Jan. 7, 2009
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

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Budget Impasse Continues
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes budget plan - - The state budget impasse continued as Gov. Schwarzenegger on Jan. 6 vetoed a Democratic deficit reduction plan that fell short of meeting his demands. The state’s budget deficit is estimated at $40 billion over the next 18 months. The Democratic plan included tax increases that Democratic leaders said did not require approval by Republican members of the Senate and Assembly. Schwarzenegger’s veto message said, "The measures you sent me punish people with increased taxes, but do not make the serious cuts in spending necessary to balance our budget; do nothing to help keep California families working during this recession; and do nothing to help Californians facing foreclosure in this mortgage crisis.” The Democratic proposal was controversial because it increased tax revenues without receiving two-thirds approval, a requirement voters imposed with Proposition 13 in 1978. Democrats said their plan was legal, but Republicans filed suit Tuesday in state appeals court seeking to block it. Schwarzenegger last month demanded that Democrats change parts of their plan to accelerate construction in California this year, impose permanent spending cuts and eliminate a new withholding requirement for contractors. Democrats said they committed to giving the governor "75 percent" of what he wanted, including a 2 percent cut in welfare grants and a shift of school funds they believe resulted in an additional $1 billion savings. Both sides appear entrenched in their positions. It is unknown how long the courts may take to act on the lawsuit field by Republicans.

House Ag Committee

  • Three Californians named to House Ag Committee - - Three California Democrats have been named to the House Agriculture Committee by Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota.) The House Democratic Steering Committee has named 11 freshmen Members and 17 returning Members to serve on the Committee. The House Republican Conference has named 17 Republicans to serve on the Committee and has left one seat vacant.  California members are Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Joe Baca (D- San Bernardino). "The Agriculture Committee is responsible for issues as varied as farm programs, commodity markets, nutrition, conservation, renewable energy, and rural development, so the diverse experiences of these Members will bring new ideas and energy to our work on these important issues," Chair Peterson said.<more> Jan. 15, 2009 House Ag Committee Press Release  

  • Rep. Cardoza will again chair Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture - - The House Agriculture Committee on Jan. 27 held its organizational meeting and announced chairs and members of its various subcommittees. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) will once again chair the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. This subcommittee has jurisdiction over many policy issues that impact the almond industry, including honey and bees, marketing and promotion orders, plant pesticides, quarantine, adulteration of seeds, and insect pests, and organic agriculture. California Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) also sits on the subcommittee. Other members are: Rep. Jean Schmidt, OH, Ranking Minority Member; Rep. Eric J.J. Massa, NY; Rep. Jerry Moran, KS; Rep. Timothy V. Johnson, IL; Rep. Kurt Schrader, OR; Rep. Frank Kratovil, Jr., MD. For a complete list of all House Agriculture Subcommittee assignments, please click here.  Jan. 28, 2009 House Ag Committee Press Release  

State Senate Ag Committee

  • Senate ag committee revamped, to be chaired by Sen. Florez - - The state Senate Agroculture Committee will undergo a dramatic change, according to a press released issued Jan. 12, 2009 by Sen. Den Florez (D-Shafter) and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The newly revamped Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture was announced at a Tuesday press conference held at the Capitol. According to the press release, the committee “looks more broadly at critical issues of sustainability and safety, as well as animal welfare reforms called for under voter-approved Proposition 2 and the security of our state’s food supply.” A website was launched in conjunction with the announcement to provide information on the change and encourage public input in policy discussions at http://www.californiasafefood.com.  “The pending reorganization will move forward a committee that was traditionally too narrowly focused on production, with a new vision that recognizes the need to protect finite resources while feeding an ever-growing population, the role that agriculture plays in supporting healthy lives and healthy communities, and the importance of transparency and consumer education in advancing best practices among producers.”

Global Warming

  • State bill to voluntarily label carbon footprint of consumer products - - Legislation has been introduced in the Assembly that would require the California Air Resources Board to develop a voluntary program for labeling the carbon footprint of products sold in California. AB 19 was introduced by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Los Altos) who is the former chair of the Assembly Environment Committee and currently 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. The bill will be taken up when the Assembly reconvenes this week.

  • Schwarzenegger names new Air Board member - - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filled another seat on California's Air Resources Board, the powerful panel in charge of implementing the state's greenhouse-gas emission law, on Tuesday. Schwarzenegger tapped Ken Yeager, a Santa Clara County supervisor for the position. Yeager, a Democrat, previously served on the San Jose City Council and is a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

  • New USDA office to assess carbon credit values - - A new U.S. Department of Agriculture office to assess the environmental benefits of agriculture and determine their value for carbon credit trading has been announced by Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. The Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets and a board to assist in the development of technical guidelines for values will promote markets for ecosystem services, according to Schafer. There will also be a public advisory board. “Our nation’s farms, ranches, and forests provide goods and services that are vital to society—natural assets we call ‘ecosystem services’,” Schafer said. “The Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets will enable America’s agriculture producers to better compete, trade their services around the world, and make significant contributions to help improve the environment.” Sally Collins, associate chief of the USDA Forest Service, will be director of the new office, which will have direct oversight from the Agriculture secretary. Collins has been credited with pioneering concepts for ecosystem services and markets as part of the Forest Service’s sustainable land management mission. The first ecosystem services to be examined will be carbon sequestration. The board, chaired by the USDA secretary, will include the secretaries of Interior, Energy, Commerce, Transportation, and Defense; the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors; the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology; the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.
     

