February 9, 2012
Almond Board
California Legislative Report: Update on Issues Affecting California's Almond Industry

State Legislature

  • Sen. Canella will again chair Senate Ag Committee - - Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) will again chair the Senate Agriculture Committee as well as a new Subcommittee on Invasive Species. Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) also will be on the invasive species subcommittee.

  • CDFA budget cuts total $12 million - - Gov. Brown outlined his proposed 2012-2013 budget on Jan, 5, 2012.The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)2012-2013 budget contains $12 million in General Fund reductions, which were negotiated by the stakeholder consortium developed by CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross. The budget includes $4.38 million in cuts to border station inspections, eliminates state funds for the Light Brown Apple Moth program (federal funds remain), decreases funding to the biocontrol program by $701,000, reduces plant pest diagnostics and seed labs by $366,000 and cuts the animal health program by $245,000, among other reductions. In addition, $2.4 million in CDFA cuts are still being discussed at this time. The $12 million in reductions are in addition to the $19 million in cuts already made to CDFA in the current-year budget.

    As part of the budget reductions, alternative funding solutions of roughly $3 million will be achieved through increases in phytosanitary certificates, master certificates, device fees and dairy inspection programs. The phytosanitary fees to CDFA will support the following areas:

    • Creation and maintenance of pest-free areas; these areas conform to international standards
    • Emergency Quarantine Response Program
    • Pest Detection Program
    • Emergency Pest Eradication Program
    • Exotic Pest Trapping
    • Plant Pest Diagnostics Laboratory
    • Trade Facilitation

State Agency Appointments

  • Brown names Brian Leahy new DPR Director - - Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Brian Leahy, 55, of Sacramento, as director at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Leahy has served as assistant director for the California Department of Conservation since 2006. He was a partner at EcoFacilitation in the Netherlands in 2006, and served as executive director for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts from 2004 to 2006. He was executive director at the California Certified Organic Farmers from 2000 to 2004. Leahy was owner and operator of Cherokee Ranch Inc. from 1980 to 2003 and also a farm operator for Ackerlund Farm Incorporated from 1992 to 1993. Leahy earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Creighton University School of Law. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $142,965. Leahy is a Democrat.

Air Quality

  • ARB ag truck 2011 mileage reporting now available online - - The state air board has extended the heavy-duty diesel truck electronic reporting deadline to March 30, 2012. Reports can now be filed electronically at http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onrdiesel/reportinginfo.htm.  The mileage report is required for diesel trucks signed up with the air board as agricultural or “AG” trucks. AG trucks are required to stay under specific mileage thresholds, and their 2011 mileage must be reported to air board by the deadline. Besides the AG provision, the diesel truck regulation has other special provisions that lengthen some or all of the compliance requirements. If growers have trucks not covered under the AG exemption (because they exceed the mileage thresholds or did not report, for instance) they may still be covered by other exemptions that also require reporting. An example would be the small fleet exemption that delays retrofit requirements for fleets with three or fewer trucks. Owners of those fleets may have to report this month depending on the age of the trucks. For more information call the diesel hotline at (866) 634-3735 The air board offers several programs that provide grants, loans and loan guarantees, vouchers, or rebates to help truck and equipment owners with the purchase of cleaner diesel trucks and equipment.

Labor

  • Labor Department to re-propose parental exemption portion of agricultural child labor regulations - - The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division announced Feb. 1, 2012 that it will re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the "parental exemption.” The Department said it received many comments criticizing the farm labor rules proposed in Sept. 2011 that would have prevented many young people from working on family farms. “I am glad the Department of Labor heard my concerns and the concerns of so many families in Michigan and decided to re-evaluate this rule,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “Of course there should be safeguards to protect children from dangerous situations, but there needs to be an understanding that many children in rural communities learn about safety by helping their family on the farm.” According to the Department, a new “parental exemption” rule is expected to be proposed this summer. Today’s announcement only applies to that portion of the new farm labor rules that considers the “parental exemption.” The re-proposed rule reverts back to prior regulations, said Labor Department officials today, and uses broader language used before the 2011 proposals that include parents who are partial owners of an agricultural operation instead of only including whole owners.

Water

  • Snowpack is 23% of normal, says state survey - - State Department of Water Resources snow surveyors on Feb. 1, 2012 confirmed that water content in California's mountain snowpack is far below normal for this time of year. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack's statewide water content at only 37 percent of normal for the date. That is just 23 percent of the average April 1 reading, when the snowpack normally is at its peak before the spring melt. "So far, we just haven't received a decent number of winter storms," said DWR Director Mark Cowin. "We have good reservoir storage thanks to wet conditions last year, but we also need more rain and snow this winter."

  • Feb. 14 Workshop to Explore San Joaquin River Monitoring Programs - - A Forum Workshop "Who's Watching the San Joaquin River" is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 14, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Stanislaus Ag Center, Modesto. Speakers from federal and state agencies plus agriculture and water coalitions will describe how each takes the "pulse" of the San Joaquin River, measuring everything from temperature and flow to chemicals and fish.  The event, sponsored by the Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship  (CURES) with EPA Region 9, features keynote speakers Pamela Creedon of the Regional Water Board and Alexis Strauss of US EPA Region 9.  Also featured are presentations from key agencies and entities performing water monitoring on the river, including the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.  A key discussion point for all speakers will be how water monitoring programs in the San Joaquin River basin can be organized for better accessibility and data analysis.  A poster session featuring programs within the Basin will also take place at the event.  Registration information for this free event is available at http://www.curesworks.org/sjRiverForum.asp   

  • Westlands Water District suing feds for $1billion - - Westlands Water District is suing the federal government for $1 billion, claiming the Interior Department failed to deliver a court-ordered cleanup of salty irrigation drainage. About a dozen years after an appellate court upheld the cleanup order, bad water trapped below the ground surface still slowly poisons west Valley farmland. "We're tired of waiting," said Westlands general manager Thomas Birmingham. "We've been paying for drainage service for decades. The land is sustaining irreparable harm." The suit was filed last month in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. Interior officials declined comment on pending litigation.

Pesticides

  • Court Hears Methyl Iodide Lawsuit - - A Superior Court in Alameda heard testimony on Jan. 13, 2012 in the lawsuit filed by environmental and farmworker organizations against the state regulator and the manufacturer of methyl iodide, which is used as a pre-plant soil fumigant to control plant pathogens, nematodes, insects and weeds. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit because they believe methyl iodide was approved by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) using bad science and that it causes serious health problems. DPR approved the fumigant for use in December 2010 with the most stringent restrictions in the nation.  It is licensed for use in 47 states and is approved for restrictive uses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among other issues, the court is looking at whether DPR considered alternatives to methyl iodide, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). DPR has one week to respond to the court’s request for a brief detailing why DPR is not required to abide by CEQA.  Environmental attorneys also have a week to respond before a ruling is issued in the case as to whether DPR violated state law when it approved methyl iodide. 

 

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