June 9, 2011
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Legislature

  • Williamson Act bill approved in Assembly - - A bill to temporarily scale back Williamson Act contracts to make them more affordable to counties is advancing in the Legislature.  Assembly Bill 1265 by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) would allow counties to enter contracts with landowners for nine years rather than 10 and reduce their tax relief by 10 percent to help keep the program afloat. The bill is in the Senate after having passed the Assembly, 78-0, on May 19, 2011. Its language mirrors a Nielsen bill passed in 2010 but eliminated as part of a budget bill earlier this year.  "It's a bill that does not cost the general fund and does not apportion any money," Nielsen said. "Landowners would give up 10 percent of their benefit for counties to retain and use for other purposes in their budgets. It would really help them significantly be able to continue contracts." 

  • 'Card check' bill awaiting action by the Governor- - The state Senate and Assembly have approved "card check" legislation that would create an alternative path to a secret-ballot election for farmworkers seeking union representation.   Senate Bill 104,  would let workers unionize by having a majority of employees sign and submit petition cards to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The bill, sponsored by the United Farm Workers union, would also create steeper penalties for employers who seek to block workers from unionizing or engage in unfair labor practices.  The bill is authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento.) Steinberg introduced a similar bill in 2008. It passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Measure allowing biomass to utilize net metering heads to Assembly - - The state Senate voted 31-7  on June 2, 2011to approve Sen Lois Wolk’s Senate Bill 489, also known as The Renewable Energy Equity Act. The measure would enable all eligible renewable energy types, including biomass and biogas, to utilize California’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program, which allows customers to offset some of their power usage with the energy they generate on site.  “SB 489 provides equity in the state’s renewable policy by removing unnecessary barriers to small-scale renewable energy projects,” said Wolk (D-Davis.) “It also gives farmers and food processors a way to reduce their energy bills by producing their own heat and power from what is otherwise a waste product.” 

  • New bill allows roll-over plan for ag solar energy producers - - Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) has authored Senate Bill  370. This bill would authorize an agricultural customer-generator with multiple meters to elect to aggregate the electrical load of the meters located on the property where the generation facility is located and on all property adjacent or contiguous to the property on which the generation facility is located, if those properties are solely owned by the agricultural customer-generator. This bill is currently being held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  


  • Senate bill would increase fees for domestic and ag water - - Legislation being considered in the state Senate would impose on each retail water supplier in the state an annual charge based on the volume of water that is provided for nonagricultural uses and an annual charge based on each acre of land that is irrigated for agricultural purposes. Senate Bill 34, the California Water Resources Investment Act, by state Sen. Joe Simitan (D-Palo Alto) would enact the California Water Resources Investment Act of 2011 to finance a statewide water resources investment program. As initially proposed, SB 34 would impose an excise tax on water called a public goods charge of:
    * $110 per acre-foot of water on urban retail water customers;
    * $20 per acre of land on agricultural water customers; or,
    * $10 public goods charge per acre of irrigated land if the agricultural customer utilizes best management practices for the type of crop and soil, as determined by the DWR. Various water agencies and state agricultural groups are is opposing this bill as
    it would force water agencies to pay a steep new water tax with no direct benefit to those who pay. The bill is currently being held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Nunes pushes bill to boost water to Valley farms - - Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) has introduced H.R. 1837, which would restore about 1.4 million acre-feet of water annually to Valley farmers who have lost water to environmental causes. Over many years, irrigation deliveries have been cut back to protect fish and restore the San Joaquin River, said Nunes. The cutbacks hit hardest on federal farm contractors on the Valley's west side, which gets water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Nunes said the bill, introduced May 9, 2011, is not perfect, calling the measure a policy framework to address water needs from Modesto to Bakersfield. Nunes and local water officials said federal agencies have taken far more farm water than they promised they would in 1994 when they joined the state in signing the Bay-Delta Accord.  

  • Rep. Cardoza supports federal relicensing of Don Pedro Dam - - Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to move forward with relicensing the hydro-electric facility at Don Pedro.  At FERC hearings held in Turlock and Modesto on May 11, 2011, Cardoza submitted a statement urging the Commission to evaluate the hydro-electric project based solely on its own merits, and not allow the relicensing process be hijacked by those attempting to restrict water deliveries on the San Joaquin tributaries. In his statement, which was read by proxy because the Congressman was in Washington, D.C., today for votes in Congress, Rep. Cardoza praised the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts.  “Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts have willingly and fully participated in the efforts to find solutions to our region’s water and energy needs and have been good stewards of the environment,” the Congressman stated. The meetings kicked off a fice-year relicensing process. More information is available at www.donpedro-relicensing.com.

  • 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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