Transportation

  • Air Board Passes New Rules for On-Road Diesel Trucks - - The California Air Resources Board on Dec. 12 passed its long-awaited new rules for on-road heavy-duty diesel trucks that will require retrofit or replacement of nearly the entire fleet of long-haul trucks that travel in California. The rules were established to help bring California in line with Clean Air Act requirements for air pollutants including particulate matter and NOx emissions, and to reduce diesel soot, which California considers a toxic air contaminant.  In a nutshell, the regulation requires all trucks and buses operated within the state of California with a gross vehicle weight ratio more than 14,000 pounds comply with 2010 engine standards for PM10 and NOx emissions within the next 14 years. “In the short term you will have to have a soot trap filter in place and in the long term the new rules will require replacing diesel engines with a newer, cleaner burning engine. When you have to get this done depends on the age of the motor,” said ABC’s Gabriele Ludwig. Beginning in 2011, pre-1994 engine model year trucks must be retrofitted with a Verified Diesel Emission Control System (VDECS), or soot filter. The rules will be phased in annually according to engine year model until all trucks have been retrofitted or contain a soot filter by Jan. 1, 2014. Concurrently, beginning in 2013 older motors will need to be replaced with cleaner burning engines that meet emissions levels for NOx of a 2010 engine. These rules will also be phased in over 10 years until all trucks have cleaner burning engines by the year 2023.Visit the ARB website at http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/2008/truckbus08/appa.pdf for specific requirements and timelines.

Water

  • Leaders must take bold action to secure safe water supply for all - - By Gabriele Ludwig, Sr. Manager Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Almond Board of California - - An estimated 250,000 acres of almonds, fully one-third of the state’s planted acreage, have been affected by recent lawsuits related to the endangered Delta smelt and winter-run salmon in the Sacramento River. With reservoirs statewide reportedly at only about one-third of capacity and additional demands for urban and environmental surface water allocations on the horizon, even a normal rainfall year in 2009 and beyond will not alleviate the current crisis. The water woes affecting all users in California will only be alleviated by long-term vision and bold action by water officials and politicians in the state. These are near-term issues that require long-term solutions, willing leadership and significant investment to protect both ecological and human uses for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Three studies released over the past several months have put plenty of ideas on the table for solving the state’s water crisis. All three studies, with their attendant proposals, are sure to play a role in how water policy and infrastructure is developed over the next several years. <more> Dec. 15, 2008 Western Farm Press

  • Panel urges building of delta canal -- A panel of state leaders is calling for California to begin building a canal to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by 2011, without approval from lawmakers or voters. The final report released recently by the Delta Vision Committee, made up of five state Cabinet secretaries, thrusts the controversial canal into the top tier of California political battles. The canal would divert a portion of the Sacramento River around the delta in order to protect a freshwater supply serving 25 million Californians from earthquakes, floods and sea level rise. It is a modern-day version of the peripheral canal rejected by voters in 1982. Natural Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman, chairman of the committee, asserts that the state has the authority under existing laws to build the canal. The price tag is at least $15 billion, and many water agencies that would benefit have said they would pay the bill. "We think it's a reasonable goal to set," Chrisman said of the 2011 construction target. "We don't need the Legislature to do that. We already have that authority. Some members of the Legislature don't agree."

  • Betancourt Off Water Board - - Paul Betancourt was not reappointed to serve a second term on the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board by the governor’s office, according to a report in Watershed Coalition News, published by Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship. According to several reports, Betancourt, an almond and cotton grower from Kerman, was not reappointed due to an eligibility rule restricting income to less than 10% from an entity regulated by the Regional Water Board. Betancourt apparently violated the rule because his almond processor holds a construction permit with the Regional Water Board.  Several candidates for the agriculture representative position are being encouraged by several watershed coalitions to apply for the position.  Dec. 12, 2008 Watershed Coalition News

Washington DC

  • Confirmation hearing set for USDA nominee Vilsack Jan. 14 - - The Senate Agriculture Committee has set its confirmation hearing for former Gov. Tom Vilsack for Jan. 14, 2009. President-elect Barack Obama announced his choice of Vilsack to fill the post of Secretary of Agriculture in December. Most observers expect Vilsack will be confirmed without major opposition. .

State Pesticide Use

  • California pesticide use dropped 8.4 percent in 2007 - - Pesticide use in California has dropped for the second consecutive year, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Approximately 172 million pounds of pesticides were applied statewide in 2007, a decrease of nearly 16 million pounds, or 8.4 percent, from 2006. Production agricultural use dropped by more than 11 million pounds, as did almost every other category. Reports are mandatory for agricultural and pest control business applications, while most home, industrial, and institutional uses are exempt. “While pesticide use varies year to year based on weather conditions, economics, types of crops, acreage planted, and other variable factors, the reduction in 2007 reflects DPR’s efforts to promote pest control through a combination of techniques that pose the lowest risk to public health and the environment,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. “I am especially encouraged to see an across-the-board drop in categories of pesticides with the greatest regulatory concern,” Warmerdam said.

     

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