July 12, 2019
Big changes to come for truckers in the ag industry if bill passes
The high-profile Assembly Bill 5 targets the ride hailing industry and would reclassify independent contractors across several sectors as regular employees. A number of exemptions have been and will continue to be negotiated.
The stick: During the bill’s first hearing, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez was emphatic that this situation was “largely created by the trucking industry” because those businesses have “largely misclassified their workers.”
The carrot: Gonzalez said she’s “trying to figure out” how to not penalize truckers who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into their rigs. She added: “I anticipate we will be working on this for a few years.”
Opposed: Trucking associations have two outstanding lawsuits over the California Supreme Court decision last year that set the basis for the bill. Truckers were at the capital en masse the day of the hearing, along with hundreds of advocates from all sides of the argument.
Among the ag interests in opposition were the Association of Winegrape Growers, the League of Food Processors, Egg Farmers, the Grain and Feed Association and the Almond Alliance.
Next: AB 5 passed committee and will be heard in Senate Appropriations following the summer recess.
Environmental justice advocate slams ag during joint legislative committee
Michael Claiborne was a featured expert for a select hearing on climate changethis week. Claiborne is an attorney for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. He followed testimony by academic scholars and the chair of the Air Resources Board.
Claiborne used two small communities in the San Joaquin Valley as examples for a long list of environmental problems with the ag industry.
Water quality: He suggested to the eight-member committee that all nitrate contamination in domestic wells here is due to the “overapplication of fertilizer.” He recommended the state strictly limit these applications, as well pesticide use to “for the protection of public health.”
Claiborne also blamed the Westlands Water District with contaminating water supplies and charging high water bills for unsafe drinking water.
Air quality: A 76-home community near Exeter had to deal with “high agricultural emissions” from nearby orange orchards, he said.
With methane emissions, Claiborne said the state should dis-invest from its dairy digester program. The program has no air quality monitoring to ensure its success and the best approach would be to instead reduce dairy herd sizes, he said.
Claiborne also used the podium to promote a bill his group is sponsoring, which would award grants to these communities.
The response: Michael Boccadoro, the executive director for the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association, immediately pushed back. He corrected the numbers and research on dairy emissions and said the dairy digester program is “by far the most cost-effective program the state is currently investing in.” Arecent report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office would agree.
Boccadoro also said reducing herd size is not going to reduce emissions. “It’s simply going to shift methane production and increase it by putting it in other states that are not reducing methane,” he said.
Reminder: Claiborne also participated in a day-long meeting last week for a state program on salts and nitrates in this region. During that meeting, water quality experts testified that nitrates came from a number of sources, not just dairies, and reducing ag in this region would also significantly impact small local economies.
Read more about that meeting and State Water Board actions at www.Agri-Pulse.com.
Click on the “West” tab.
Newsom recertifies Paradise for USDA assistance
Following last year’s devastating Camp Fire, the Town of Paradise plummeted from a population of 26,000 to just 2,000 in April. That falls below the threshold of 2,500 to qualify as a rural area for USDA disaster assistance. Towns in neighboring Butte County also qualified.
In a statement, Newsom said this recertification is a follow-up to his first budget action as governor. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein supported the governor for accessing a provision she and Rep. Doug LaMalfa included in a federal funding bill specifically to help Paradise.
Read Agri-Pulse profiles on the three state lawmakers representing Paradise who also praised the action: Senators Brian Dahle and Jim Nielsen and Assemblymember Gallagher.
On that note: The legislature this week swiftly pushed through a package of wildfire bills sponsored by the governor. The legislation aims to stabilize utilities from bankruptcy by shifting some of the wildfire liability costs to ratepayers. Newsom will add his signature this morning.
With that, gone for summer
Along with moving several major bills, the state legislature spent the week sprinting through dozens of committee hearings, packing in long days of debate. It was all to meet a strict policy deadline for today. The lawmakers have now adjourned for summer recess. They will return in mid-August to tally the final votes for the bills that did make it out of committee.
