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

State Legislature

  • 'Card check' vetoed by Gov. Brown - -  Gov. Brown on June 28, 2011 vetoed legislation that would have allowed the farmworkers union to bargain for employees without holding an election by simply collecting signatures from a majority of workers on cards saying they wanted representation. In his statement explaining his veto of Senate Bill 104, Brown said “I am not yet convinced that the far reaching proposals of this bill - - which alter in a significant way the guiding assumptions of the ALRA - - are justified. Before restructuring California’s carefully crafted agricultural labor law, it is only right that the legislature consider legal provisions that more faithfully track its original framework. The process should include all those who are affected by the ALRA.” Brown said he was “deeply committed to the success of the ALRA and stand ready to engage in whatever discussion- - public and private – that will accomplish the appropriate changes. As at the beginning, all parties must be heard and, before any product emerges, a wide array of opinions and experiences should be fairly considered. Besides being personally involved, I will direct my Labor and Agricultural Secretaries to reach out to all those who can help us achieve a fair and just result.”

  • Williamson Act revival bill goes to governor - - A bill to help preserve agricultural land by saving farmers property tax, has again passed the state Senate and Assembly, and is on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) reintroduced legislation this year, sponsored by the California State Farm Bureau Federation, which would save part of the Williamson Act. Assembly Bill 1265 was given final approval by the Assembly on July 5, 2011 by a 76-0 margin. The Williamson Act was originally passed in 1965 and allowed landowners to enter into a 10- or 20-year contract agreement to keep land in agricultural production. In exchange, property owners paid taxes based on farm land value, rather than the current market value. In 1972, the state began repayment to counties for the difference between the taxes they would have collected, and the property taxes under the Williamson Act. In 2009 the state cut reimbursement to the counties and budgeted $1,000 as a place-saver to be divvied up to the 53 counties that took part. The year before the state reimbursed counties $38 million. Under the new law, farmers would lose 10 percent of their Williamson Act tax savings but that money goes directly to the county, rather than the state. Last year Nielsen also worked for a $10 million fund to partially repay counties for some of the money they lose through lower taxes for farmers. While that funding is not part of the current legislation waiting to be signed, Nielsen said  he is already working on "the next step to save the Williamson Act."

Air Quality

  • Air board postponed 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

  • U.S., Mexico sign agreement allowing free flow of cross-border trucking - - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and his Mexican counterpart signed an agreement on July 6, 2011 in Mexico City ending a trucking dispute and phasing out Mexican tariffs against the U.S. Mexico will soon lift retaliatory tariffs on more than $2 billion in U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products, the Department of Transportation announced. Mexico will suspend 50 percent of the retaliatory tariffs within 10 days and the remainder of the tariffs within five days of the first Mexican trucking company receiving its U.S. operating authority. As a result, Mexican tariffs that now range from 5 to 25 percent on an array of U.S. agricultural and industrial products such as apples, certain pork products, and personal care products would be immediately cut in half and will disappear entirely within a few months.

Congress 

  • Pesticide spraying near streams would expand under Congressional bill - - A bill allowing pesticide manufacturers and users to avoid the Clean Water Act permitting process passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee June 22, 2011. If passed in the Senate, bill H.R. 872 lets farmers spray pesticides near public waters without having to meet Clean Water Act permitting requirements. A 2007 EPA rule allowing all pesticides listed in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to be exempted from Clean Water Act permitting requirements was reversed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009. The amendment, on its way to the Senate floor, reinstates the exemptions, effectively skirting the legal battles over whether pesticide residue is a chemical waste that can be regulated as a pollutant under the Act

Water

  • New Central Valley Groundwater Regulations Take Next Step - - By Parry Klassen, Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship - - Groundwater regulations for Central Valley agriculture came one step closer to reality on June 9, 2011 when the Central Valley Regional Water Board approved a two-year extension for the existing Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  The extension gives state regulators and watershed coalitions time to write their new “General Orders,” which will contain region-specific requirements to address both surface and groundwater quality. The Regional Board meeting in June followed a more contentious meeting in April where the Board adopted an Environmental Impact Report written to cover the new Long Term Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  In an eight-hour long hearing, both coalition and activist groups tried to convince the Regional Board that the EIR was inadequate and an accompanying “Framework” was flawed.  While the board approved the EIR, it deferred any action on the Framework, in part because agriculture attorneys called it an “underground regulation” and its legal standing was put in doubt. At the June meeting, Regional Water Board staff outlined its timeframe for preparing the individual and coalition-specific orders.  Because of limited staffing, the orders will be written and presented for a board vote over the next 8-24 months.  The staff expects to have completed orders ready for a board vote in January 2012 for the California Rice Commission and East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition.  By summer and fall 2012, the following coalitions: Westside San Joaquin River Watershed Coalition, South San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, San Joaquin County and Delta Coalition and the Sacramento River Watershed Coalition.  The Westlands Water District would be slated for approval by April 2013 when the new two-year extension expires.

  • Regulations will set standards for measuring irrigation water - - At a meeting in Sacramento June 16, 2011, the California Water Commission recommended that the state Department of Water Resources adopt agricultural water measurement regulations that would require accurate measurement devices on nearly all irrigation laterals and turnouts in the state—estimated at more than 115,000 gates. Developed under SBx7-7 as part of the comprehensive water legislation of 2009, the proposed regulations would set volume accuracy requirements for delivered water at between 5 percent and 12 percent, with a deadline for water suppliers to begin measuring volumes delivered to farm and ranch customers by July 31, 2012. At a water commission meeting that preceded last week's vote, DWR representatives suggested that certified volume measurement devices to meet accuracy requirements could cost $6,500 each and $1,200 a year for monitoring, repair and reporting. "We don't know how many turnouts are going to require upgrading at a cost of $6,500 each or more," said Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition. "It's impossible to know that until districts begin assessing their infrastructure to see what level of accuracy they're able to attain with current measurement." Wade noted that the July 31, 2012, deadline does not mean that every gate must meet the currently recommended 5, 10 or 12 percent standard, "but it does mean water suppliers will need a plan in place for how they're going to do it." Phase-in of the volume measuring requirements has not yet been decided. It could be three years, as DWR has proposed, or it may vary depending on water district circumstances.

  • Ag water use efficiency workshop set for July 20 - - A workshop looking at the current trends and conditions of agricultural water use efficiency will be held by the State Water Resources Control Board on July 20 in Sacramento. (Click here to download the agenda).  The informal workshop will include presentations and panels of experts and practitioners to explore the state of California’s agricultural water use efficiency and the future outlook for further efficiency. The Department of Water Resources estimates that 9.2 million acres of farmland are irrigated with approximately 42.2 million acre-feet of water, representing approximately 75% of California’s developed water. Expected to be discussed at the workshop is the controversial report (Click here to download the report) issued earlier this year by Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson in which he outlined the “reasonable use” doctrine.
     

 

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