September 13, 2019
WOTUS repeal prompts plaudits, jeers
The official repeal of the 2015 “waters of the U.S.” rule received rounds of applause from the ag sector, which said it was about time. But there also was advice for the agencies as they move toward crafting a replacement to appear this winter.
Barb Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), called the repeal “a critical first step,” but said EPA and the Corps should consider adding a “physical indicator standard” to give landowners certainty about which areas are regulated and which are not.
David Levine, president of the American Sustainable Business Council, criticized the action. “All businesses rely on clean water to some extent and for many, it is essential. Further, there is large potential for job growth in sectors, such as infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, and technology development, that are vital for achieving clean water goals.”
California promised to fight back. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Governor Gavin Newsom immediately responded by tweet and by statement. “There’s too much at stake for us to let this go,” said Becerra.
In 2017 and 2018, California had joined other states in comment letters opposing the federal action. The coalition called it “unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act,” suggesting a lawsuit to come.
Fuel for SB 1? The status of the Senate bill that would lock the WOTUS rule into California code will likely be revealed today. The bill was sent to committee Tuesday but has not come up for a hearing since.
In the wake of AB 5, Dahle defends ag truckers... again
The Senate environmental committee met briefly yesterday to take up SB 210, a bill proposing smog checks for big rigs.
The California Trucking Association had dropped its opposition following amendments. Senator Brian Dahle pointed out those truckers typically lease new trucks, which will now have a four-year exemption to the smog checks. Dahle, who runs a seed and trucking business, said it’s a bigger problem “for somebody like myself, who has never been able to afford a brand new truck.”
Dahle explained that existing state regulations require hundreds of sensors to be added to older trucks. If one trips, it’s $190 and a 100-mile trip to the shop, he said, adding that the trucks also undergo inspections every 90 days by law.
The California Farm Bureau’s Noelle Cremers raised concerns that the bill’s promise of mobile testing stations may not be “economically feasible” for the many small and rural businesses impacted throughout the state.
Dahle concluded with a similar sentiment he had shared two days ago on AB 5:
“It's going to be a hardship on the people trying to make a living on top of all of the other regulations that have been piled on top of us,” he said. “It's going to drive the cost of freight up in California.”
The final vote today will wrap up a three-year effort by Senator Connie Leyva of Chino to pass the measure.
CDFA promotes Newsom’s climate policies on national stage
This week at its annual meeting, NASDA adopted a new climate resiliency policy sponsored by California and three other states. The policy statement does not dedicate specific actions or funds toward the effort.
Instead, it promises to encourage Congress and the USDA to support healthy soils, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reduction. Gavin Newsom has touted these priorities in the few brief moments he has spoken on agriculture as governor.
“It is an exciting new frontier and we want to make sure that agriculture and farmers and ranchers are being recognized for the work they are doing,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross told Agri-Pulse at the meeting.
Ross also called nutrition “the crux” of agriculture. She said, “This is what we are all in farming for – to feed and nourish people better.” She hailed nutrition policies as an opportunity “to really tie a more urbanized society to what it is we do on our farms and ranches.”
Ross’ efforts in connecting nutrition and sustainability were also saluted in a recent op-ed for Agri-Pulse by two public relations leaders in California ag.
On that note: CDFA is seeking public comments on how to spend its $28 million budgeted for healthy soils grants. The department will hold three stakeholder meetings at the end of September in Orland, Fresno and Sacramento.
Mixed signals from China ahead of US trade talks
China’s Commerce Ministry is making it clear the country appreciates the U.S. decision to postpone some tariff rate increases ahead of trade talks in early October, but a state-owned, English-language, media outlet is also opining that the goodwill gesture doesn’t go far enough.
“We welcome the goodwill from the U.S.,” Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters Thursday, going as far as to suggest potential good news for U.S. ag exports. Chinese companies, Gao said, have begun asking for price quotations to buy U.S. soybeans and pork.