But don’t expect Republican members to pick up the phone this weekend. Being a super-minority, each member has accrued more committee seats in order to more broadly expand their policy footprint. Some have shuffled between as many as nine committees – popping briefly into six-hour meetings for just a quick quorum vote before moving on to the next session.
Data lacking to assess lending gaps
The Government Accountability Office says there’s no information to determine if women and minorities are treated fairly when applying for farm loans.
Comprehensive data on these groups is not available because laws prohibit lenders from collecting information such as a person’s gender. Advocacy groups claim these groups are more likely to “have weaker credit histories, or lack clear title to their agricultural land,” which can make it difficult for them to qualify for loans.
Regulations to require that type of data collection have been stalled at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
On Capitol Hill: The chairman of House Ag’s USDA oversight subcommittee is calling on the department’s civil rights office to address discrimination against minority farmers.
In a letter to Naomi Earp, who awaits Senate confirmation as assistant secretary for civil rights, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, wants to know what the department is doing to help curb the decline in the number of black farmers. Earp is currently serving as deputy assistant secretary.
Among other things, Fudge wants to know how many black farmers have received FSA loans in the last three fiscal years.
USDA releasing $100 million in dairy subsidies
USDA is staying on schedule in implementing provisions of the 2018 farm bill. The Farm Service Agency has started delivering $100 million in payments under the Dairy Margin Coverage program this week, in line with the timetableAg Secretary Sonny Perdue laid out in February.
So far, nearly 10,000 operations have signed up for DMC, about one-quarter of the total number of dairy farms nationally.
FSA also announced the estimated dairy margin for May – the difference between milk prices and feed costs - was $9 per hundredweight, 50 cents under the new maximum coverage level.
A producer who covers 5 million pounds of production, the equivalent of about 200-250 cows, would be in line for a payment of $22,500 for January through May, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist tells Agri-Pulse.
He said it:
“We consulted experts to determine that protecting children from rodent-born diseases required the additional step of applying a rodenticide with strict safety procedures." - Oliver Rocroi of the California Life Sciences Association.
Rocroi was quoting a statement from CalEPA on how the agency recently handled an escalating rat problem at its Sacramento headquarters. CalEPA had to abandon its initial capture-and-release strategy. Rocroi was speaking in opposition to AB 1788 on banning second-generation rodenticides.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to the report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 11, 2019
Broad, sweeping environmental bill will soon head to governor
A bill resisting federal rollbacks on environmental laws passed its seventh committee this week. Senate Bill 1 may have a final legislative vote this morning, before being sent to Gov. Newsom’s desk.
The bill requires state agencies to adopt policies no less stringent than the federal standards in place before President Donald Trump’s election. During hearings in two committees this week, the arguments were consistent with earlier hearings reported in Daybreak.
Opponents remained concerned the bill would “freeze” the science on regulations related to water. That would render null a revision on the biological opinions for the Central Valley Project and the passing of Voluntary Agreements for river flows, they argued.
Defending the bill, Kate Poole of the National Resources Defense Council said: “Frankly, we know that the biological opinions being modified right now (by the Trump administration) are not going to adhere to the best possible science. We've seen the drafts.”
Assemblymember Laura Friedman jumped in, asking: “So you've already decided that the new biological opinions are flawed and you're already projecting they shouldn't be adopted?”
Poole and Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego pointed to amendments saying the state agencies shall use “the best available science.”
Adam Regele of the California Chamber of Commerce said, “You might as well throw out that sentence,” because the bill already indicates that the water permit levels will stay as they are today.
Jennifer Pierre of State Water Contractors agreed, adding that much of the language in the bill is “very unclear.” She said that the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act are “very different. They have different standards for takings. They cover different species.” She asked how the California Department of Fish and Wildlife would be able to adopt federal laws and standards and function like a federal agency.
Vice President Pence is briefed on the earthquake recovery by California emergency officials.
