August 31, 2020
Legislature wraps up session today
The Assembly and Senate met for several hearings over the weekend, extending late into the evening yesterday. The Legislature has until midnight tonight to wrap up the session and send the final bills to the governor’s desk, who has a month to sign or veto.
Senate hearings have gone longer than expected, due in part to nearly every Republican member voting remotely. Several experienced technical difficulties throughout the process, from miscommunications on which bills are being voted on to lags in video speed. The feed froze several times for Andreas Borgeas, who tuned in from Fresno, for example.
Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica
Plastic recycling bill clears Senate
The Senate yesterday passed Assembly Bill 1080, which aims to cut down on single-use plastics in packaging.
Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, who has an identical bill in the Senate, said the authors have “worked tirelessly since June to resolve the issues” in the bills. Among the latest amendments, the two bills now exempt growers who package food on their farms. According to Allen, Western Growers pushed successfully for the bill to consider food waste and federal packaging requirements.
Despite this, dozens of ag groups remain heavily opposed.
“We just haven't been able to get to a place where we're comfortable enough with this policy,” Mathew Allen of Western Growers told Agri-Pulse. He explained that the bills don’t exempt the transportation of products to the packing shed or processing plant, for example.
Matthew Allen, Western Growers
Legislature passes bill on enforcing farmworker guidance
Both houses have now approved AB 2043, which would give Cal/OSHA the regulatory muscle to enforce the COVID-19 safety guidance for farmworkers.
In opposing the measure, Republican Shannon Grove of Bakersfield pointed the finger to labor unions for the highly publicized COVID-19 deaths among workers at packing plants.
“It was difficult for them to get information out because they have to have it agreed upon by the collective bargaining units,” she said.
Grove added that AB 2043 places an unfair burden on companies, which have already been informing employees of the Cal/OSHA guidance.
Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield
Senate passes a bill for tracking outbreaks among farmworkers
Assembly Bill 685 would require ag employers to notify all employees of a COVID-19 infection, along with state agencies and labor unions, within 24 hours of an outbreak.
Recent amendments have removed the $10,000 penalty and the rebuttable presumption, according to the author. Yet a number of trade groups remain opposed.
Sen. Grove called the bill ridiculous and burdensome and said it provides Cal/OSHA the authority to shut down a business without due notice. Sen. Borgeas added that the bill does not require an employee to disclose an infection to their employer.
Sonny Perdue (right) with President Trump and Ivanka Trump at recent Food Box promotion.
Dems: Perdue violated Hatch Act at food box event
Sonny Perdue stepped over the legal line at a Food Box event in Mills River, N.C., by inserting the 2020 election into his remarks, prominent House Democrats charged in a letter to USDA’s chief ethics officer.
At the event, Perdue told Trump, “Mr. President, as you saw those throngs of people lining both sides of the road from the airport all the way to Mills River here, those were part of those forgotten people that voted for you for 2016. And I've got better news for you: they and many others are going to vote for you for four more years in 2020.”
“We believe engaging in such political activity while acting in his official capacity is a blatant violation of federal law under the Hatch Act,” said the six representatives, including Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee on nutrition, oversight, and department operations.
Meanwhile: USDA says it’s extending contracts under the second round of the Food Box program until Sept. 18 as it determines how to use $1 billion Trump added last week to the program, originally funded at $3 billion.
DFA commits to reduction in greenhouse gases
Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy cooperative in the nation, has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, becoming the first dairy co-op “to set a science-based target” to cut GHGs.
“By having their targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), DFA is supporting the Paris Agreement's broader goals to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius,” DFA said.
Key strategies to achieve the goal include “mitigating methane emissions from cows by supporting advances in feed efficiency, herd nutrition and feed additives designed to reduce emissions; using renewable energy methods, such as solar panels and wind power, on our farms and in our plants; and utilizing anaerobic digesters, which convert manure and food waste to energy, on farms and in plants,” DFA said.
New NEPA lawsuit led by states
Yet another lawsuit has been filed challenging the Trump administration’s new rule implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. This time, it’s being led by the attorneys general of California and Washington, who are part of a coalition of 27 states, territories, counties and cities.
As in other lawsuits challenging the rule, the latest challenge says the new regulations limit both public input and the types of federal actions that would be analyzed. The final rule itself was issued without the Council on Environmental Quality allowing “a meaningful opportunity to comment on data or technical studies that it employed in reaching conclusions in the final rule,” the complaint says.
At least two coalitions of environmental groups have filed lawsuits to challenge the rule. Like the latest suit, one was filed in the Northern District of California, while the other was filed in the Western District of Virginia.
He said it:
“Man, that's a lot of clients.”—Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Logan Heights, in response to Lauren Noland-Haijick, a policy advocate representing a number of ag groups opposing Assembly Bill 1659 on wildfires
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Hannah Pagel contributed to this report.
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