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

Congress

  • House passes disaster aid package but what will Senate do? - - The House of Representatives on Aug. 2, 2012  passed a $383 million disaster aid package for livestock producers on Thursday. The last-minute bill was put in after an attempt to extend the 2008 Farm Bill was pulled earlier this week. The final vote was 223 to 197 with bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. 46 Republicans voted against the bill, 35 Democrats voted for it. The next big question is will the package go anywhere? The Senate has indicated it may not even take it up when Congress returns in September. The upper house continues to push the lower house to pass the Farm Bill.

  • House Votes to Extend Estate Tax Relief Through 2013 - -  The U.S. House of Representatives on Aug. 2, 2012 voted to extend the current tax code for another year. This includes keeping the estate tax, known as the death tax, at its current level of 35 percent for estates worth more than $5 million per individual and $10 million per couple. If Congress fails to act by the end of 2012, the death tax will revert to a $1 million exemption level at a 55 percent tax rate.

State Legislature

  • Bill to direct funding for nitrate remediation approved by Senate- - - Legislation that allows fees already collected for fertilizer use to be applied to technical advice statewide has been approved by the state Senate.  AB 2174 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) allows the California Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) to use the redirected funding for training on the “appropriate use of fertilizing material.” With the bill’s clarification, the program can address contamination of groundwater caused by nitrate fertilizers.

  • Ag overtime bill opposed by ag coalition  - - Legislation that would require agricultural employers to pay overtime after eight hours in a workday was the subject of a August 7, 2012 hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  AB 1313 by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) would repeal the longstanding 10-hour daily overtime requirement for agricultural employees and is opposed by a wide coalition of farm groups. The coalition at the hearing spelled out the reasons for its opposition: “The legislature is ignoring the reality that California is one of the few states that imposes any overtime requirement at all on agriculture.  Farmers can’t control nature and the weather or market conditions, and policymakers recognized this reality when they created the 10 hour workday for agriculture.” 

  • New rural fire fees to be sent out beginning this week - - The state has begun billing hundreds of thousands of residents living in wildfire prone areas a fee of up to $150 annually per residence for fire prevention efforts, according to the California State Board of Equalization. The  fees will be mailed beginning Aug. 13 in alphabetical order by county, with all the fees issued by December. Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said most property owners will pay $115 per habitable structure because their properties are covered by local fire districts. Only residents living outside those areas will pay the full $150.  Barns, woodsheds and outbuildings are not habitable structures and won't be assessed the fee.

  • Legislative calendar looks at August 31 deadline - - The Legislature  returned August 6 for a frenetic four weeks before the session ends August 31. Bills with a fiscal impact must be approved by Appropriations committees by August 17.The governor has until September 30 to sign or veto bills that are passed by the Legislature after August 19, longer than the ordinary twelve days.

  • California Legislator Voting Record on-line - - For the first time, you can look up the voting record of every state legislator in California. Wondering how often your legislator broke party ranks, abstained or switched sides? Enter the last and first name of the lawmaker you're researching to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. The online database is located at http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/

Climate Change

  • CDFA seeks almond industry participation on climate change panel - - CDFA Secretary Karen Ross has announced the establishment of a consortium of growers, educators, and technical experts in California to study and make recommendations on strategies for climate change adaptation. Individuals interested in being considered for the consortium are encouraged to send a brief resume by September 5, 2012 to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N Street, Room 315, Sacramento, CA 95814, Attn: Carolyn Cook or via email carolyn.cook@cdfa.ca.gov. The consortium will include one grower of each of the following specialty food crops; grapes, strawberries, almonds, tomatoes, walnuts, lettuce, citrus, pistachios, broccoli, and tree fruits. Four two-day workshops are planned: Modesto (November, 2012), Tulare (January, 2013), Napa (March, 2013), and San Diego (May, 2013). At each session, the consortium members will hear about recent scientific findings, consider information shared by stakeholders, and compile specific practical solutions for the adaptation of California’s specialty crops to climate change. Recommendations made by the consortium will be made available to the secretary of CDFA and distributed to stakeholders with the goal of helping growers adapt to climate change impacts.

Air Quality

  • Diesel truck enforcement efforts targeted in August - - The Air Resources Board has designated August as “Gear Up for Clean Truck Month” in what it says will “send a clear message that the comprehensive suite of ARB’s diesel regulations is in effect and being enforced.” ARB says in August outreach and enforcement teams will conduct several highly visible events throughout California, including inspections at weigh scales, random roadside locations, fleet facilities, truck stops, and other areas where diesel vehicles are present to ensure full compliance with diesel regulations.  Enforcement actions will involve fleet citations and audits, and as part of the enforcement awareness campaign, ARB will also continue to provide compliance assistance to educate truckers on regulatory requirements that affect their businesses.  More information is available at www.arb.ca.gov/truckstop.

Ballot Measures

  • Informational hearing on GMO labeling ballot measure set for September- - A joint state Assembly and Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Prop. 37, which would require the labeling of all GMO food, will be held in the first two weeks of September. Details are expected to be announced soon on meeting time, location and witnesses.  If it passes, California would be the first state to require labeling of such a wide range of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The proposal would require most processed foods by 2014 to bear a label telling shoppers that they contain ingredients derived from plants whose DNA was altered with genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria.

Water

  • 9th Circuit panel rejects challenge to delta water contracts - - A federal appeals court ruled July 17, 2012 that federal water supply contracts awarded in 2005 did not violate protections for the endangered delta smelt, a small fish native to California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary. The panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 against environmental groups that contended the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation renewed 41 water service contracts without consulting with a federal wildlife agency to determine whether the water deliveries would jeopardize the continued existence of the smelt. The appeals court, in a ruling written by Judge Procter Hug Jr., upheld a district court's decision that the groups lacked "standing" or the legal authority to challenge the contracts. The court also said that renewal of the pacts was required by law. The court cited a contract provision permitting the government to reduce or stop water deliveries to comply with endangered species requirements. Therefore, the court said, the contracts did not present a threat to the fish.

  • Final agricultural water measurement regulations adopted - - The California Water Commission gave final approval to the agricultural water measurement regulation at its meeting July 6, 2012, reports the Association of California water Agencies (ACWA.) Developed under SBX7 7, the water conservation arm of the comprehensive water package of 2009, the regulations must provide for a range of options for agricultural water suppliers to measure the volume of water delivered to customers and comply with farm-gate delivery measurement requirements. The regulation takes effect immediately. Click here to download the regulations.

 

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