - Senate Democratic leaders are confirming that debate on climate change legislation will likely not take place until next spring.  They say health care, overhauling financial markets and job creation have higher priority.  One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says the Senate Finance Committee likely won’t begin deliberations on the climate bill until January and it may not be finalized until March. The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bob Stallman, welcomed the news. “We applaud the decision by Senate leadership to delay consideration of climate change legislation until the spring of 2010,” Stallman said in a statement. “This move offers a great opportunity for lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and re-assess the need for this legislation and the impact it will have on all Americans.

  • ‘Uncertainty’ over climate change impact on ag, says House ag leader - - Congressman Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research, held a hearing Dec. 2, 2009  to review economic analyses that consider the potential economic impacts of climate change on the farm sector. The USDA's chief economist and witnesses representing academic institutions and research organizations provided testimony about the results of analyses of the potential economic impacts on agriculture associated with climate change and climate change legislation. "It is clear from today's hearing that there is still a lot of uncertainty with some of the modeling assumptions and data used to estimate the potential impact of climate change and climate change legislation on agriculture," Holden said. "The expert testimony of our witnesses from USDA and those analysts and economists on the front lines of climate change research reaffirm that additional questions must be asked and answered before we draw any definitive conclusions." "Today's hearing demonstrated that there are serious economic consequences for our farmers under cap and trade due to higher energy prices and increased operating costs associated with it," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). "We need to continue to study the impact climate change legislation would have on the future of agriculture." Written testimony provided by the witnesses is available on the Committee website: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html.

  • Climate change bill passed by Senate Environment Committee - - Chairman Barbara Boxer of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee moved S. 1733, the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, out of Committee on Nov. 5, 2009 by a vote of 11 to 1. The bill, which would restrict the emissions of gases that contribute to global warming, require polluters to hold government-issued emissions allowances and establish a market for trading credits, passed the Committee with all seven Republican members absent. Senate Republicans boycotted the markup, because they wanted the EPA to do further analysis into the bill’s impact. Boxer was able to use a procedure under the Committee rules that allowed the bill to be reported out, but without any amendments. The impact this will have on the bill's chances of passage by the full Senate is unclear.

  • Ag offset proposed in alternative climate bill - - Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow announced Nov. 4, 2009 a “Clean Energy Partnership Act” she’s working on with six other Democratic senators which adds agricultural offsets and protections to the current Kerry/Boxer bill. Co-sponsors include Senator Harkin of Iowa, Max Baucus of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Sabenow said “This bill will create partnerships among manufacturing, utilities, agriculture, and forestry to reduce costs now as we transition to a clean energy economy tomorrow. The legislation ‘offsets’ our use of fossil fuels by investing in practices like sustainable agriculture and forestry projects that capture and store carbon.”

Food Safety- Federal

  • Feinstein introduces Processed Food Safety Act - - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Dec. 1, 2009 that would require that food producers take responsibility for keeping food free from harmful pathogens.  The bill would amend the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale of any food that has not been certified to be pathogen free. “Food producers must be obligated to produce food that is free of pathogens,” Senator Feinstein said. “It is the responsibility of the food producer, not the consumer, to make sure our food is safe to eat.”  The Processed Food Safety Act S.2819 requires everyone in the food chain to take responsibility for keeping food free of harmful pathogens. The bill, which has no co-sponsors, was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry To read a copy of the bill, please click here.   

  • FDA food safety bill sweeps through Senate committee approval - - The Senate's version of comprehensive reforms to the Food and Drug Administration's food safety authority swept through unanimous approval Nov. 18, 2009 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. But, despite the strong bipartisan support for the bill, Reuters reported it might not see floor action until after Christmas. Sen. Harkin told reporters it is in line after his committee completes work on the health care bill.  The bill, S. 510, authored by Sens. Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin, the committee chairman, is the result of years of negotiations with its key sponsor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), and it has major bipartisan support as well as support from many food companies and food trade organizations. The House passed its comprehensive FDA food safety bill, H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Modernization Act, on July 30,2009 on a 280-142 vote.

State Legislation

  • Oct. 11, 2009 was the deadline for the Governor to take action on legislation.  Here is the final status on bills of interest to the almond industry.

Final action as of Oct. 12, 2009

  • Florez Food Safety Bill Vetoed by Governor - - SB 173  by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) was vetoed by the Governor on Oct. 11, 2009.  It was approved  by the Assembly on Sept. 1, 2009 by a vote of 50-27. The Senate then approved the bill by a 26-9 margin on Sept. 4, 200.  Instead of mandating recalls as originally proposed, the bill has been amended so it only allows state public-health officials to adopt regulations for voluntary recalls.

