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

State Legislature

  • Legislation to kill Air Resources Board rejected in Assembly -- Legislation to abolish the California Air Resources Board has been killed by a legislative committee. The proposal by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) died April 25, 2011 in the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed to the measure. Assembly Bill 1332 would have transferred the Air Resources Board's duties, powers and jurisdiction to the state Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Regulatory reform bill for agriculture approved in Assembly Ag Committee - - Assembly Bill  691 by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) would establish the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary as the ombudsman for ag-related state regulations, making CDFA responsible for eliminating redundant regulations, providing assistance to the ag community in the regulatory process, and developing a cumulative impact report before a new regulation is implemented. The measure was unanimously approved in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture on April 27, 2011 and is expected to be considered in the Committee on Appropriations soon.

  • 'Card check' bill awaiting action in the Assembly - - The state Senate approved "card check" legislation that would create an alternative path to a secret-ballot election for farmworkers seeking union representation.  The measure is awaiting action on the Assembly floor. Senate Bill 104, which passed March 31, 2011 on a 24-14 party-line vote, 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 vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Minimum wage bill introduced - - Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville)  has introduced Assembly Bill 10 which would increase the minimum wage from $8.00 to $8.50 an hour and mandates that minimum wage adjust automatically each year based on the California Consumer Price Index. The bill was approved on a 5-1 vote by the Assembly Labor Committee on March 30, 2011 and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

  • Cannella bill would require economic analysis of enviro/safety regs - -  State Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres)  has introduced Senate Bill 639 requiring that all regulations undergo an economic impact analysis before being adopted or amended by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). SB 639 is designed to help analyze proposed regulations’ economic impact before being adopted, amended or repealed by CalEPA and Cal/OSHA. In particular, the economic impact analysis must take into account each regulation’s General Fund cost, its cost to private-sector employers, the amount of job loss expected, a description of all possible alternatives, a cost-benefit analysis of each alternative and a summary of written comments regarding the proposed action. This economic analysis will be conducted by an independent firm or university, and its ultimate report will be made available to the public on the state agency’s website.

State Agencies

  • State begins monitoring of air for pesticides in two Central Valley counties-- Machines from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation are sniffing the air in Kern, San Joaquin and Monterey counties to expand its knowledge of the potential health risks of long-term exposure to pesticides. The equipment is set up in Shafter in Kern County, Ripon in San Joaquin County as well as in Salinas in Monterey County. The air monitoring network is the first of its kind in the nation. DPR will monitor for 34 pesticides, including six fumigants and 11 organophosphates. DPR selected the pesticides based on the amount of use and their potential health risks. Shafter, Salinas and Ripon were selected from a list of 226 communities based on pesticide use on surrounding farmland and demographics, including percentage of children, the elderly and farm workers.  If it has the money, may expand the air network in the future to include more frequent sampling, more pesticides or more communities, it says.

Water

  • Don Pedro relicensing meetings May 11 in Modesto, Turlock - - The public can comment Wednesday, May 11, 2011 on how Don Pedro Reservoir and the lower Tuolumne River should be managed over the next few decades. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold two meetings as part of the application by the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts for a new license to operate Don Pedro. The key issue is how much water to release from Don Pedro to enhance fish habitat in the lower river. Reservoir recreation and other concerns will be addressed. The MID and the TID completed Don Pedro in 1971 under a license that will expire in 2016. They expect to spend at least $14 million on fishery studies, legal proceedings and other tasks over the next half-decade. The meetings Wednesday: • 9 a.m. in the Event Center at California State University, Stanislaus, 801 W. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock • 7 p.m. in Ballroom 3 of the DoubleTree Hotel, 1150 Ninth St., Modesto. More information is available at www.donpedro-relicensing.com.

  • Obama administration proposes broadening EPA’s power to protect waterways from pollution  -- The Obama administration proposed new guidelines April 26, 2011 that would boost the government’s ability to protect streams, wetlands and other sensitive waterways from pollution. Business, agricultural and property rights groups said the policy would stifle economic growth by generating more red tape  but environmentalists defended it as essential step to provide clean drinking water and protect waterfowl habitat. Administration officials said their goal was to clarify which waters are subject to federal regulation under the 1972 Clean Water Act, a question that two Supreme Court rulings in the past decade have not resolved.  The guidance addresses key criteria for determining if headwaters, including “perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams,” are subject to regulation under the intent of the Clean Water Act. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers said the plan would not take effect until after a 60-day public comment period. Even then, it won’t have the force of law, although field staffers will refer to the document when considering whether they have jurisdiction over particular waterways. The agencies’ next step will be developing a set of binding regulations, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

  • Agency pushes acreage charge to fund water infrastructure  - - An acreage-based fee on farmland would ensure the cost of water-infrastructure upgrades is distributed evenly, officials with the Legislative Analyst's Office told lawmakers at a state Senate hearing May 4, 2011. Democrats are seeking ways to pay for upkeep and improvements to the state's water-delivery system without selling bonds. Water and Natural Resources committee chairwoman Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, said the March 30 hearing would be the first of many examinations of the topic. "This is the opening discussion on a very important issue," Pavley said. The committee asked LAO to find alternatives to public debt for funding water infrastructure. The topic needs greater exploration than was allowed when lawmakers drafted landmark water legislation in 2009, Pavley said.
     

  • Deadline for smelt protection plan extended -- A federal judge in Fresno on May 4, 2011 gave the federal government two additional years to finish an updated plan to protect the threatened delta smelt. In December, U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger invalidated key parts of the much-debated plan, which often resulted in water-pumping cutbacks from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That ruling -- which found that while pumping hurt the smelt, the pumping restrictions set up to protect the fish were not justified -- forced the federal government to rewrite the plan for the second time in less than four years.
     

  • State Water Project allocation increased to 80 Percent - - The Department of Water Resources (DWR) on April 21, 2011  increased the 2011 State Water Project (SWP) water allocation to 80 percent of contractors' requests, up 30 percent from last year's final allocation. "This is very good news," said DWR Director Mark Cowin. "Near-record precipitation and water content in our mountain snowpack have given us a good supply year. We should not forget, however, that this state can slip back toward drought conditions any given year and conservation needs to be a lifelong habit." This year's allocation is 3,337,701 acre-feet. In 2010, the State Water Project delivered 2,086,000 acre-feet, 50 percent of a requested 4,172,126 acre-feet, up from a record-low initial projection of 5 percent due to lingering effects of the 2007-2009 drought.

USDA

  • USDA to streamline rules - - USDA aims to be more user-friendly.  In order to improve access to its programs, the agency is seeking public comment to determine whether any rules should be streamlined, clarified, or repealed. President Obama asked for the review to minimize burdens on those attempting to access programs that promote economic growth, create jobs, and protect health and safety. The Department is particularly interested in areas where it can streamline by having its agencies share similar data. USDA is seeking input through May 20 at the relatively simple web address of www.regulations.gov

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