Oct. 8, 2010
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Budget

As this issue of the CA Legislative Report was being published, the state legislature was in the process of voting on a proposed budget deal. Details of the budget that impact the almond industry will be detailed in upcoming editions.

State Legislative Items

 Sept. 30, 2010  was the last day for the Governor to sign or veto pending legislation.  Here  is the current status on legislation of interest to the California almond industry.

  • CA Apiary Commission  approved - - Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed  AB 1912 by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) creating the California Apiary Research Commission. The body will operate on an estimated $2 million from a $1-per-colony assessment on beekeepers, according to legislative analysis. The California State Beekeepers Association supports the plan.

  • Card check bill vetoed- - Card check legislation , SB 1474 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), has been vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The bill  would have permitted 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 was sponsored by the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). In his veto message, the Governor said its provisions would “tip the scale in favor of unions” when deciding whether to set aside the results of a union election.

  • Williamson Act funding bill signed- - AB 2530 by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber),  a bill that would restore funding for the Williamson Act, was signed by the Governor. The bill comes from California Farm Bureau’s proposal to shorten Williamson Act contracts to 9 from 10 years or 18 years from 20  depending on the current term of the contract in exchange for the landowners forfeit of  10% of their tax benefit. AB 2530 allows counties to voluntarily implement new land preservation contracts that are ten percent shorter in return for a ten percent reduction in the landowner's property tax relief.

  • Pesticide reporting bill signed - - Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed AB 1963 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) requiring 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.

  • Licensing fees for ag processors signed - - Gov. Schwarzenegger  has signed AB 2240  by the  Assembly Committee on Agriculture, authorizing 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). 

  • ESA exemption bill signed - - Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed  SB 1303 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis). The bill extends 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. 

  • Sustainable ag education programs re-established  - - Gov. Schwarzenegger  has signed AB 1891 by the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. The bill re-establishes 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.  

  • Overtime wages for ag workers vetoed by Governor - - 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.”

Inactive Bills

Several pieces of legislation were placed on inactive status with the possibility they could be brought up for reconsideration in the next legislative session. Here is the status of some of those bills of interest.

  • 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 but was not taken up by the Senate before the Aug. 31, 2010 deadline.

  • 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 was placed on the inactive file as it was not taken up by the Aug. 31 deadline.

  • 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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