“We believe that the two sides can work (together) and create a good background foundation for the bilateral negotiations,” Gao said.
But the state-run Global Times is also featuring an article diminishing the tariff postponement.
Quoting “experts,” the Global Times says: “The U.S. decision to postpone extra tariffs is good for the upcoming China-U.S. trade talks, but what U.S. President Donald Trump has done is far from enough and we should not consider it a breakthrough in trade talks, as they remain very tough.”
Former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Farmers for Free Trade speaks at a rally on the National Mall to promote the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
USMCA negotiations to intensify
House lawmakers are likely to see a lot more of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the coming weeks as proposals between the Trump administration and House Democrats fly back and forth in efforts to get a deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement by the end of the year.
Lighthizer on Wednesday delivered to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal proposals to address Democrats’ concerns, and Neal told reporters he’s preparing to send back counterproposals this week.
“I kept telling you I was waiting for (Lighthizer) to hit the ball back over the net,” Neal told reporters Thursday. “So, they have hit the ball back over the net and now we intend to hit the ball back.”
Neal stressed that while progress is being made, more needs to be accomplished. Texas Republican Kevin Brady expressed optimism it will be worked out.
“I expect (House Democrats) in the coming weeks to have a number of visits from Ambassador Lighthizer about how they can fine-tune (USMCA) further,” Brady said.
He said it:
“Because... who needs water anyway.” – Governor Newsom, responding on Twitter to news of the WOTUS repeal.
Steve Davis, Bill Tomson and Hannah Pagel contributed to this report.
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September 12, 2019
Legislature passes AB 5, Newsom likely to sign
Republican Assemblymember James Gallagher tried his best yesterday to convince the Assembly to waive more rules in order to amend the independent contractor bill. But the hearing was a simple concurrence vote on existing amendments and AB 5 passed along party lines. The governor has signaled he will sign the bill and is likely to do so quickly and quietly, as he did with the recent vaccine bills.
Assembly Ag Chair Susan Eggman recognized the challenge this poses for California’s agricultural truckers. She added that the legislature will be dealing with this independent contractor issue “for years to come.” More bills aimed at refining the labor law will likely be introduced in the next session.
Next, tech companies are expected to file a referendum as soon as Newsom signs the bill. This stays the AB 5 statute from being enacted until a ballot vote can be held in the 2020 general election. Uber, Lyft and Doordash, meanwhile, will continue to seek a third classification for their drivers.
The Supreme Court decision that set the stage for AB 5, however, has already put the ABC test into law. The California trucking association has an ongoing lawsuit against that opinion, which will likely take years to reach a conclusion.
Truckers John Wallace and Joe Antonini, in front of the governor’s office.
What will AB 5 mean for truckers in agriculture?
“Well I’d lose my house and truck and everything,” John Wallace told Agri-Pulse, adding: “I’d leave the state.”
Wallace, an independent owner-operator, hauls tomatoes and nuts in summer and rice to port in winter. He said the work is busy when a ship is in port, but later slows to nothing. Before AB 5, Wallace’s only connection to the capitol was driving by it on I-5. Last week, he was in the capitol building making rounds to legislators in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide.
Alongside Wallace was Joe Antonini, who runs a trucking business his family established nearly a century ago. Antonini said the ag trucking business “would be decimated.” He estimated that at least 40% of California’s ag commodities are moved by independent contractors.
The amendment they sought would have carved out an exemption for independent contractors with large trucks. Republican Senator Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita offered the amendment on the floor Tuesday. It was put “on the table” and never came off.
Atkins hints at shelving SB 1 as a two-year bill
Senator Toni Atkins said on Tuesday it is “possible” for her Trump resistance measure to be a two-year bill and return in January, according to the SacBee.
