Jan. 11, 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.

Water Availability

  • Cardoza, Costa host Thursday briefing on water supply crisis - - A briefing on the status of water allocations and efforts to address the water supply crisis affecting San Joaquin Valley agriculture will be held at the Los Banos Fairgrounds at 10 a.m., Thursday Jan. 14. The briefing is being hosted by Congressmen Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa and will include top ranking federal, state, and local water officials. The intent of the briefing is to discuss water allocations, as well as operations and actions that can be taken to address the on-going water supply crisis both in the short and long term. Among those attending are officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Commerce, California Department of Water Resources, San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, Westlands Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors, Friant Water Users Authority, Merced and Oakdale Irrigation Districts, and Kern County Water Agency.

State Government Appointments

  • Natural Resources Agency chief Chrisman steps down - - Mike Chrisman announced Jan, 5,  2010 he is leaving his job as Natural Resources Agency secretary in February for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources, will succeed Chrisman, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Tuesday. Chrisman, 65, is one of the few remaining Schwarzenegger aides who have been with the governor from the start. He will be in charge of the foundation's Southwest Partnership Office, working in San Francisco. Snow, 58, who takes over Feb. 1, has led the Department of Water Resources since 2004.  In turn, Mark Cowin, 51, will take over DWR. Cowin, now deputy director of integrated water management, has worked for the department for 29 years.

  • Central Valley Water Board names new assistant executive officer - - Clay Rodgers has been named the Assistant Executive Officer the Fresno office of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Rodgers is a registered Engineering Geologist and has six years of experience with the Central Valley Water Board in our Fresno Office.  His experience also includes many more years of private consulting experience. 

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  

California Climate Change

  • 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-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

  • Feinstein introduces Processed Food Safety Act - - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Dec. 1, 2009 that would require that food producers take responsibility for keeping food free from harmful pathogens.  The bill would amend the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale of any food that has not been certified to be pathogen free. “Food producers must be obligated to produce food that is free of pathogens,” Senator Feinstein said. “It is the responsibility of the food producer, not the consumer, to make sure our food is safe to eat.”  The Processed Food Safety Act S.2819 requires everyone in the food chain to take responsibility for keeping food free of harmful pathogens. The bill, which has no co-sponsors, was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry To read a copy of the bill, please click here.   

  • FDA food safety bill sweeps through Senate committee approval - - The Senate's version of comprehensive reforms to the Food and Drug Administration's food safety authority swept through unanimous approval Nov. 18, 2009 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. The bill is awaiting floor action, reportedly to come after action on health care reform legislation.   The bill, S. 510, authored by Sens. Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin, the committee chairman, is the result of years of negotiations with its key sponsor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), and it has major bipartisan support as well as support from many food companies and food trade organizations. The House passed its comprehensive FDA food safety bill, H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Modernization Act, on July 30,2009 on a 280-142 vote.

Funding Opportunities

  • Specialty crop block grant funds available -- Applications are now being accepted for the 2010 California Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. An estimated $17 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded to support of variety of projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the California specialty crop industry. Applicants with the most competitive proposals will be invited to participate in the second phase of the solicitation process by submitting a more formal application.  Deadline for applications is Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. Applicants must access the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) at www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants  for detailed solicitation and application instructions.

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