August 11, 2011
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Legislature

  • Brown signs Williamson Act  reform bill - - Gov. Brown on July 19, 2011 reinstated a revised Williamson Act program intended to preserve the state's landmark farmland-conservation law. Brown signed Assembly Bill 1265 by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) which establishes the revised form of the Williamson Act through 2016. The bill, which takes effect immediately, authorizes counties to revise the term for Williamson Act contracts from 10 years to nine years or from 20 to 18 years—a 10 percent reduction in contract length in return for retaining 90 percent of the property tax relief offered by the act. The provisions of the alternative funding mechanism include:
    • If counties receive less than one-half of their foregone General Fund property tax revenue from the Open Space Subvention Program, they would be authorized to implement a new provision of the Williamson Act to allow contracts to go from 10 years to nine years or, in the case of 20-year Williamson Act contracts, to 18 years.
    • The 10 percent reduction in the length of the contract restrictions would trigger a recapture of 10 percent of the participating landowners' property tax savings.
    • Any increased revenues generated by properties under a new contract will be paid to the county. Because the increased revenue will be allocated exclusively to counties, they would recoup 50 percent or more of their foregone property tax revenue.

    • Landowners may choose not to renew their contracts and begi
    n the termination process.

Appointments

  • Brown appoints Dept. of Justice lawyer to top Cal EPA post Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Matt Rodriquez, a chief deputy attorney general, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Brown's office announced this morning. Rodriquez, 58, of Castro Valley, has worked for the Department of Justice since 1987, representing such bodies as the California Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Like Brown, Rodriquez is a Democrat. He is to be paid $175,000 annually and will require Senate confirmation.

  • Former CRLA, UFW  official named Brown legislative deputy - - Martha Guzman, a former official with the United Farm Workers and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation has been appointed by Gov. Brown as a legislative deputy in his office. In her position, she will analyze agricultural, resource, fish and game issues. Since 2004, Guzman has represented the CRLA on legislative and regulatory issues related to farm worker health and safety, environmental justice and previously on education. In 2003, she served as the legislative coordinator for the UFW covering a range of labor and environmental issues. She worked for the UFW for five years in both their political and research departments.

Air Quality

  • $9.5 Million in EQIP funding for air, water quality programs - - The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on July 29, 2011 announced $9.5 million in additional funding assistance for California farmers seeking to make on farm improvements that will help to improve air quality, water quality or conserve water. Details of the funding include $5 million for EQIP air quality practices to help reduce ozone precursors in the high-priority non-attainment areas of the San Joaquin Valley, primarily for replacing old diesel engines with engines that run 75 percent cleaner.  Interested producers are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Contact information is available here.

  • Air board postpones cap and trade compliance until 2013 - - California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols announced on June 30, 2011 that the AB 32 cap and trade program will begin in 2012, but that impacted entities will not be accountable for emissions compliance measures until 2013. In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Environment, Economy & Climate Change,  Nichols said, “We are continuing to move forward within the timeline the legislature assigned us under AB 32 and the program is on track to begin in 2012. However, in light of the importance of this regulation to the success of California’s climate change program and the need for all necessary elements to be in place and fully functional, we are proposing to initiate the program in 2012, but start the requirements for compliance in 2013.” Nichols commented, “This would not affect the stringency of the program or change the amount of emission reductions that the program will achieve, keeping us on track to meet the 2020 target required by AB 32.” A public workshop will be held regarding draft changes to the regulation on July 15, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., at the Cal EPA building in Sacramento.

  • Plan to clean up diesel soot put on hold - - Reversing a decision made last fall, federal officials July 1, 2011 supported a rule that extends the deadline to clean up deadly diesel soot in the San Joaquin Valley. In making the call, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed with an argument by state regulators on a key part of that plan – that the recession had helped curtail trucking so much that there isn't as much deadly diesel soot as the state once believed. The state's diesel regulations are part of the Valley's clean-up plan.

Water

  • State Water Board General Fund cuts result in increased fees  - - Under the 2011-12 budget that Gov. Brown signed on June 30, the state is reducing its General Fund support of the State Water Resources Control Board, reports the Association of California Water Agencies. That reduction in General Fund dollars is replaced with more than $24 million in new fees. The fee increases include $1.4 million for the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, $1.8 million for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ag waivers), $6.7 million for basin planning activities, $11.5 million for Total Maximum Daily Load activities and $3.2 million for water rights. An additional $1.23 million from the state’s General Fund has been eliminated from the Department of Water Resources’ budget for the Watermaster Program replacing the funding with fees.
  • Agricultural water discharge approval is challenged  - - Approval of an extension of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program waiver and its environmental impact report by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is being challenged by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the California Water Impact Network. The waiver exempts irrigated agriculture from having to obtain waste discharge requirements for pollutant discharges to surface and ground waters. The Regional Board extended the waiver for two years at its June meeting. The appeal alleges that the board violated numerous laws and regulations, including the California Environmental Quality Act, the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act and California’s Non-point Source Control and Antidegradation policies. The groups have also notified the State Water Resources Control Board that if it fails to take immediate action to consider their appeal by July 22, the groups will go to court to seek a writ of mandate to compel compliance with the California Administrative Code. 

USDA

  • USDA invites applications for Value Added Producer Grant - - Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Kerrigan announced that applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.  Application deadline is August 29, 2011. Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov  for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.

     

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