April 9, 2010
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Legislative Items

The State Legislature is back in session after its Easter recess and policy committees are beginning to hold hearings. Here are some items of interest to agriculture:

  • Pesticide reporting - - AB 1963 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) would require laboratories that test for pesticide poisoning to report their data to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Currently, labs only report test results to patients' physicians, not to any state agency.  The bill would allow health officials  to more accurately track pesticide exposure and implement safety precautions, said Assemblyman Nava. This bill was approved 5-1 by the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on April 6, 2010 and referred to the Health Committee.

  • Ag Greenhouse Gas Emissions - - SB1241 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), would require the Department of Food and Agriculture to appropriate funds to help the agriculture sector reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions.  This bill was approved by the Senate Ag Committee 3-1 on April 6, 2010 and approved 4-2 by the Environmental Quality Committee on April 19, 2010.  It is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  •  Development of economic impact analysis for certain agency regulations  - - AB 1833 by Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Chico) requires CalEPA, Occupational Safety & Health, and the State Air Resources Board to develop an economic impact analysis when proposing, amending or repealing a regulation.  The goal is to shine a light on the regulatory costs imposed by these agencies on ag and other businesses.  This bill is pending consideration in the Natural Resources Committee and the Business and Professions Committee. The bill was defeated in the Business and Professions committee by a 4-7 vote on April 6, 2010 and was granted reconsideration.

  • Overtime wages for ag workers  - - SB 1121 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)
    Existing law exempts ag employees from overtime pay requirements.  This bill removes that exemption.  SB 1121 set for a hearing April 28, 2010 in the Senate Labor and Industrial relations Committee.

  • Card check - - SB 1474 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has been reintroduced.  Similar legislation was vetoed last session by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The bill would permit farm workers to form a union by submitting a petition to the Agriculture Labor Relations Board accompanied by representation cards signed by a majority of the bargaining unit. The legislation is sponsored by the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). The bill was approved by a 4-2 vote  on April 19, 2010 by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

  • Pesticide buffer zones - - AB 1721 by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson (D-Oakland)  would  restrict pesticides used within a ½ mile of school safety zones within 24 hours of when children are present.  AB 1721 inhibits the ability to use crop protection tools and jeopardizes the safety and quantity of locally grown products.  AB 1721 was withdrawn from consideration after bipartisan opposition from committee members at its April 14, 2010 hearing before the Assembly Ag Committee.

  • Water Transfers - - AB2049 by Assemblyman Juan Arambula (D-Fresno), would prohibit water transfers of greater than a 10-year duration from agricultural to urban use. The bill was approved on a 8-4 vote on April 13, 2010  by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

  • ESA exemption - - SB1303 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) would extend indefinitely a provision under the California Endangered Species Act that exempts farmers from penalties if their normal agricultural activities kill protected species. The rule is set to expire Jan. 1, 2011.  The bill was approved 9-0 on April 13, 2010 by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

  • California Grown - - AB1960 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) would require state agencies to purchase California-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables when the quality is comparable and the price matches produce grown elsewhere.  This bill was approved 8-0 by the Assembly Ag Committee on March 24, 2010 and sent to the Appropriations Committee.

  • Diesel Emission Controls - - SB1238 by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) would require the state's Air Resources Board to consult with businesses, in addition to local districts and the general public, when it reviews diesel emission-control rules every three years. This bill is in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

  • UC Ag Program Extensions - - AB1891 by the Assembly Committee on Higher Education would re-establish two University of California programs whose legislative backing expired on Jan. 1. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program develops alternative farming practices through grants and educational efforts. The other program supports projects that educate and train farmers on biologically integrated farming systems.  This bill was approved 8-0 by the Assembly Higher Education Committee on April 7, 2010 and  approved 15-0 by the  Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 28, 2010. It is now on the Consent Calendar.