Pence continues push for USMCA
Vice President Mike Pence met with hundreds of agricultural leaders at a Kings County farm Wednesday afternoon and pushed for approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. He cited it as an example of “free, fair and reciprocal trade deals that put American businesses first.”
In a shout out to Speaker Pelosi, Pence said he was calling on the Democratic House leadership to pass the USMCA, and to bring it before the Congress by the end of this year.
“The USMCA is a win for American farmers. It’s a win for California. It’s a win for America. And we’re calling on the Congress, we’re calling on Speaker Pelosi here in California, to heed the voice of these farmers, recognize the tremendous opportunity that we have to expand and grow our agricultural economy, and ratify the USMCA this year.”
He noted that the USMCA alone will increase dairy exports from the U.S. by as much as $300 million.
Trade payments tied to farmers’ acreage reports
USDA is giving some farmers more time to file documentation that will be crucial to releasing the next round of trade assistance. California didn’t make the cut.
The Market Facilitation Program payments won’t be made until the Farm Service Agency has compiled crop acreage reports from farmers, and the agency is extending the deadline until July 22 for a dozen states hit by constant rain and flooding this spring.
“The program is based on planted acres,” Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce tells Agri-Pulse. “That is one of the components in the calculation, so we have to have an acreage report, obviously, before we can determine what those planted acres are.”
The states with the new July 22 reporting deadline are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
All other states must report planted acres by next Monday to be eligible for conservation, disaster assistance, safety net, crop insurance and farm loan programs from USDA.
By the way: Fordyce also said the $3 billion in disaster assistance approved by Congress in June may be rolled out in stages. He noted the bill included new authorization for payments for prevented planting and damage to stored grain.
EU-Mercosur deal murky on details
The four South American Mercosur countries have agreed to protect the names of 357 European cheeses and other food as part of a free trade agreement with the EU, but the U.S. dairy industry is still waiting to see how the pact will affect their products.
So far, only a few examples of the name protections agreed to by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – called geographic indications, or GIs – have been released. Mexico, in its own pact with the EU, agreed to GI protection for cheeses such as Asiago and that’s still hurting U.S. companies.
Brazil is the main concern, says Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for the National Milk Producers Federation. The U.S. doesn’t export much cheese to Brazil now because of tariffs and other restrictions, but American producers are hoping that will change soon.
“We are looking to Brazil as a future market,” Castaneda told Agri-Pulse. “It’s a big country with a large population.”
Trump administration pressed on chemical cleanup
New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and a dairy producer in his state are putting the heat on the Trump administration to clean up chemical contamination around military bases.
The White House is objecting to provisions in a defense authorization legislation that authorizes the Pentagon to treat contaminated agricultural water sources or to provide farms with safe water to use.
Art Schaap, who farms near Clovis, N.M. along the Texas border, says that Cannon Air Force Base officials say they can’t help him even though contamination by PFAS chemicals has made it impossible to sell milk from his 4,000-cow operation. Installing and maintaining filtration equipment on the farm would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
Udall, a Democrat, said contamination levels in the area are 371 times greater than the EPA drinking water health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.
He said it:
“USMCA is going to create more money and more jobs for people all across the San Joaquin Valley." – Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech delivered yesterday in Lemoore, Calif.
Ben Nuelle, Steve Davies and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 10, 2019
Earthquakes leave farmers with minor damage
Yesterday the president approved an emergency declaration for California’s earthquakes, freeing up funds to support the disaster. Meanwhile, residents are just beginning to quantify the damage.
According to a memo obtained by Agri-Pulse, Kern County farmers suffered only “minor irrigation equipment damage,” though it’s too early to fully assess. “Some damage” to water wells was also reported.
Assistant Ag Commissioner Darin Heard also noted that “there was no significant crop damage to the pistachios trees since the majority of the trees are young and non-producing, while the mature trees are well rooted.” Field workers were not affected, and no injuries were reported.
