Aug. 11, 2010
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Budget

  • State water acreage fees could more than triple - - State budget cuts and loss of general fund support could lead to an increase from 12 to 42 cents an acre for the State Water Acreage fees paid by watershed coalitions for every member acre.  Through fiscal year 2010, the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program along with the NPDES dischargers program is augmented by $1.7 million in general fund support.  In the upcoming State budget now being negotiated, the general fund support has been dropped. The fee increase was initially voted down in April in an Assembly budget subcommittee.  However, it later passed in the Senate budget subcommittee, pushing the decision to the conference committee which will be looking for ways to reduce a $20 billion State budget deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year.  A final state budget and decision on the fee isn’t expected until  late August or September.  Aug. 11, 2010

Water Issues

  • California water bond pushed back to 2012- - Worried that Californians struggling through the economic slump will reject an $11-billion water bond measure this year, state lawmakers voted Aug. 9, 2010 to pull the initiative from the November ballot and put it off until the 2012 election. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requested the postponement of Proposition 18, and he will sign the bill approved  by the state Senate and Assembly, a spokesman said.

State Legislative Items

The state legislature returned from its summer recess on Aug. 2, 2010. Aug. 13 is the last day for fiscal committees to hear and report bills to the floor. Aug. 31 is the last day for any bill to be passed.  Here are some items of interest to the California almond industry.

  • Overtime wages for ag workers  - - SB 1121 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on July 30, 2010. Existing law exempts ag employees from overtime pay requirements.  This bill would have removed that exemption.  In his veto message, Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “Unfortunately, this measure, while well-intended, will not improve the lives of California’s agricultural workers and instead will result in additional burdens on California businesses, increased unemployment, and lower wages. In order to remain competitive against other states that do not have such wage requirements, businesses will simply avoid paying overtime. Instead of working 10-hour days, multiple crews will be hired to work shorter shifts, resulting in lower take home pay for all workers. Businesses trying to compete under the new wage rules may become unprofitable and go out of business, resulting in further damage to our already fragile economy.”

  • Card check - - SB 1474 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) 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).  Similar legislation was vetoed last session by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The bill was approved by the Senate on a 23-11 vote on Aug. 19, 2010 and is now awaiting consideration by the Governor.

  • Bill would revoke pesticide permits for farmers not  meeting irrigation discharge regulations- - -AB2595 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) would require county agricultural commissioners to withhold pesticide-application permits from farmers who don't meet regional rules governing the quality of discharge from irrigated fields. The bill passed the Assembly  by a 66-1 margin and was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee 10-0 on Aug. 2, 2010. It is awaiting action by the full Senate.

  • 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 by the Senate Appropriations on a 6-3 vote on Aug. 2, 2010 and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate. This bill was approved by the Assembly on June 1, 2010 on a 50-27 vote.

  • CA Apiary Commission - - AB 1912 by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) would create the California Apiary Research Commission . The apiary commission would consist of six producers and one public member. It would be funded by an industry assessment of up to $1 per bee colony.  The bill passed the Assembly on a 61-15 vote on June 1, 2010. The bill was approved by the Senate Food and Ag Committee on a 4-1 vote on June 15, 2010 . The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee  on June 28, 2010 by a 9-1 vote and is awaiting consideration by the Senate.  Aug. 11, 2010

  • 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).  The bill was approved 8-0 by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Aug,. 2, 2010 and is now awaiting consideration by the full Senate. The bill was approved  on May 6, 2010 by a vote of 58 to 11 in the Assembly.

  • Williamson Act  - - AB 1965  by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada  (D-Davis) appropriates funds from the State 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 was approved by the Senate on a 31-0 vote on June 24, 2010, following approval by the Assembly on a 76-0 vote on May 13, 2010. Actual funding remains a open question as the Governor has severely reduced funding in his current budget proposal. Restoring Williamson Act funding will be a key budget item as state budget negotiations continue. Aug. 11, 2010

  • ESA exemption - - SB 1303 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 by the Assembly on a 71-0 vote on Aug. 5, 2010.  On Aug. 11 2010, the Senate gave its approval by a margin of 27-0 and the bill will be sent to the Governor.

  • California Grown - - AB 1960 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. State agencies are "encouraged to purchase fruits, nuts, and vegetables that are produced, or produced and processed, in California before those that are produced outside of the state."  AB 1960 does not make a distinction between other U.S. states and other countries for products for the purpose of imports. This bill was approved by the Assembly 76-0 on June 3, 2010 and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate.

  • UC Ag Program Extensions - - AB 1891 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.  The bill passed the Senate by a 33-0 vote on Aug. 5, 2010 and was approved by the Assembly 76-0 on Aug. 9,2010 and has been sent to the Governor for action.

Inactive Bills

  • Water Transfers - - AB 2049 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.  The measure was defeated  twice in the Assembly, falling short of the required 41 votes for passage. On June 2, 2010 it failed to garner enough votes for passage, gathering 38 votes in support and 31 opposed.  The next day, it failed again on a 35-33 vote.

  • Ag Greenhouse Gas Emissions - - SB 1241 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 being held in 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.

  • 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.

  • Diesel Emission Controls - - SB 1238 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.

  • Renewable energy projects on farmland - - SB 1153 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 where it is being held.

 

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