Amendments added late Tuesday softened the language on two of the water provisions. But the most contentious section remains intact. SB 1 would place the Central Valley Project within the jurisdiction of the California Endangered Species Act. The bill ensures it “does not affect” the Voluntary Agreements currently being negotiated. Yet this provision would likely lead the water contractors and other parties to walk away from the negotiations, resulting in years of court battles instead.
The California Farm Bureau and other ag groups remain opposed.
Negotiations are continuing with stakeholders and the administration over SB 1. The deadline for amendments ran out on Tuesday. Yet the Legislature could waive the rules and add more amendments, which would push the final vote into the weekend.
2015 WOTUS rule is being repealed
The Obama-era “waters of the U.S.” rule, which the farm community has been complaining about for years, is getting plowed under. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers say they’re repealing it.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told reporters the repeal is the first step toward getting a new WOTUS rule in place, which he said would happen by the end of this year, or early in 2020.
Farm and environmental groups have predictably different reactions to the latest action. The former like it, while the latter oppose it. The new WOTUS rule, based on a proposal published earlier this year, will narrow the scope of federal protections for wetlands and streams.
Keep in mind: In no way will the repeal rule or the new WOTUS rule spell an end to litigation. “We’re a long way from having certainty,” according to Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau’s senior regulatory relations director.
See our story at www.Agri-Pulse.com.
USMCA labor enforcement remains sticking point
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer assured Democratic and Republican lawmakers Wednesday that progress is being made in talks with House Democrats on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal says differences over the enforcement of Mexican labor provisions remain troublesome.
“The one that still appears stubborn is labor enforcement,” said Neal, who met with Lighthizer for 20 minutes Wednesday morning. He said he will meet today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will ultimately decide if and when the House will vote to ratify USMCA.
Mexico has promised to overhaul its labor standards, but House Democrats are worried the country won’t follow through, especially if it slashes government funding.
But Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, the top Republican on the House Ag Committee, tells Agri-Pulse Lighthizer stressed to GOP lawmakers Wednesday that Mexico is offering assurances it will have the budget to enact labor reforms.
Keep in mind: The complication of ratifying USMCA grows as time passes, but there appears to be renewed optimism for a House vote this year.
“I’m hearing that in a month or two we’re going to have a vote,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who stressed he’s been talking to members of the Democratic trade working group that’s tasked with working on USMCA with USTR. “It’s going to get done.”
Are farm payments racist?
The Environmental Working Group, a longtime and influential critic of federal farm policy which has not been historically successful, is introducing a new line of attack on USDA spending — that payments to farmers are sometimes racist.
In a press release on Wednesday, the group charged that Trump administration’s Market Facilitation Program payments “have overwhelmingly gone to white farmers, continuing USDA’s racist legacy.” The statement links to an earlier EWG blog post that cites the congressional testimony of the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, Virginia producer John Boyd.
“Any time the government gets involved, when they say it’s going to be a speedy payment to farmers, it’s always last for African-American farmers, it’s always last for Latino farmers, for small-scale farmers and for women farmers,” Boyd said.
Keep in mind: The MFP payments are supposed to compensate farmers who have been most hurt by President Trump’s trade war.
Why it matters: This line of attack appears to be aimed at undermining support for farm programs among progressive and urban Democrats.
She said it:
“Sometimes you lose your own job killer. Dang it.” – Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, joking about the California Chamber of Commerce removing SB 54 from its “Job Killer List.”
Gonzalez has an identical bill on plastic recycling, AB 1080, that was also removed from the list this month following amendments. The chamber remains opposed to both bills. Gonzalez also authored AB 5, which is still a “job killer.”
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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September 11, 2019
SB 1 amendments add flexibility to measures on water
Senator Toni Atkins added amendments to the bill late yesterday evening that deal with both the wetlands definition and biological opinions.
Wetlands: One change gives authority to the state and regional water boards to decide if the current rules for dredge and fill activities are "more stringent" than federal requirements. This allows the state board to maintain the previously negotiated wetlands definition and procedures put into state law last week.