  • Renewable energy projects on farmland - - SB1153 by Sen. Loni Hancock ( D-Oakland,) would bind the legislature, through future legislation, to streamlining permitting processes and offering incentives for renewable-energy projects on agricultural land. This bill was approved 8-2 on April 20, 2010 by the  Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Williamson Act  - - AB 1965  by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada  (D-Davis)  appropriates funds from the General Fund to each county in the state for open-space lands pursuant to the Williamson Act.  This bill is crucial to restore subvention payments. This bill is in the Assembly Ag Committee.
  • Licensing fees for ag processors  - - AB 2240  by the  Assembly Committee on Agriculture authorizes CDFA to reevaluate the annual licensing fee structure for processors of farm products.  Current fee structure for the annual license is based on operating costs in 1998-99 and 1999-00. This bill authorizes CDFA to re-examine this fee structure based on operating costs (removing the years previously specified in the bill).  An April 14, 2010 hearing in the Assembly Ag Committee was canceled at the request of the author.

Transportation

  • New drayage truck rule impacting port traffic - - A new regulation affecting diesel trucks operating at California’s ports and intermodal rail yards went into effect April 1, 2010. Diesel trucks are being checked to see if they are in compliance with the new state regulation known as the Drayage Truck Regulation. Trucks that are not in compliance can receive a $1,600 fine. More information is available by visiting the ARB website at www.arb.ca.gov/drayagetruck or calling the ARB’s drayage truck hotline at 1-888-247-4821.  An ARB fact sheet is available by clicking here.

Water Availability

  • State Water Project deliveries projected at 30% - - Citing April’s wintry Sierra storms, the California Department of Water Resources on April 23, 2010 increased its 2010 allocation of State Water Project deliveries to 30 percent. The SWP allocation had been set at 20 percent of contractors’ requests earlier in April. The initial 2010 allocation estimate, made in December 2009, was 5 percent. That projection rose incrementally as snowpack accumulated during winter and early spring. Later in May, DWR expects to make a final allocation announcement. In 2009, the SWP delivered 40 percent of the amount requested by the 29 public agencies with long-term contracts to buy SWP water. The SWP contractors deliver water to about 25 million Californians and 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

  • Feds increase CVP water allocations - - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on March 17, 2010 announced a five-fold increase in west Valley irrigation supply for summer. Salazar raised the water forecast to 25% of the amount that west San Joaquin Valley growers are allowed each year from the Central Valley Project. Last month, he could only assure west siders of 5%. Officials added that allotments might be increased further in the coming months.

  • Clean Water Act legislation introduced in Congress - - House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) on April 23, 2010 introduced HR5088 to remove the word “navigable waters” from the Clean Water Act and replace it with the phrase “waters of the United States.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the phrase “navigable waters” limits the EPA to regulating only waterways big enough for ship traffic. Concerns have been raised that the proposed bill infringes on property rights, in addition to state and local authority. Groundwater and wastewater are exempted from the legislation. A similar measure was approved by a Senate committee last year and is awaiting further consideration.

     

  • Feds, state will move less water to users, including Westlands - - Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps was ratcheted back April 1, 2010 after a federal judge in Fresno rejected a request to keep them operating temporarily at current levels. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger means that for the next two months, both the federal and state water pumps will move much less water to users, including the Westlands Water District. Wanger found that the National Marine Fisheries Service "touched all the bases" in putting together a management plan -- known as a biological opinion -- for the salmon and steelhead. Therefore, Wanger wouldn't agree to the request by users to keep the water flowing.

  • Report says water cuts need further study - - Controversial cuts in water for San Joaquin Valley farms appear to be scientifically justified but still need further study, scientists have concluded in a highly anticipated report issued March 19, 2010. The National Research Council determined two federal agencies had a "sound conceptual basis" for their actions protecting Chinook salmon, delta smelt and other endangered fish.  However, the scientists determined that predators, pollution and other "stressors" accounted for some of the fish lost in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The "Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta" study can be downloaded by clicking here.

  • Ground-water permits in California? - - The state Legislative Analyst's Office has suggested California should require permits for people who pump water out of the ground -- noting this is one of the few Western states without such a requirement.  To download the report, please click here. The analyst's office says California needs to better coordinate its water system as the state grows.

California Climate Change

  • Schwarzenegger calls for 'More carefully phased approach' on AB 32 - - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked the Air Resources Board to embrace an approach backed by business interests in implementing some aspects of the landmark emission reduction measure he signed into law. While Schwarzenegger praised the state's steps to curb climate change as "tremendous," he also urged a "more carefully phased approach" on part of the plan recommended to implement AB 32, including a system to auction off credits for companies releasing carbon into the air. To read the letter, please click here.

     

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