Ridgecrest has 1,900 acres of pistachio trees, 1,300 acres of alfalfa, 65 acres of Bermuda grass, 115 acres of ryegrass and 350 acres of barley.
Caltrans starts post-earthquake repairs on Highway 178.
“A poison pill”: Farmworker housing bill called ineffective
Republican State Senator Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel said Assembly Bill 1783 offered a good proposal. But to qualify for the streamlined housing program, a farmer would hand over authority for land they own to a third-party management company. Bates called that “incomprehensible.”
During the recent Senate Housing hearing, the California Farm Bureau opposed the bill, citing two other provisions. The bill requires the farmer to also cede control for 55 years. The program excludes H-2A guest workers, which make up about 20,000 employees in California. Taylor Roschen of the Bureau said the bill does not allow the flexibility farmers need during the continuing labor shortage.
Mathew Allen with Western Growers added that the real problem farmers have is with “conditional permitting at the local level,” which the bill doesn’t address.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Robert Rivas of Hollister, countered that there are not enough state funds to pay for workers in a federal program. He said: “The community block grant program is designed to help alleviate poverty, not provide corporate subsidies, especially for big ag.”
A lawyer representing United Farm Workers added that if farmers don’t like the program, they don’t have to sign up.
AB 1783 passed that committee and is scheduled for a hearing today in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
Read more on AB 1783 at www.Agri-Pulse.com
Assemblymember Rivas giving a tour of the Assembly.
Farms and food processors awarded energy efficiency grants
The California Energy Commission is providing nearly $9 million to 32 farming operations for renewable energy projects. The funding will support solar installation and electric vehicle fast-chargers on farms, orchards and vineyards.
The Commission also approved $6.6 million for energy-efficient technologies for five food processing facilities.
“These investments play an important role as the state moves to a clean electric grid and carbon neutrality by mid-century,” said Commission Chair David Hochschild in a written statement.
Keep in mind: One of the awardees was Full Belly Farms. Co-owner Jenna Muller recently shared with Agri-Pulse her concerns over rising regulatory burdens for organic farmers. To survive, she said, “We need to get more creative in our sales outlets and find new markets for organically grown food.”
On that note: Vehicles account for nearly 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California and are the leading source of air pollutants nationally. Yesterday Gavin Newsom and 23 other governors signed a letter opposing the Trump administration’s rollback of emissions standards.
CALmatters also reports this week the state is falling short on reaching its goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. A state bill aims to “jump-start” the purchases by increasing state subsidies for consumers.
Pence promotes USMCA in California, wheat issue surfaces
Vice President Mike Pence is in Lemoore and Coalinga today to promote the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement in the home district of Democratic Rep. TJ Cox. Pence will take part in a panel discussion at an almond and grain farm south of Fresno.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, there’s new pressure to address a wheat issue in the trade pact. Canada agreed to scrap a policy that automatically designates U.S. wheat at the lowest feed grade possible, but four senators say that isn’t good enough.
U.S. wheat still won’t fit into classes that Canadians consider eligible for a premium class designation, North Dakota Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith and Montana Sen. Steve Daines say in a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
The senators say they want USTR to work with Canada to make policy changes if USMCA is ratified and implemented.
US and China resume trade talks
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke Tuesday in a teleconference with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Minister Zhong Shan to continue efforts to resolve “the outstanding trade disputes between the” two countries, a U.S. government official tells Agri-Pulse.
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Japan late last month and agreed to restart the talks that broke down in May. Trump agreed to put off plans to hit China with new tariffs and Xi agreed that China would begin increasing purchases of U.S. ag commodities.
The official didn’t reveal details of what was discussed Tuesday. He said, “both sides will continue these talks as appropriate.”
