April 11, 2012
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

Water

  • Public workshop on nitrate study set for May 23 - - A public workshop to gather comments on possible solutions to the nitrate groundwater contamination issue and how to fund those solutions will be held Wednesday, May 23, in Sacramento. The State Water Resources Control Board hearing on the landmark UC Davis nitrate study begins at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Hearing Room, second floor, Cal EPA building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento. The report and public input will be used to inform the State Water Board in developing its recommendations for its report to the Legislature later in 2012. A live video stream of the May Workshop will be shown at http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/. The UC Davis Report on Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water is available at: http://groundwaternitrate.ucdavis.edu/
     

  • Almond Board water symposium offers outlook on  supply challenges - - The immense challenge of providing a more reliable water supply for California while meeting increasingly stiff environmental regulations was addressed April 3, 2012 as the Almond Board hosted a symposium “Water in California: Present Realities - Future Implications”. An opening panel of Tim Quinn, executive director, Association of California Water Agencies and Ellen Hanak, senior fellow, Public Policy Institute of California provided a historical context on the diverse interests and issues confronting water policy makers.The second panel discussed the implications of present realities on future planning and development efforts.  Panelists were Kamyar Guivetchi, acting deputy director, Integrated Water Management, California Department of Water Resources; Sarge Green, project director, California Water Institute and Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition. Phil Isenberg, chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, wrapped up the symposium stressing the importance of a truly collaborative process, but that in the end leaders and policymakers will have to make the hard decisions if we are to solve California’s water woes. A summary of the symposium is being prepared for distribution to industry.

  • Scientists: 'No silver bullet' to declining Delta - - There is no single cause for the deterioration of the Delta, a team of independent scientists said March 30, 2012 in a long-awaited report that fails to resolve one of the largest areas of controversy. The report by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences marks the end of a two-year investigation launched during the state's most recent drought. Congress and the federal government asked the influential academy  to study the Delta and California water as a whole. To download the report, please click here.

  • California's water supplies below average despite March storms - - DWR hydrologists announced that water content in California's mountain snowpack is only 55 percent of the April 1 full season average. "An unusually wet March improved conditions, but did not make up for the previous dry months,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “The take-home message is that we’ve had a dry winter and although good reservoir storage will lessen impacts this summer, we need to be prepared for a potentially dry 2013." Snowpack water content is measured both manually on or near the first of the month from January to May, and in real-time by electronic sensors.

  • House approves California water bill - - The House, by a 246-175 margin, has approved the legislation which would lengthen irrigation contracts, override state law and boost deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most dramatically, the bill replaces one San Joaquin River restoration plan with something far less ambitious. "Flushing water into San Francisco Bay is not helping to recover species, and people are suffering needlessly," said bill author Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) adding later that his bill "gives (water) reliability, not only to farms but to the environment." Joined by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, Nunes introduced  HR 1837the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act last year in response to repeated severe cutbacks in irrigation water deliveries south of the Delta. The legislation returns federal irrigation contracts to 40 years, rather than the 25-year limit imposed in 1992. It eases water transfers and preempts strict state laws that might impose stricter environmental standards. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate where Sen. Dianne Feinstein has vowed to block it.

State Legislature

  • Legislature is back in session - - The State Legislature went back into session on Monday, April 9 following a spring break. Policy committees over the next three weeks will consider legislation that needs to be heard before the Appropriations Committee in both houses because of the bill's potential fiscal impacts. To date there have been few bills introduced that have a direct impact on the California almond industry. But Capitol observers caution that a full analysis of potential legislation cannot be completed until the policy committees have wrapped up their work in the next three weeks.

  • Assembly Republican and  Democrat push guest worker bill - -  A Fresno Republican has joined forces with a Coachella Democrat to introduce a bill aimed at granting worker permits for undocumented immigrants who have been living for years in California. Republican Linda Halderman and Democrat V. Manuel Perez are co-authors of the measure, Assembly Bill 1544. AB 1544 would not confer legal status, but it would create a permit process that would remove the fear of deportation for undocumented workers and their families. It also would allow businesses to hire such workers in the agricultural and service industries. The measure would require approval by the federal government, which oversees enforcement of immigration law. Before issuing permits under the proposal, the state Employment Development Department would be required to certify that there are not enough legal California residents willing to fill open jobs in the agricultural and service industries - such as janitorial or housekeeping. Permits then could be issued to undocumented workers who have worked at least 863 hours, or earned at least $7,500 in California during a 24-month period ending Dec. 31, 2008. Participants must undergo a background check and be proficient in, or learning, the English language. They also must pay a fee to administer the program. No legislative hearing has yet been held on AB 1544.

Congress

  • Senate bill seeks to abolish death tax - - U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has introduced the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2012 (S. 2242), to abolish the federal death tax. Representative Kevin Brady, R-Texas, introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives and the bill currently has over 200 bipartisan cosponsors. Not only would Thune’s bill repeal the federal estate tax, but it would also repeal the generation skipping transfer (GST) tax, make permanent the maximum 35 percent gift tax rate and a $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption, and maintain the stepped-up basis provisions important to family farms and businesses.

  • Bill would block DOL farm youth labor restrictions - - U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida) has cosponsored the bipartisan “Preserving America’s Family Farm Act,” HR 4157, which would prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting controversial new restrictions on youth working on family farms. HR 4157 would prevent the DOL from implementing its proposed rules to restrict family farm operations.  The new mandates would prohibit youth under the age of 18 from being near certain animals without adult supervision, participating in common livestock practices like vaccinating, handling most animals more than six months old, operating farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower, completing tasks at elevations over six feet high, and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities.

USDA

  • Farmers' Markets and CSAs could receive $10 million in grants from USDA - - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking grant applicants for the 2012 Farmers Market Promotion Program. Authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976 and amended by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill), the Farmers Market Promotion Program is in the seventh year of funding direct markets that benefit local and regional economies. Approximately $10 million is available for marketing operations such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture and road-side stands. The grants, which are administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), are available through a competitive application process on  www.grants.gov. The grants aim to increase the availability of local agricultural products in communities throughout the county and strengthen farmer-to-consumer marketing efforts.

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