Nov. 10, 2009
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry


  • California lawmakers pass historic water package - - The California Legislature on Nov. 4, 2009  passed the most sweeping water deal in nearly a half century, potentially setting the stage for billions of dollars in new dams. In a series of bills that cleared the Legislature in largely bipartisan votes early Wednesday after all-night sessions, California's water supply would be buttressed through steps such as mandatory monitoring of groundwater reserves and expanded conservation. A new agency will unify efforts to improve the way water from California's wet north is channeled to the arid south via the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The Legislature also signed off on a plan to ask the state's voters next November to pass $11.1 billion in bonds to help finance new infrastructure and water ecosystem restoration, especially in places like the delta. The water package was controversial in part because of a provision in the bond deal to use about $3 billion for new storage projects, which could include dams. Democrats have largely opposed new dams, while Republicans have supported them. The deal to include money for possible dams was one of the compromises in the package. Another compromise came on the issue of mandatory monitoring of the state's groundwater supplies, which are often tapped during times of drought. Many Democrats wanted the monitoring, which has been optional, done by the state, if local agencies failed to do it. But some Republicans insisted the monitoring be handled locally to help allay fears among some water agencies of too much state intrusion. Under the deal, local agencies will do the monitoring. To read more details on the legislation, please click here.   

  • Bill would ease San Joaquin Valley water swaps - - San Joaquin Valley farmers could swap water more easily under a bill introduced Nov. 5, 2009 before a Senate panel. The four-page water transfer legislation is far less ambitious than an $11 billion water bond package approved Wednesday by the California Legislature. "The Valley can't wait for a long-term solution," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. "The one thing we can do now, in the short term, is facilitate (water) transfers." Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer jointly introduced the water transfer bill considered Thursday by the water and power panel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A related bill  HR 3750 The Water Transfer Facilitation Act of 2009 was introduced last month by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

  • Congressmen Cardoza and Costa introduce bill to facilitate water transfers - - Representatives Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) and Jim Costa (D-Fresno) introduced a bill Oct. 7, 2009 that would help ease the effects of severe drought in the Central Valley by facilitating the transfers of up to 300,000 acre-feet of irrigation water. HR 3750 The Water Transfer Facilitation Act of 2009 eases restrictions on the Bureau of Reclamation and would streamline environmental reviews for the giant garter snake.  The bill would reduce unnecessary delays in water transfers at a time when Central Valley farmers have been hard hit by a three-year drought.  Senators Boxer and Feinstein have introduced a companion bill in the Senate S 1759.

U.S. Climate Change

  • 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

  • USDA, FDA team up to write new food safety rules -- Two federal agencies are teaming up to write new food safety rules for fresh produce, following food borne illness outbreaks tied to fruits and vegetables in recent years. The USDA announced Oct. 5, 2009 its fresh produce chief Leanne Skelton will work with the Food and Drug Administration to develop new produce regulations over the next six months. As part of the process, officials will travel the country to talk with food safety officials and farmers -- including small, organic growers -- about the impact new rules would have on the industry.  The effort will build on guidance the FDA proposed in July to improve the safety of tomatoes, leafy greens and melons.

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. 

Washington DC

  • US farm trade nominee Siddiqui defends record - - The Obama administration's pick for chief agricultural trade negotiator defended himself on Nov. 4, 2009 against charges from environmental groups and others who said he would favor big agribusiness over small farms and organic farmers if confirmed. Islam "Isi" Siddiqui, a senior farm trade official during the Clinton era, has been a vice president since 2001 at the chemical trade lobby CropLife America. Environmental groups say that job should disqualify him from consideration for the new position. "All the allegations ... and attacks which I have seen are directed at the trade association that I worked for for eight years," Siddiqui said at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. "There is no evidence in my public service of 32 years where I made any disparaging remarks against organic or sustainable development," he said.

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