No progress on federal budget, debt as deadlines loom
We’re less than three months away from the new fiscal year and there’s been little sign of progress toward a deal to avert a government shutdown or automatic spending cuts. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to discuss the issues today after talking for about 20 minutes on Tuesday, according to Pelosi’s office.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters Tuesday there has been talk of doing a year-long continuing resolution that would extend fiscal 2019 spending levels through 2020. But Shelby said he doesn’t think that makes sense because Congress would be right back where it is now in the middle of a presidential campaign.
He said it:
“He’s got a strong point that it’s futile to do it unless we have the administration on board.” - Senate Appropriations Richard Shelby, R-Ala., on why the Senate won’t consider any fiscal 2020 spending bills until there is an agreement on how much to spend, even though FY20 starts Oct. 1.
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 9, 2019
2020 bond proposal on climate resilience would benefit ag
The California attorney general’s office received a draft proposal for a $7.9-billion bond last week. The working title hints at the broad scope of the measure. It's referred to as the "Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020."
Nearly half of the funding would go to wildfire prevention. Safe drinking water programs would absorb about $2.2 billion, while protection for fish and wildlife would cover nearly $1 billion.
The $200 million for ag conservation would be allocated to small and mid-sized farms and ranches and prioritize socially disadvantaged farmers. It includes:
- $90 million to improve soil health, water quality, groundwater recharge, surface water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat;
- $10 million to combat invasive species;
- $100 million to preserve and restore ag land.
The proposal also offers $50 million for groundwater recharge in seasonal wetland habitats and other projects that improve groundwater sustainability.
Under workforce development, $5 million would go to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources for hiring small farm advisors.
The backers: While its financiers are yet to be named, the proposal’s goals line up with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top priorities. With water, the language is similar to his executive order for a Water Resilience Portfolio.
Environmental lobbyist Joseph Caves submitted the proposed initiative. His political consulting firm, Conservation Strategy Group, also led the coalition for Proposition 1 in 2014. That water bond delivered a portion of its $7.5 billion to infrastructure projects like the proposed Sites Reservoir. One associate for the firm was also involved in the failed Prop 3 water bond for $8.9 billion last year.
Next: Following the AG's review, the consultants will hire collectors to gather the 600,000 signatures needed to qualify for a vote. That number is based on the most recent voter turnout and is nearly double the amount needed last year. This makes ballot initiatives much more costly to run but does leave voters with a shorter list to consider.
Trump looks to start clock on USMCA
The Trump administration could submit a bill to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement any day now, but there’s division in the U.S. ag sector over whether that’s a good idea.
Many House Democrats – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – are still holding out for changes to USMCA, a stance supported by the National Farmers Union.
One ag lobbyist warned that while most House Democrats support USMCA, it would be premature to push an implementing bill on them before their issues are addressed. Also, the National Farmers Union recently threw its support last week behind some of the demands Democrats are making.
But the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a group that’s urging Congress to not delay any further on ratifying the pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, sees things differently.
“American cattle producers need to maintain our unrestricted, duty-free access to markets in Canada and Mexico, and that’s exactly what USMCA would guarantee us,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “Jeopardizing that access by having Congress not take action on USMCA is simply not an option for us.”
Meanwhile: Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is trying to keep the pressure on California’s congressional delegation to support the trade deal. Dairy farmers and wine producers will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the new USMCA, Perdue argues in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“USMCA benefits California’s entire agricultural industry,” Perdue says. “By ensuring better market access and advancing science-based rules with our top trading partners, USMCA is a big win.”
EU broadsided at WTO on pesticide restrictions
The U.S. and about 100 other countries have all taken aim at the European Union over its tightening restrictions on pesticides and other ag technologies – both for domestic production and residues on imports.
The U.S. predicted “severe impacts” on the abilities for countries to export crops like wheat, grapes and coffee to European nations. The 79 member countries of the African Caribbean and Pacific Group predicted their producers will be hit the hardest.
China sided with the U.S. and ACP countries and stressed that it had been warning about the EU’s restrictive policy for years. EU representatives at the WTO did not back down under the pressure, vowing not to compromise on issues it said threatened the health of Europeans.
