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

  • State Legislation

    Here is the current status of legislation  of interest to the almond industry that has  been introduced in Sacramento.

    Active Bills as of July 8, 2009

  • Ag Burning - - SB 382 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) provides 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 measure was approved by the Senate May 14, 2009 on a 23-14 vote and was approved July 6, 2009 by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. It is now awaiting action by the Assembly.

  • 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 July 6 by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by a 5-2 margin and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. 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.

  • Card Check - SB 789  (Steinberg) Permits agricultural employees to select their labor representatives by submitting a petition to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board accompanied by representation cards signed by a majority of the bargaining unit. The board would be required to conduct an immediate investigation to determine whether to certify the labor organization as the exclusive bargaining representative for the particular agricultural employees. Within 5 days after receiving a petition, the board would be required to make a non-appealable administrative decision. If the board determined that the representation cards meet specified criteria, then the labor organization would be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative. If the board determined that the representation cards were deficient, it would notify the labor organization of the deficiency and grant the labor organization 30 days to submit additional cards. The measure was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee July 1, 2009 on a 10-5 vote and is awaiting action on the Assembly floor.

  • Food Safety -  -AB 1327 by Assemblyman Feuer. 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. 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 July 9, 2009, the bill was being held in the Appropriations Committee.

  • Food Safety - - SB 173  by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) was approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee July  1, 2009 on a 5-2 vote and sent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The Senate  on June 3 , 2009, passed the bill by a 26-12 vote. 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.

  • Transition to Organics Act - - AB 1401 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) would  establish the Transition To Organics Fund to be administered by the CDFA, consisting of money from federal, industry, and citizen sources. It passed the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee by a 4-1 vote on July 7, 2009 and is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Williamson Act  - -  SB 715  by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) 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 has been made a two-year bill.

Air Quality

  • Burn fees increased July 1 - - Fees for open burning permits in the San Joaquin Valley  increased effective July 1. The SJV Air Pollution Control District will raise fees for open burning for a single event from $24 to $26. Two-event permits will increase from $42 to $46 and three or more events from $67 to $73. An exemption permit to burn on a no-burn day will increase from $33 to $36. After June 2010, almond growers will no longer be permitted to burn almond prunings in the San Joaquin Valley.

Of Note: Water

  • Salazar assigns deputy as Calif. water czar - - U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Fresno town hall meeting on June 28 that Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes will "bring all of the key federal agencies to the table" to coordinate water efforts in California. Salazar said he wanted to direct $160 million in Recovery Act funds for the federal Central Valley Project, which manages the dams and canals that move water around the state, and will expedite water transfers from other areas.

  • New water limits sets by federal government - - Just as San Joaquin Valley growers were cheering the ruling of U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger that the federal government must consider the effect on humans and not just fish when allocating Delta water, along comes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service setting a temporary new water-flow limit on exports from Delta pumps for several weeks as of the end of May until threatened smelt migrate out of areas affected by the pumps. Adding to the “pain at the pump” for Valley growers who depend on Delta exports, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final biological opinion that pumping operations are jeopardizing the continued existence of spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead, and other species. The agency is recommending several steps to protect these species, including closing cross channel gates within the Delta for longer periods and cutting Delta water exports by 5-7%. This cutback is on top of the 20% reduction in deliveries estimated by the Department of Water Resources following an earlier biological opinion on the Delta smelt. The agency also called for additional water flow down the Stanislaus River during the springtime.

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.

Food Safety- Federal

  • President’s Food Safety Group issues new standards - - The White House announced  July 8, 2009 new food safety standards for eggs, meats and vegetables. The tougher standards, including stiffer penalties for violators and increased inspections, were developed by President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group.  That group was headed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In a news conference, Selelius discussed the basic principles behind their recommendations. “Preventing harm to consumers must be our top priority,” said Sebelius. “Secondly, that food safety inspections and enforcement depend on good data and analysis.  Third, that outbreaks must be identified quickly and stopped." Recommended appointment of a deputy FDA commission for food.

  • Federal food safety legislation passes House - - The nation's complex food supply chain would become more transparent, inspections of food facilities would become more frequent and manufacturers would be required to take steps aimed at preventing food-borne illnesses under legislation proposed May 27, 2009 by key House leaders who have pledged to modernize the food safety system.  The bill, HR 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new enforcement tools, including the authority to recall tainted food, the ability to "quarantine" suspect food, and the power to impose civil penalties and increased criminal sanctions on violators.  Among other things, the proposal would put greater responsibility on growers, manufacturers and food handlers by requiring them to identify contamination risks, document the steps they take to prevent them and provide those records to federal regulators. The legislation also would allow the FDA to require private laboratories used by food manufacturers to report the detection of pathogens in food products directly to the government. The House Ag Committee held a hearing on the bill on July 17, 2009.The bill is pending in the House.  The Senate companion bill is by Sen. Durbin. S 510 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Global Warming - Federal

  • Climate change legislation approved by House  - - HR 2454 The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was approved by a vote of   219-212 on June 26, 2009 and is now awaiting consideration in the U.S. Senate. The bill  would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 and would require states to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources and improved efficiency.    The legislation would create a cap-and-trade system whereby over the next decade, power plants, oil refineries, and manufacturers would be required to obtain allowances for the pollution they emit. Those who need more or less could turn to a Wall-Street-like market in the allowances. The bill, which aims to remake the way the United States consumes energy, uses vast incentives and slow–growing punishments to shift from high-polluting fossil fuels to new sources, such as wind, solar power, and plant-based fuels. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (MN) worked with the bill's authors to include several programs that recognize and reward the agriculture and forestry sector for conservation activities and clean energy production. Under the legislation passed by the House, the agriculture and forestry sectors are clearly exempt from the bill's greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, said Peterson, which means that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners will not be subject to the greenhouse gas emissions cap.

USDA

  • USDA Food Safety Undersecretary Named - - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the appointment of Jerold R. Mande, M.P.H., as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the USDA. In this position, Mande will have responsibility for Food Safety, the USDA agency which protects public health through food safety and defense by ensuring that the nation's supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. Most recently, as Associate Director for Public Policy at the Yale Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, Mande developed a national model to increase support for cancer prevention and control, including diet, exercise, and obesity. He also initiated and helped manage the cancer center disparities program, to improve cancer control and care in underserved populations. He was also a lecturer in public health, and helped train select groups of physicians for careers in public policy.
     

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