Feb. 12, 2010
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on State Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Budget

  • Schwarzenegger declares budget emergency, proposes deep cuts - - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 8, 2010 unveiled an $82.9 billion state spending plan that calls for no tax hikes but envisions pay cuts for state workers, reductions in services to California's neediest residents - and relies on the benevolence of the federal government. The governor also declared yet another fiscal emergency, and called for yet another special session of the Legislature, designed to keep a projected $19.9 billion budget deficit from growing by another $2.4 billion. The governor is proposing a three-part deficit-closing solution: $8.5 billion in spending cuts, $4.5 billion in "revenue shifts," some of which were rejected by voters last year, and $6.9 billion in additional money from the federal government. As this edition of the California Legislative report was being published, there were few specific budget details on items of interest to the almond industry. However, this report will be updated as specific budget items are made public by various state agencies.

Federal Budget

  • Obama budget proposes 20% reduction in MAP funding- - The Obama Administration released its Fiscal year 2011 budget on Feb. 1, 2009. The Administration proposes to reduce the Market Access Program (MAP) by 20 percent because “it overlaps with other Department of Agriculture trade promotion programs and its economic impact is unclear,” said the USDA in a press release. As part of the Administration’s government-wide Export Promotion Initiative, the budget proposes an additional $53.5 million for Department of Agriculture export promotion activities, of which $34.5 million is for the Foreign Market Development program (effectively doubling the program), $9 million is for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program (effectively doubling the program), and the remaining $10 million is for general export promotion and market development activities for the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Water Availability

  • Feinstein seeks to ease curbs on water delivery to farmers- - Sen. Dianne Feinstein has drawn up legislation that for the next two years would loosen Endangered Species Act restrictions on pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to increase irrigation deliveries to San Joaquin Valley growers. Feinstein has not released details of the proposal, which she is calling the Emergency Temporary Water Supply Amendment and which is expected to be attached to a jobs bill. In a statement Feb. 12, 2010 she said that the language had not been finalized and that she was open to "alternative ways" of boosting water supplies for the valley's west side, which has been hit hard by delivery cuts caused by the state drought and the pumping limits.

  • Judge rejects delay in delta pumping restrictions - - West Valley farmers recently were celebrating a reprieve from water pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, a federal judge on Feb. 10, 2010 rejected an emergency request by water districts to delay a new set of pumping restrictions. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger's ruling means one of five delta pumps operated by the federal government was shut down on Feb. 12, 2010.  The action is being taken to protect the delta smelt, a fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

  • Rep. Costa introduces bill to provide stimulus funds for non-federal share of water projects - - Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) introduced on Feb. 4, 2010 , HR 4225, that would allow federal stimulus money to pay the non-Federal shares of the costs of water projects in California’s Central Valley. The bill would waive or lower required state and local matching funds for qualifying water projects, including ones that would bring more water to valley farmers through new pipelines that are not restricted by the federal rules. The bill "is not a silver bullet," Costa said, but would nonetheless provide a measure of relief by allowing helpful projects to move forward.

Surface Water Public Workshops

  • Public workshop on surface water protection regulations set for Feb. 11 in Sacramento - - Public comments will be sought at a Feb. 11 public workshop in Sacramento on possible restrictions on several herbicides and insecticides that have been detected in many rivers and creeks in urban and agricultural areas of the state. The workshop is the first of four workshops sponsored by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Workshops also scheduled March 26, April 28 and May 11. More information is available from the DPR website by clicking here.

Pesticide Regulation

  • State says methyl iodide decision imminent - - An official with California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) told the state Senate Agriculture Committee Feb. 8, 2010 that the state could decide whether to approve a new soil fumigant by the end of February.  Methyl iodide is being considered by state officials to replace methyl bromide, which has been phased out under international agreement due to its ozone-depleting properties.  As part of its process, DPR has commissioned a peer review of the science supporting registration. The agency has said its decision could hinge on the results of the review, conducted by University of California scientists. Ann Downs, DPR's chief legislative analyst, said the agency expected the review panel's finished report this week. Committee Chairman Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) said another ag committee hearing would "immediately" follow release of the report.

U.S. Climate Change

  • House bill takes aim at EPA greenhouse gas rule - - North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a Democrat, has introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. There is talk on the Senate side that a similar bill could emerge in that chamber. Pomeroy’s bill, H.R. 4396, the Save Our Energy Jobs Act introduced on Jan. 8, 2010, comes as the EPA has announced it would move forward on new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. “This action, if not prevented, could dramatically increase energy rates as well as end up costing North Dakota jobs,” Pomeroy said in a press statement. He noted that on April 2, 2007, the United States Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency found that the EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should they find these emissions to be harmful to public health and welfare.  On Dec. 7, 2009, the EPA released a final endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions do endanger both public health and welfare. Making this determination was necessary to finalizing the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, which have been proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration. Once this EPA rule becomes final, greenhouse gases will officially be regulated pollutants under the Clean Air Act. This action would then subject stationary sources which emit greenhouse gas emissions, such as power plants and factories.
  • New Senate proposal would offer ‘cap-and-refund concept - - Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced on Jan. 5, 2010 a 39-page bill that they bill as an alternative to “cap-and-trade” legislation. The bill is based on a “cap-and-refund” concept. Essentially, carbon would be capped “upstream” as it enters the U.S. economy, with allocations – or permits – auctioned off only to energy producers and importers. The bill seeks to derail a speculative market for carbon credits driven by Wall Street. The Cantwell-Collins bill, Senate, S. 2877, is known as the Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal Act or CLEAR Act. It would return 75% of the auction proceeds to consumers in the form of refunds. The refunds would be distributed directly to all legal U.S. consumers instead of setting up a complicated cap-and-trade system that would create a complex new market of allowances for carbon emissions. More information is available on Sen. Cantwell’s website at http://cantwell.senate.gov/issues/CLEARAct.cfm  

  • CalEPA deputy enforcement secretary named to U.S. EPA post - - President Barack Obama on Feb. 9, 2010 tapped Cal/EPA's Deputy Secretary for Enforcement and legal counsel Matt Bogoshian as the U.S. EPA's deputy assistant administrator. Bogoshian, who was appointed to his CalEPA post by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, has worked on enforcement of state environmental laws and the department's efforts to design a cap-and-trade system for California. His new position is focused on enforcing the nation's environmental laws.