Trump makes his case on the environment
President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler touted the administration’s environmental record Monday, claiming air quality has improved slightly since Trump took office.
“We continue to clean up the air,” Wheeler said, citing as an example the reduction in six “criteria” air pollutants — lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ground-level ozone — of 74% since 1970, according to new data to be released next week.
From 1970 until Trump took office, those pollutants had declined 73%. “So,” Wheeler said, “the air pollution has continued to decline under President Trump's leadership.”
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., quickly used a floor speech to push back at Trump. Schumer said Trump “has proven himself the staunchest ally of the worst polluters of any president we’ve had.”
By the way: No officials from USDA were present for the president’s speech, although the department plays a major role in conservation and research and also includes the Forest Service.
One conservation group was represented: Ducks Unlimited. Its CEO is Adam Putnam, Florida’s former agriculture commissioner and a member of the House Agriculture Committee during his time in Congress.
Wheeler defends shift on climate message
In a conference call with reporters ahead of Trump’s speech, Wheeler defended the administration’s shift in policy on climate change. Wheeler said Trump is concerned that the national climate assessment is using worst-case scenarios for projecting climate impacts.
He said the administration is re-examining the models so the government can “take away more of the uncertainties so that people understand better what is going to happen in the next 50 to 100 years.”
She said it:
“It's a good program but you built a poison pill into it.” – State Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel. Bates was explaining why she voted against a measure for streamlining farmworker housing that would require the farmer to “hand over the keys” to a third party.
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Agri-Pulse Daybreak West is brought to you by FMC.
July 8, 2019
Earthquake response highlights the role of state fairgrounds
Following last week’s earthquakes, the Kern County town of Ridgecrest reported widespread damages to roads and buildings. Included on that list werethe state fairgrounds, which are also the staging area for emergency operations. The buildings were reportedly unsafe to house evacuees following the quakes.
Reminder: Fairgrounds fall under the direction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture but are locally funded. This is changing as fairgrounds have played an increasingly critical role for housing emergency operations during California’s catastrophic wildfires.
Neglected fairs: The State Food and Ag Board held an informational hearing last month on the “severely dilapidated” state of these fairgrounds. According to CDFA’s branch chief for fairs, John Quiroz, the local fairgrounds personnel are in charge of organizing the mini cities known as “fire camps” that sprout up during such emergencies.
Yet funding to maintain the infrastructure for these events has been lacking. Among the issues, fairs are often black holes for broadband internet and cell service.
The fix: Voters last year approved the $4-billion Proposition 68. Of that, fairs obtained $18 million for deferred maintenance. The bond money is a jump from a pot of up to $4 million the fairs had been receiving from the state in years prior. The current budget passed last month allocates an additional $7 million.
Tell us more: If you know of a farm or agribusiness damaged by the earthquakes or have feedback on fairgrounds, send me a note: Brad@Agri-Pulse.com
US disputes India’s new tariffs at WTO
The U.S. has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against India’s new tariffs on U.S. goods that include commodities like almonds, apples and walnuts. India’s tariffs are a delayed retaliation to the U.S. duties that were levied on Indian steel and aluminum about a year ago.
The Indian tariffs on almonds are especially complicating because U.S. growers have been diverting nuts to India to avoid steep Chinese tariffs, says a California industry official.
U.S. representatives in Geneva on July 4 filed a request for WTO dispute consultations, the initial step in what could be a lengthy case if the legal disagreement isn’t worked out by the two countries.
Two bills banning pesticides pulled in one day
Legislators pulled the bills banning pesticides ahead of two separate committee hearings last week.
Assembly Bill 916 would have banned the use of the herbicide glyphosate from all state property in California. The bill was a “gut and amend” from a previous version that specifically targeted schools for the ban. The author, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, said AB 916 will return next year as a two-year bill.
Senate Bill 86, meanwhile, would have banned the insecticide chlorpyrifos beginning in 2021. The measure served as a stop-gap to ensure a ban even if CalEPA did not follow through with its planned cancellation during that time. Senator Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles has not said whether this will also be a two-year bill.