Biological opinions: The amendments also change "shall" to "may" in the text that previously directed state regulators to apply pre-Trump rules on biological opinions.
Voluntary agreements: The bill already included an amendment to ensure the bill "does not affect" the process for implementing voluntary agreements for the Bay-Delta flows.
Truckers excluded from late amendments to AB 5
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, following numerous editorials, did carve out an exemption for newspaper delivery services for one year. Gonzalez did this by gutting another bill of hers, AB 170, and amending it to carry the text of AB 5.
The floor debate in the Senate carried late into the night for the bill. Republicans proposed a dozen amendments, while many long diatribes carried the debate.
In one impassioned speech, Senator Brian Dahle of Lassen County shared his struggles in running a small trucking business. He added that in his six years as a legislator, he has heard his colleagues constantly bash agricultural employers.
"I heard a speech in the Assembly that referred to us as slave owners," he said.
Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas
Ahead of amendments, more Central Valley Dems opposed SB 1
State Senators Melissa Hurtado and Anna Caballero yesterday sent a letter to the governor and house leaders standing up against recent amendments in Senate Bill 1. The changes would reverse a recent compromise over the definition of wetlands that fall under the protection of state environmental laws.
The senators write that “many people (they) represent have expressed serious concerns” about the impacts this would have on water supplies and production agriculture in the Central Valley.
Caballero also published an op-ed yesterday echoing the recent opposition from California congressmembers and Merced Assemblymember Adam Gray. In it, she added that SB 1 would “reject new science” related to water supplies and inhibit voluntary agreements.
Bill proposing smog checks for diesel trucks nears final vote
The Assembly passed Senate Bill 210 yesterday along a party-line vote, moving it to the Senate for a final vote.
The proposed program would be similar to existing smog checks for cars but target heavy-duty trucks weighing more than 14,000 pounds and include out-of-state trucks operating in California. The bill also charges CDFA with outreach and education for getting ag trucks into compliance.
SB 210’s proponents say it “modernizes enforcement” for clean air standards by updating the existing periodic inspections.
The California Farm Bureau is concerned about the economic impacts on owners of low-use and specialty equipment trucks.
Hemp cultivation bill passes legislature
Senate Bill 153 establishes CDFA as the USDA liaison for regulating industrial hemp in California. The measure is designed to conform the state’s agricultural code to meet the minimum requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill.
According to Patrick Goggin of the California Hemp Council, those requirements are related to tracking and reporting both hemp production and registration status to USDA.
The more ambitious AB 228, however, was pulled from committee by the author two weeks ago. That bill would have declared that hemp extracts are not an adulterant under California’s health and safety codes. This would have contradicted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s controversial classification of CBD oil, the extract at issue.
Goggin, who spoke at the August meeting of CDFA’s Industrial Hemp Advisory Board, said the bill will return next year as two separate bills. AB 228 had also proposed relaxing regulations around placing industrial hemp products on shelves in cannabis dispensaries. He said that part of the bill faced “a slew of issues” around testing requirements.
At the governor’s desk and awaiting signatures
Governor Newsom has until October 13 to decide the fates of hundreds of bills now cascading into his office from the legislative chambers. While the ones with the most potential to impact agriculture are still being deliberated, here a few of the lighter reads for the governor this week:
- AB 488 adds the CDFA secretary to the California Broadband Council
- SB 19 deploys stream gages to better monitor fish populations
- AB 128 better protects wild and domestic horses from slaughter
- AB 1561 grants alligator farmers one more year to sell products before a ban
- SB 232 boosts glass recycling, with support from the Wine Institute
- AB 657 extends a tax on commercial feed
- AB 450 adds technical updates to last year’s Apiary Protection Act
- AB 454 enshrines the Migratory Bird Treaty Act into California law
- AB 590 helps California comply with the federal milk marketing order
Japan deal to put US ag on par with TPP
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is assuring farmers that a pending trade deal with Japan will put them on a level playing field with other countries that already have agreements with the Japanese.