California Climate Change

  • Initiative to suspend AB 32 cleared to gather signatures  - - A proposed initiative to suspend California's landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emission was cleared by the secretary of state's office on Feb. 3, 2010 to begin collecting signatures. The initiative would suspend implementation of Assembly Bill 32, which called for reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda) and other opponents have argued that AB 32 would be extremely costly to businesses and take a heavy toll on the state's economy. The proposed initiative would suspend the state's greenhouse-gas reduction requirements until California's unemployment rate, currently above 12 percent, falls to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. To qualify for the November ballot, backers of the initiative must collect 433,971 voter signatures by June 24. To qualify for a 2011 special election or a 2012 statewide election, the deadline is July 5, the secretary of state's office said.

  • Bill to suspend California global warming bill fails in committee - - The Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 11, 2009  voted 5-3 against a measure to suspend AB 32, California's landmark law requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. AB 118 is authored by Assemblyman Dan Logue, (R-Terra Linda), who has also teamed up with Republican Rep. Tom McClintock on a proposed ballot initiative with an identical goal – delaying the implementation of the law until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent. advancing Logue's bill.  Here is the bill’s summary:  This bill would suspend the act until the state unemployment rate is 5.5% or lower for four consecutive calendar quarters. The bill would require the re-suspension of the act whenever the state unemployment rate rises above 5.5% for four consecutive calendar quarters. The bill would prohibit the state board, and specified other state agencies, from proposing, promulgating, or adopting any regulation pursuant to the act during a period of suspension and would require that any such regulation adopted prior to January 1, 2011, be inoperative until the suspension is lifted. The bill would request local agencies to refrain from adopting rules, regulations, and policies that derive authority or responsibility from the act and to revise or repeal those rules, regulations, or policies adopted prior to January 1, 2011, until the suspension is lifted.

Air Quality- Federal

  • Tougher federal smog standards proposed - - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 7, 2010 proposed the strictest health standards to date for smog. The San Joaquin Valley is not in compliance with current federal smog standards. The agency is proposing to set the “primary” standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. EPA is also proposing to set a separate “secondary” standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees.  “This kind of levels the playing field,” said Leo Kay, spokesman for the California Air Resources Control Board. “In California we’ve set pretty tough air pollution standards for a long time now and this brings the rest of the country to the same level.” More than 300 counties — mainly in Southern California, the Northeast and Gulf Coast — violate the current, looser requirements adopted two years ago by the Bush administration and will find it even harder to reduce pollution enough to comply with the law. Those counties include Stanislaus and others in the San Joaquin Valley. “We knew this was going to happen,” said Scott Nester, director of planning for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. “This is basically a continuation of the strategy that’s in place and being implemented. We will be going back and evaluating how much we can leverage technology over the next few years to get those emissions down to the level they need to be at.”

Food Safety- Federal

  • USDA announces school lunch food safety initiatives - - USDA Secretary Vilsack on Feb. 4, 2010 announced several new initiatives to assure the safety and quality of food purchased by USDA for the National School Lunch Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs.  These initiatives are a combined effort of five USDA agencies: AMS, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), FSIS, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).•    AMS will implement new food safety purchasing requirements for its beef suppliers as a result of a review of the beef purchase program conducted by FSIS and ARS. •    ARS and FSIS will provide technical assistance to AMS for School Lunch and other Federal nutrition assistance programs. •    In addition to the reviews by FSIS and ARS, AMS has asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the ground beef purchasing program.  By the summer, NAS will conduct a thorough evaluation of the scientific validity of the current AMS technical requirements. •    AMS will increase information sharing with other agencies in order to better monitor vendor performance and identify potential food safety issues in the process.

  • USDA Under Secretary for Food safety named- - President Obama on Jan. 25, 2010 announced his intent to nominate Dr. Elisabeth Hagen as the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. Hagen will serve with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Dr. Hagen is currently the USDA's Chief Medical Officer, serving as an advisor to USDA mission areas on a wide range of human health issues. Prior to her current post, she was a senior executive at FSIS, where she played a key role in developing and executing the agency's scientific and public health agendas. She has been instrumental in building relationships and fostering coordination with food safety and public health partners at the federal, state, and local level. Before joining the federal government in 2006, Hagen taught and practiced medicine in both the private and academic sectors, most recently in Washington, DC. She holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and a B.S. from Saint Joseph's University. Dr. Hagen completed her specialty medical training at the University of Texas Southwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, and is board certified in infectious disease.

USDA

  • Almond Board meets with USDA Under Secretary Merrigan- - Gabriele Ludwig, the Almond Board of California’s  Associate Director, Environmental Affairs, attended a meeting on  Jan. 21, 2009 with USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan held at UC Davis with approximately 25 California agricultural leaders and growers. The session was held so Merrigan, the number two person at USDA, could hear firsthand about various issues affecting California agricultural producers. Ludwig reports that the issues mentioned include the plans for next farm bill, food safety, small growers, research, water availability, to international trade and competition. “It was a great opportunity to express the many issues that concern the California almond industry,” said Ludwig. “It is important for our industry to have a spot at the table and help provide input about the various USDA programs and policies impacting our industry.”

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