Legislators push for farmers and feds to pay for Friant-Kern Canal fix
A bill that would grant $400 million toward fixing the degraded conveyance infrastructure passed another committee last week. But the hearing wasn’t without the now-standard refrain for the federal government and agricultural producers to cover the cost instead.
Assemblymember Laura Friedman of Glendale said the bill is letting the federal government “off the hook” and “using taxpayer money to bail out these very large farms.”
In defense of the bill, Alexandra Biering, a government affairs manager for the Friant Water Authority, explained the complex background to the bill. She said that while the 70-year-old canal is owned by the federal government, it will soon be a locally-owned facility.
Where the water flows: The surface water that is being delivered through the canal does go mostly to the agricultural users who have senior rights. The 40% decrease in capacity for the canal, however, would have been water “used entirely for discharge,” according to Biering. During high-flow periods like this spring and summer, the lost water would have been used to recharge groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water to disadvantaged communities.
Funding the fix: Bieiring said the water authority had tried to get a loan from the federal government. But the government “doesn't loan money to itself to fix its own facilities.”
A coauthor on the bill, Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula of Fresno added: “We can't keep kicking this can down the road.” He said local municipalities and agricultural groups have paid “up to a billion dollars” to help repair the canal over the years and it hasn’t been enough.
State considers energy efficiency program for farmworkers
Of the 800,000 farmworkers in California, about 18% own homes. According to Assembly Bill 386, those homes tend to have higher energy bills because of more individuals per household.
The bill seeks to change that with a new energy efficiency program specifically targeting farmworkers. Funding will come through existing energy efficiency allocations from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
According to Marco Lizarraga of La Cooperativa Campesina, the program will also “raise their disposable income, which is an incredible benefit to the farmworker population.”
US-China plan high-level, long-distance trade talks
U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to talk by phone with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He this week in hopes of making progress toward ending the ongoing trade war.
The call follows up on the agreement that President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached last month in Japan to restart the stalled talks. Trump held off on imposing new tariffs on Chinese products, and Xi agreed to increase purchases of U.S. farm commodities.
ICYMI: US makes first rice sale to Chinese buyers
A California producer struck a deal last week to make the first-ever sale of U.S. rice to buyers in China.
Sun Valley Rice, based in Dunnigan, Calif., agreed to deliver 40 metric tons of medium-grain, Calrose rice. CEO Ken LaGrande also told Agri-Pulse the company expects additional sales. The value of the deal was not disclosed.
It’s been about seven months since China officially opened its market to U.S. rice. It ends 20 years of haggling over details such as phytosanitary protocols. Bureaucracy and Chinese tariffs have been blamed for delaying purchases.
Read more at www.Agri-Pulse.com
Check on the “West” tab for all stories impacting you.
This week in Sacramento:
Monday, July 8
1:00 – Assembly floor will take up SB 62 on accidental take of endangered species in ag
2:00 – Senate floor takes up AB 450 on protecting bees
3:30 – Assembly Natural Resources will take up AJR 7 on encouraging Congress to adopt the Green New Deal; SB 1 on protecting Obama-era environmental laws; SB 515 on expanding biomass for Renewables Portfolio
Tuesday, July 9
12:00 – Senate Natural Resources will take up AB 454 on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; AB 1788 on banning second-generation rodenticides
2:00 – Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies will meet on Annual Update on Statewide Trends of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Indicators
Wednesday, July 10
9:30 – Senate Governance and Finance will take up AB 1783 on streamlining approval for farmworker housing
Read about the Washington Week Ahead.
He said it:
“In the San Joaquin Valley, the number one industry is agriculture. If that sector is not there, it’s a dust bowl and we might as well go like my ancestors, the Okies, and just pack up and leave.” – Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, advocating for SB 559 for funding to repair the Friant-Kern Canal.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.