The Japan deal, which has not been finalized, “gets us back on parity with our competitors,” Perdue told reporters Tuesday. “I think it will essentially be even … There were some sectors that were left out, but it will get us back on our comparable tariff area with other countries.”
Keep in mind: U.S. dairy, grain and meat producers are adamant that they need to be at the same tariff level as the European Union and Trans-Pacific Partnership countries that have already gotten tariff cuts from Japan in trade deals that have been in place for months.
But Perdue confirmed U.S. rice farmers’ fears that they will not benefit from the trade deal, even though they would have gotten increased Japanese access under the TPP if the U.S. hadn’t pulled out.
Without giving any details, Perdue said he expects U.S. beef and pork to get even better access to Japan than under TPP.
Grassley: Lighthizer bullish on USMCA
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley says U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer is optimistic about wrapping up a deal soon with House Democrats to address their concerns about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“He figures this is all going to be done … during September. I hope that’s not too optimistic,” Grassley said. That should allow the agreement to be on the House floor yet this fall, he said.
Lighthizer is expected to deliver a set of proposals to the Democrats soon.
Grassley, R-Iowa, says the Democratic concerns about labor standards and other issues will have to be addressed through side letters and annexes to the trade deal, not to the text of the agreement itself.
Pompeo mum on Mexico tariff threat
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Tuesday sidestepped a question on whether or not the U.S. was still prepared to hit Mexico with tariffs if the country did not continue to reduce the flow of Central American migrants to the U.S. Instead he stressed to reporters Mexico is making progress on the border and added that he was looking forward to meeting with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.
“We're going to talk about the progress that's been made, which has been substantial and real and material, and has made America more secure,” Pompeo said at a White House press conference. “But at the same time, we know there is still work to do and we're going to talk about how best we can jointly deliver that.”
Back in May, the White House announced plans to hit all Mexican exports with a 5% tariff on June 10 in an effort to force the country to clamp down on migrants making their way to the U.S. The tariff was not levied because Mexico agreed to take strong anti-immigration measures, but Pompeo warned at the time that the tariff, which would increase rapidly, was still an open threat.
He said it:
“Open up the books, read the studies, pay attention to the information we've been providing. Don't stick your head in the sand. Get on board with the rest of the country and the global movement of accepting hemp as having therapeutic value.” – Patrick Goggin, in praise of hemp at last month’s meeting of the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board.
Bill Tomson, Ben Nuelle and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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September 10, 2019
Court reverses ruling on Grasslands lawsuit about water quality
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week revived a lawsuit over a federal project on irrigation runoff in the San Joaquin Valley.
With the goal of eliminating selenium from agricultural runoff, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation launched the Grasslands Bypass Project more than 20 years ago. The program protects a 97,000-acre drainage along the San Joaquin River tributary from the naturally occurring contaminant.
In 2010, a coalition of environmental and sportfishing groups pushed the bureau to go further. They argued that fallowing 9,200 acres of farmland on the valley’s west side was the only way to keep the selenium in the soil.
The coalition then sued the bureau and a local water authority in 2011. They claimed the agencies violated the Clean Water Act by inappropriately applying a special exemption for agriculture. A district court later dismissed the lawsuit.
The 9th Circuit had a different interpretation of the meaning of the phrase "discharges from irrigated agriculture" within the suit. It reversed the lower court’s decision and ordered the court to reconsider the case.
Bill would grant rice farmers more access to incentives for habitat restoration
The Senate passed a bill yesterday that would streamline a program offering incentives for farmers to flood fields in winter. The practice has gained widespread support for how it temporarily restores traditional wetlands, supplying habitat for fish and migratory birds.
Assembly Bill 256 would make it “quicker and easier” for growers leasing land to be approved for the incentives, according to Sacramento Valley Senator Jim Nielsen. The bill is likely to be at the governor’s desk this week.