  • Florez Ag Burning Bill vetoed by Governor - - SB 382 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)  was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Oct. 11, 2009. It provided that a permit to burn agricultural waste  within the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control  District (SJVUAPCD) is not valid for any day the district prohibits operation of a wood burning fireplace or heater. The Governor’s veto message read: "This bill is unnecessary. The District has existing authority to regulate, as appropriate, both agricultural burning, through its California Air Resources Board-approved Smoke Management Program, and residential wood burning through existing District rules. Additionally, vegetation management projects play a significant role in preventing and reducing the spread of devastating wildfires. As written, this bill could constrain the ability of Cal Fire to perform critical vegetation management projects on State Responsibility Area lands located within the District. Burn activities should be judged both independently and in combination according to where the activities are occurring and the current air conditions. The District is the best entity to make this determination. For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill."The measure was approved by the Senate May 14, 2009 on a 23-14 vote and was approved by the Assembly on Sept 2, 2009. 

  • Transition to Organics Act  vetoed by Governor - - AB 1401 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) was vetoed by  Governor Schwarzenegger on Oct. 11, 2009. It was approved by the Senate by a 23-12 margin on Sept. 9, 2009. The bill passed the Assembly by a 60-16 margin on May 28.  The bill would  establish the Transition To Organics Fund to be administered by the CDFA, consisting of money from federal, industry, and citizen sources.

  • Card Check Bill Vetoed by Governor-  - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 2, 2009 vetoed legislation that would make it easier for farmworkers to join unions, marking the third straight year he has rejected the top priority of the United Farm Workers union. SB 789   by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, (D-Sacramento), would have given workers the option of bypassing secret-ballot elections. Instead, they could sign representation cards. If a majority signed up, the state would certify the new bargaining unit.

Inactive Bills for current session

  • VOC’s - - AB 835 by Monning (D-Monterey) Specifies that any regulation adopted by the Air Resources Board, or adopted by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, or pesticide product registered by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, that reduces an environmental hazard associated with a pesticide product shall not lead to the registration of, or increased use of, any product that’s more toxic. After lengthy testimony, this bill was held in the Assembly Agriculture Committee  after a hearing April 15, 2009.  The bill failed on a 3-1 vote but was granted reconsideration at a later date.

  • Aerial Spraying - - SB 759 (Leno) Requires the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to use prescribed information regarding the effects of pesticides, including inert ingredients, to develop educational material for distribution to physicians and surgeons and to the public when pesticides are aerially applied near residential or sensitive areas. On May 28, 2009, the bill was held in committee pending further action.

  • Aerial Spraying - - AB 622, by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, would establish a 3.3-mile "safety zone" between target fields and residential areas or other "sensitive sites," a category that includes schools and hospitals.  The bill was made a two-year bill at the author's request following a April 15 hearing at the Assembly Ag Committee.

  • Carbon footprint labeling - - Legislation  that would require the California Air Resources Board to develop a voluntary program for labeling the carbon footprint of products sold in California was approved Aug. 17, 2009 by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 13-0 margin. As of Sept. 10, 2009, it was still awaiting action  on the Senate floor.  It was approved  June 3 by the Assembly by a 47-32 margin. AB 19 was introduced by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Los Altos)  Chair of the Assembly Budget Sub-Committee on Natural Resources. As chair he will oversee the implementation of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The bill’s principal sponsor is Carbon Label California. The bill was first introduced in March 2008.

  • Food Safety -  -AB 1327 by Assemblyman Feuer. The bill was approved by the Assembly Health Committee by a 13-5 vote on May 5 and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. As of Sept. 10, 2009, the bill was being held in the Appropriations Committee and it seemed unlikely the bill would move before session ends Sept. 11, 2009. The Food Safety Analysis and Control Plan requires food processing establishments to adopt and implement Hazard Analysis& Critical Control Points Plans (HACCP) as prescribed by the Department of Health & Human Services. The HACCP will require the implementation of procedures to prevent food and ingredient contamination including monitoring, preventive controls, testing, corrective actions and record keeping. The department will have to be notified within 24 hours when positive test results indicate the presence of poisonous or deleterious substances or other contaminants. Department inspectors will also have complete access to facilities and any vehicles used to transport food and ingredients.

  • Williamson Act  - -  SB 715 (Wolk) Makes several substantive changes including the authorization for a county board of supervisors to require the county assessor to send an annual survey to verify continuous agricultural income from one or more agricultural uses or agricultural commodities, in the form the board prescribes, to all owners of land under a contract. The owner or owners would be required to return the completed survey to the assessor within 60 days. The bill would define "agricultural income" to mean continuous income derived from either an agricultural use or an agricultural commodity, or both. A hearing that was set for July 2, 2009 in the Assembly Ag Committee was canceled at the author's request and the bill is pending as of Sept. 10, 2009 and is unlikely to be taken up before the sessionn ends Sept. 11, 2009. 

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