Jan. 10, 2011
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Legislature

  • Berryhill named head of Senate ag panel - - State Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Oakdale) was named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, one of many appointments announced Thursday by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. After serving four years in the Assembly and on its ag committee, Berryhill was elected in November to represent the 14th Senate District, replacing Dave Cogdill. Berryhill is a fourth- generation farmer. Berryhill replaces Sen. Dean Florez, who is termed out.

  • Galgiani retains chairmanship of Assembly Ag Committee - -  Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani  (D-L:ivingston) has bee re-appointed as chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee by Speaker John Perez. Galgiani easily won re-election to her third and final Assembly term, representing the Central Valley's 17th Assembly District. Hanford dairyman David Valadao will serve as vice chair of agriculture committee.

  • State legislative calendar - - There are two important dates coming up for the California Legislature:
         * January 10 is the deadline for the Governor to submit the budget
         * Feb. 18 is the deadline for bills to be introduced.

State Agencies

  • Brown reappoints Mary Nichols to lead state air board - -  Gov. Jerry Brown has reappointed Mary Nichols chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, a post she held when Brown was governor before. The annual pay is $142,965.

  • Brown names former Assemblyman Laird to top natural resources post - - Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed former Assemblyman John Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat, as secretary of natural resources, an appointment widely praised by environmental group.  The annual pay is $175,000. As a Democratic assemblyman in a district stretching from Morgan Hill to Big Sur, he co-authored California's landmark climate bill, AB 32; promoted water conservation; expanded the development of renewable energy and sustainable building standards; protected oil spill response funding; and established the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency designed to protect the mountain region. He earned a score of 100 percent from the California League of Conservation Voters. Only six months ago, he was denied a Central Coast Senate seat in a special election to replace Abel Maldonado; Laird lost the District 15 race to Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo. Since then, Laird has been teaching at UC Santa Cruz.

Federal legislation

  • Federal food safety overhaul bill signed - - President Obama on Jan. 4, 2011 signed a $1.4 billion overhaul of the nation's food safety system. The first major overhaul of the food safety system since the 1930s, the law emphasizes prevention to help stop deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness before they occur, instead of reacting after consumers become ill. It calls for increasing government inspections at food processing facilities and, for the first time, gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to order the recall of unsafe foods. But some Republicans lawmakers, sensitive to the public's concerns about high levels of government spending and debt, say the $1.4 billion, five-year price tag is too much and needs more scrutiny. "I think we'll look very carefully at the funding before we support $1.4 billion," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., told The Associated Press in an interview. Kingston hopes to become chairman of the agriculture subcommittee of the House panel that helps set government spending.

    The new law would:

    • Increase inspections of U.S. and foreign food facilities; the riskiest U.S. facilities would be inspected every three years. The FDA rarely inspected most facilities and farms, visiting some about once a decade and others not at all.
    • Allow the FDA to order the recall of tainted food. Previously, the agency could only negotiate with businesses for voluntary recalls.
    • Impose new safety regulations on producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables.
    • Require processors to prepare detailed food safety plans and tell the FDA what steps they are taking to keep their food safe at different stages of production. The government would use the information to trace recalled foods. The law exempts meat, poultry and processed eggs, since they are regulated by the Agriculture Department.

Water

  • State Water Project increases allocations  - -The state Department of Water Resources on Dec. 17, 2010 increased its projected deliveries of State Water Project water in 2011 to 50 percent of contractors’ requests. This is very good news after the 2007-2009 drought from which we’re still recovering,” says DWR Director Mark Cowin. “We don’t want to be overly optimistic with most of the winter ahead of us, but recent storms have given us the best early season water supply outlook in five years.” The initial 2011 allocation, or delivery estimate, on Nov. 22 was 1,043,034 acre-feet, or 25 percent of the SWP contractors’ requested amount of 4,172,126 acre-feet. The 50 percent allocation announced today equals 2,086,065 acre-feet. By comparison, the final allocation for the 2010 water year had been 50 percent of requests, up from the 5 percent initially projected after three dry years. The 5 percent initial allocation was the lowest since the SWP began delivering water in 1967.

  • U.S. agency's smelt plan 'arbitrary,' judge rules - - A federal judge has ruled that a landmark 2008 environmental study laying the groundwork for controversial water cutbacks from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta relied on faulty science. In his much-anticipated decision released Dec. 15, 2010, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-examine and rewrite its plan for the threatened delta smelt. The agency's solution for shoring up the collapsing species - namely cutting water exports to California cities and farms - is "arbitrary" and "capricious," the Fresno judge wrote in his 225-page decision. "Despite the harm visited on California water users, (the Fish and Wildlife Service) has failed to provide lawful explanations for the apparent over-appropriation of project water supplies for species protection," Wanger wrote. "The public cannot afford sloppy science and uni-directional prescriptions that ignore California's water needs."

  • Governor makes two appointments to Central Valley Water Board - - Gov. Schwarzenegger announced two appointments to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, Region 5. Appointees are Lyle Hoag, 79, of Fair Oaks and Sopac Mulholland, 65, of Porterville. Hoag has been an independent water resources consultant since 1956. In that capacity, Hoag was administrator of the California Water and Environmental Modeling Forum and the California Urban Water Conservation Counsel from 1991 to 1995.  He also served as the executive director of California Urban Water Agencies from 1989 to 1995, during which time he coordinated the Bay-Delta Three-Way Negotiations. From 1956 to 1989, he was vice president of Brown & Caldwell Consultants. Mulholland previously served as a member from 2005 to 2009. Mulholland has been executive director of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust since 2001. Since 1987, Mulholland has been the principal of Sopac and Associates. She has been part-owner and operator of River Valley Ranch and McCarthy Creek Ranch, commercial livestock and citrus operations, since 1973. From 1998 to 1999, she served as the interim president of the Economic Development Corporation of Tulare County as well as the director of development for the California Agricultural Education Foundation. These positions require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

  • No irrigated lands fee increase in 2011 - - The Coalition for Urban Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES) reports in its current newsletter that a proposed fee increase from 12 to 49 cents an acre for those participating in watershed coalitions was pulled at the last minute from the final state budget signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on Oct. 8. Active lobbying by agricultural interests helped reverse an effort by state lawmakers to remove general fund support in fiscal year 2011 for irrigated lands programs overseen by the State Water Resources Control Board.  General funds from the state budget plus the current 12 cents an acre paid by landowners are combined to pay for staff at all Regional Boards in the state with irrigated lands programs.  Increasing the fee to 49 cents per acre would have shifted the full costs of running the programs to landowners. The issue of fee increases will likely resurface again once the Central Valley Regional Water Board adopts its new Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  Adding groundwater to the new program will increase staff workloads and likely result in an attempt to hire more state workers.  Staffing requests for fiscal year 2012 are made when each board determines upcoming year workloads and expenses.  Such a proposal might be expected in spring 2011 when a draft budget is usually released.

2010 State Legislative Items

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

  • Recently enacted pesticide laws - - The California Department of Pesticide Regulation offers a website page providing links to legislation passed and signed during the 2010 legislative session that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2011. Click here to view the bills.

  • 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 poisoning 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.”

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