Remember: Recognizing rice farming as sustainable is a flip from the sentiment three decades ago. Beginning in the early 1990s, the state phased out nearly all burning of rice fields. Now growers rely on winter flooding and mechanical tools to break down the straw remnants.
Anti-vaccination protestors occupy the hallway outside of the governor’s office.
Science skeptics take over capitol and gain the ear of the governor
Hundreds of anti-vaxxers flooded the capitol building to protest a vaccine bill, interrupting a busy day for the Legislature yesterday and shutting down floor hearings in both houses. At least seven were arrested for blocking entrances, while two others chained themselves to an entry door. Upon resuming, Assemblymembers had to shout to be heard over the chanting.
Last week, Newsom surprised many by being receptive to the vaccine skeptics, while First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s staff held closed-door meetings with the advocates.
Yesterday Newsom signed the two bills immediately following their passage. The laws add new restrictions to exemptions from vaccines.
NFU plays wait and see with USMCA
The National Farmers Union is calling on the White House to address a number of what the group sees as shortcomings in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. A resolution adopted by NFU’s board and released Monday says that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) should be added to the agreement, and that the trade pact should also address concerns Democrats have raised about labor standards and drug pricing.
Keep in mind: Adding COOL to the trade agreement is a non-starter. Mexico and Canada both fought a U.S. COOL law that was enacted in 2002 and had its beef and pork provisions later repealed. There’s no way those countries would renegotiate USMCA to fully reinstate COOL.
However, given that other major farm groups are lobbying hard for USMCA, the fact that NFU isn’t endorsing it yet gives House Democrats some political cover to continue their negotiations with the White House.
“We’d like to be able to support USMCA, but we are withholding judgment until we see the deal,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. Some 380 NFU members are on Capitol Hill through Wednesday lobbying on their policy priorities.
Farm groups and lawmakers to rally for USMCA
It’s still uncertain how much longer House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will need before she decides on whether to hold a vote on the USMCA implementing bill, but farm groups and lawmakers will be pressing her this week for a speedy ratification.
Leaders of the American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers, US Apple Association, National Milk Producers Federation and others will be joining Democratic and Republican lawmakers to rally Thursday on the National Mall to push for the renegotiated NAFTA to be completed this year.
House Democrats have said they are still waiting on the US Trade Representative to give them written proposals that address concerns over USMCA, some of which call for a reopening of the pact and new approval by all three countries.
McKinney optimistic for quick approval of Japan deal
The miniature U.S.-Japan trade pact announced last month still isn’t complete, but Ted McKinney, USDA’s trade undersecretary, says the plan is for both countries to implement it by around Jan. 1, immediately bringing down Japanese tariffs on a wide array of U.S. ag commodities.
McKinney said that 70% to 90% of the agreement is complete.
The U.S. isn’t going to get everything it wants in the pact, McKinney told NFU members on Monday, but he named some U.S. commodities that will get tariff cuts: beef, pork, ethanol, distiller’s grains and soymeal.
McKinney confirmed that the Congress won’t have to ratify the pact, but Japan’s legislature will. Still, he said he expects on Jan. 1 “we will go live on the agreement and that way tariffs would come down in some margin equivalent to other countries” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. pulled out of two years ago.
USDA releases aid details
USDA is out with some key details on its the disaster aid program Congress authorized back in June. USDA only has about $3 billion to spend, so officials say that payments for 2019 losses will be limited to 50% of eligible coverage, versus 100% for 2018 losses, which were the original target of the bill.
Read our report on the program here.
Perdue not worried about spending limit
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA should be in no danger of hitting the $30 billion limit on the spending authority it’s using to make Market Facilitation Program payments this fall.
