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

Congress

  • House Ag Committee begins mark-up of Farm Bill July 11 - -  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota released a discussion draft of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) on July 5, 2012. Please click here to download a copy of the legislation. The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is unlikely to hit the floor until after the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of Farm Bill legislation beginning on July 11, 2012, said House Agriculture Chairman Committee Frank Lucas (R-OK)  . “I’ve made it very clear to leadership that I prefer they not have it at the same time,” he said. “As of this moment, I don’t anticipate having ag appropriations in the House at same time as the farm bill markup in the committee.”

  • Senate passes farm Bill on bipartisan vote - - The Senate passed S.3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 on June 21, 2012 by a vote of 64-35.  The Senate bill represents over $23 billion in savings over the next ten years through eliminating direct payments, consolidating programs and ending duplication, and by cracking down on abuse in food assistance programs. The House Agriculture Committee version of the 2012 farm bill represents over $35 billion in savings over the next ten years through eliminating direct payments, consolidating over 100 programs, and reforming the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Both bills contain the following provisions of specific interest to growers including continued funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Market Access Program, the Technical Assistance to Specialty Crop Program, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the Specialty Crop Block Grants and expands crop insurance to fund research to develop improved risk management tools for specialty crops.

  • Senate hearings held on Russian trade relations bill - - The Senate Finance Committee held hearings on June 21, 2012 on S. 3285, a bill to authorize normal trade relations with the Russian Federation.  U.S. exports to Russia are expected to double within the next five years if this bill is passed.   The legislation does not require the U.S. to make any tariff changes.

State Legislature

  • Bill to direct funding for nitrate remediation advances - - - Legislation that allows fees already collected for fertilizer use to be applied to technical advice statewide has been approved by both the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. and the Senate Agriculture Committee.  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 approved by state Senate Committee  - - Legislation that would require agricultural employers to pay overtime after 8 hours in a workday was approved on a 5-0 vote June 27, 2012  by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. The bill was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further action.  AB 1313 by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) is opposed by Western United Dairymen and a wide coalition of farm groups. The coalition 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.” 

  • Legislative calendar looks at August 31 deadline - - The Legislature wrapped up business on July 2, 2012 and left for summer recess. The Legislature will return 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.

  • Sen. Cannella names new Ag Committee consultant - -  Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), chairman of the California Senate Committee on Agriculture, has announced the hiring of Dr. Anne Megaro, as the consultant for the committee.  Megaro replaces John Chandler, who returned to his family business, Chandler Farms in Selma. “I’m pleased to have Dr. Anne Megaro as the consultant to the Senate Agriculture Committee,” said Sen. Cannella. “Anne’s extensive background in animal science research and agriculture public policy is going to be a tremendous asset to the committee. She will be able to apply her knowledge to better shape the committee’s policy goals and help grow California’s agriculture industry.” Megaro most recently served on the government relations team at CGI Technologies and Solutions, Inc. Previously, she served as a congressional fellow as part of the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. There she advised members of Congress and committee staff on a wide range of public policy issues, such as agriculture, trade, education, higher education, research funding, health, nutrition, and food safety. Megaro received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and management from the University of California, Davis and a doctoral degree in animal science from Cornell University.

  • 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/

State Budget

  • CDFA budget cuts become official with new state budget - - Anticipated CDFA budget cuts became official June 27, 2012 as Gov. Brown signed legislation enacting California’s latest budget. The CDFA will slash funding for its border protection stations by another $1 million, which will cause a partial closure of some stations on a seasonal basis and rotating hours at others, Secretary Karen Ross said. In addition, the department will cut $750,000 from high-risk pest exclusion activities, $250,000 apiece from medfly and animal health and food safety programs and $125,000 from administration, Ross said. The reduction is in addition to the $31 million in general fund dollars already slashed from the coffers of the agency responsible for agricultural plant and animal health, pest prevention and food safety programs. Previous cuts primarily affected programs related to border control stations, pest prevention and food safety, the governor's office has explained. Since January 2011, the department's annual general fund contribution has gone from $99 million to about $62 million, Ross said. State funding now accounts for less than one-third of the CDFA's budget, with the rest coming from federal programs, industry programs and special fees, she said.

State Agencies

  • Chris Reardon named DPR chief deputy director - - Gov. Brown has appointed Chris Reardon, 51, as the new chief deputy director at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Reardon has served in multiple positions in the department, including chief deputy director and director of legislation, since 2003.He served as executive director at the Manufacturers Council of the Central Valley from 1996 to 2002 and as chief of staff for Assemblyman Sal Cannella from 1994 to 1996. Reardon will earn $126,588 annually.

Ballot Measures

  • Calif. voters to decide whether to label foods that are genetically modified - - California voters In November will decide whether to require special labels for food made from genetically modified ingredients, in a closely watched test of consumer attitudes about the merits of genetically engineered crops. Advocates collected more than half a million signatures supporting the stronger labeling requirements, and the secretary of state this week certified the measure for the state’s November ballot. 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.

  • Senate committee votes to shift California water bond to 2014 - - Legislation that would shift an $11 billion water bond from the November ballot to 2014 cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee Monday on a bipartisan, 5-0 vote on July 2, 2012. The measure, Assembly Bill 1422 by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) won support from virtually every stakeholder in the state's notoriously fractious water issue. If passed, it would be the second time that the measure had been delayed. Brown has called for delay and changes in the water bond, fearing that its size would make voters less likely to approve taxes.

Water

  • Water Board Hearing: Will Ag Have to Pay for Nitrate Clean-Up? - - The State Water Resources Control Board held a hearing in May to gather public input on measures it will recommend to the state Legislature to reduce nitrates and nitrate loading in groundwater, and how to pay for clean drinking water where nitrates exceed the drinking-water standard. (To download the presentation by Bob Curtis, Associate Director, Agricultural Affairs, please click here.)  Agricultural representatives expressed concern about proposals that ag groups shoulder all the costs and be subject to strict oversight of their nitrogen use. Other groups supported additional fees and taxes on all fertilizer use as the easiest way to provide funding for clean water as well as mandatory outside recommendations for fertilizer applications, similar to the current model for pesticide applications. <more> July 2, 2012 California Almonds Outlook.  

  • Regional Board Releases First Draft of Expanded Irrigated Lands Program - - The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is working with individual water quality coalitions to develop regionally specific regulations for an expanded Irrigated Lands Program that will include groundwater monitoring for nitrates, salts and other contaminants.  In May, Regional Board staff released a preliminary draft of its proposed Irrigated Lands Program for the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition (ESJWQC), which covers the area east of the San Joaquin River within Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties. It is expected that this first draft will provide a model for additional monitoring and reporting in other water quality coalitions throughout the Central Valley. <more> July 2, 2012 California Almonds Outlook  

  • Farmers get expanded eligibility and conflict rules for regional water boards - - More farmers will be eligible for appointment to the state’s nine regional water quality control boards and once appointed will be allowed to participate in and vote on agriculture discharge orders, if the Governor signs a budget-related bill as expected.  Both houses of the state Legislature this week passed a large package of budget trailer bills finalizing the agreement negotiated by Governor Brown and Democratic leaders.  The Governor signed this legislation Wednesday as part of the larger state budget package. 

 

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