Perdue indicated USDA has been managing the MFP payments to stay within the limit and is counting on Congress to replenish the department’s Commodity Credit Corporation account. A new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
“We’ve very carefully looked at the cash flow situation of CCC, and you know the replenishment comes around this time of year, so that’s what we really rely on as far as the funding for CCC going forward,” he told reporters covering the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture meeting Monday in Albuquerque, N.M.
FDA’s Frank Yiannas talks to NASDA.
FDA questioning CBD safety
FDA’s food safety chief, Frank Yiannas, insists the agency is looking for a path forward to legalizing the use of the hemp-based CBD in foods and supplements. But Yiannas emphasized in a speech at the NASDA meeting that FDA has concerns about CBD’s safety.
He also said that the agency has seen a number of “false and misleading labeling claims” for CBD, including that it is effective against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other maladies. “These products are unapproved new drugs. They are illegal and they pose a risk to consumers,” he said.
He said an agency working group that is studying the issue would have a report or interim report out sometime this fall. “We are working on the appropriate path forward, and we know that we have to provide clarity,” he said.
He said it:
"We’ve got until Sept. 13 to either kill or fix this wrongheaded bill. If we don’t, it very well could set back progress on our rivers for decades." - Asm. Adam Gray, D-Merced, in an op-ed for CALmatters yesterday opposing SB 1.
Ben Nuelle, Bill Tomson, Hannah Pagel (in Albuquerque) and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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September 9, 2019
Feinstein and Central Valley Dems oppose SB 1
California Senator Dianne Feinstein sent Governor Newsom a letter on Friday opposing the broadly sweeping Senate Bill 1. Feinstein has long been involved in California water issues. She co-authored the letter with Democratic Reps. Jim Costa, John Garamendi, Josh Harder and TJ Cox.
Mirroring arguments from the ag industry, the letter argues SB 1 would “freeze in place” the decade-old science around incidental take permits and biological opinions and “make it impossible” to develop voluntary agreements for flows.
The legislators also point out SB 1 would require the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to comply with the California Endangered Species Act. “This provision will generate years of litigation and uncertainty” over standards for the Central Valley Project, according to the letter.
Political consultant Scott Lay suggests the timing of the high-profile opposition could set roadblocks for the bill when it needs two-thirds votes to pass both houses this week.
In response to the letter, the author of SB 1, San Diego Senator Toni Atkins, said she remains open to negotiations over amendments.
Newson’s water plan: Governor Newsom plans to unveil major policy actions for his Water Resilience Portfolio next month. The administration favors voluntary agreements for water flows and promotes the approach as a pathway for quick action on other water issues.
The alternative would be the years-long litigation process that has been the status quo. Costa and Cox argue in an op-ed accompanying the letter Friday that “litigation in the water world does not resolve California’s long-term water challenges.”
Passing SB 1 as the bill stands would restrict the authority that agencies have for negotiating voluntary agreements. That would potentially undermine the governor’s efforts for his Water Portfolio.
Costa and Cox write that SB 1 “will surely frustrate Gov. Newsom’s efforts to reach solutions through collaboration and engagement with all participating parties.”
SB 1 could open waves of private lawsuits
Prominent attorney Joel Fox says SB 1 would be “opening another door for private attorneys to sue businesses for not living up to the rules.”
Fox argues the bill would be a “burden on farmers” because agencies would set their own rules and regulations in order to protect the environment from federal standards.
“This authoritative lack of due process,” he writes in the politics and law blog Fox and Hounds, “spells danger for businesses that must respect environmental laws.”
Fox adds that the Disability Act and the Private Attorney General Act have already led to “lawyers attacking businesses” over labor laws in order to gain quick settlements.
Remember: The deadline for amendments to bills on the floor passed Friday. Yet a nuanced reading of the Senate rules leaves open a chance for amendments on this bill today or tomorrow.
Governor signs bill exempting clean energy codes for fire victims
Governor Newsom on Friday signed legislation to exempt solar requirements for residents rebuilding their homes after last year’s devastating Camp Fire. Paradise’s Senator Brian Dahle authored the bill and fought through a contentious debate on the Senate floor last week to get it passed.
In signing Assembly Bill 178, Newsom commented that he still encourages all Californians “to strongly consider incorporating solar.” Among the reasons was to make homes “more resilient” to power outages. Earlier this year the Paradise region was subject to a widespread shut down to prevent fires during high-risk weather.
Newsom also signed a bill on cannabis. Senate Bill 657 would include cannabis cultivation within the annual crop reports that county ag commissioners submit to CDFA. The reports will help to better track the industry’s growth. In his arguments, Senator Bill Monning said “normalizing cannabis as an agricultural product will encourage unlicensed growers to come forward and become legitimate, licensed and tax-paying businesses.”
On that note: Newsom signed another bill clarifying that cannabis and hemp are agricultural commodities. This allows those growers to benefit from the same property tax ordinances as other commodity growers.
Plastic recycling bills amended after negotiations with grocers
SB 54 and AB 1080 were amended last week to target specific food packaging, reportedly allowing flexibility for containers. The amendments also ensure that the bill supersedes local agency ordinances, enabling package designers to adhere to just one law when it comes to recycling mandates.
The bills maintains the 75% reduction goal for 2030 for the amount of single-use plastics produced. It also allows CalRecycle to change that number by up to 10 percentage points.
Sen. Allen had said in August that his coalition for SB 54 was “just going to sit down and try to bang out every area of contention and controversy." The California Grocers Association has now dropped its opposition to the bills and others are expected to follow suit this week.
Ag truckers disappointed with AB 5 amendments
The bill was amended last week to point out that it does not intend to “diminish the flexibility of employees to work part-time or intermittent schedules or to work for multiple employers.” It also carved out an exemption for veterinarians.
Last month, the bill did include the amendments that trucking associations were requesting. Yet those exemptions are specific to construction subcontractors and would not include truckers in ag. A caravan of owner-operators circled the capitol last week, blasting their horns in protest. Inside the building, trucking advocates were scrambling to meet with legislators ahead of the deadlines for amendments.
Additive effects of pesticides to get scrutiny
EPA says it will review U.S. pesticide patents for claims of potential synergistic effects among active ingredients. Synergistic effects cause the total effect of the ingredients to be greater than the sum of their individual effects.
In a Federal Register notice today, the agency is asking for comments on its five-step process, which includes analyzing whether observations of synergistic, or “greater than additive,” effects are statistically significant.
The agency became aware of patents with synergistic claims in 2015, when the Center for Biological Diversity was challenging EPA’s approval of Corteva Agriscience’s Enlist Duo, which contains glyphosate and 2,4-D.
Kudlow lays out potential for extended trade war
President Trump won’t be backing down in the trade war with China, a conflict that could go on for years, according to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.
The fight to get China to change its ways in international trade and intellectual property protection has already gone on for more than a year, but Kudlow stressed to reporters on Friday that could be just the beginning.
“It may go on much longer than that …” Kudlow said after comparing the dispute to President Reagan’s clashes with the Soviet Union. “The stakes are very high for both countries … We have to get it right and if that takes a decade, so be it.”
But Kudlow says he is still hopeful that significant progress can be made in upcoming negotiations. A lot will depend on whether China will agree to honor previous agreements that the country backed out of in May, causing talks between the two countries to break down. “We would like to go back to where we were last May, but I don’t know if that’s possible …” Kudlow said. “This is a difficult matter.”
Top ministerial level officials are now expected to meet in Washington next month after lower-level negotiators gather later in one or two weeks to prepare for the next round of talks.
He said it:
“Our local farmers and water users have real concerns that this bill could hurt the incentive to continue voluntary settlement negotiations and end up costing our communities in the Central Valley dearly.” – Democratic Rep. Josh Harder, in a statement opposing SB 1.
Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
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