November 9, 2020

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Postmortem for Prop. 15
Though Proposition 15 is still alive for now, several political consultants offered their thoughts on why the tax on commercial property has been trailing. Capitol Weekly hosted the discussion last week.
“Our job as initiative consultants is to attach [the voter’s] brain to his heart,” said Brandon Castillo of the public affairs firm Bicker, Castillo & Fairbanks. “You always talk about how it affects your pocketbook.”
Castillo said the no campaign was effective in attaching Prop. 15 to residential homes in arguing that would be next. Mary-Beth Moylan, an associate dean at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, added that they were persuasive in arguing it would hurt small businesses as well, passing the cost on to the average consumer. The message was: “It's going to hit your pocketbook down the line.”
Communications consultant Robin Swanson said new taxes are a hard sell right now. This is why the yes campaign had to make the case that schools, fire departments and other public services “desperately needed these funds now more than ever.” She also warned that other parts of the state don’t vote in a monolith.
“California isn't a big blue banner. There is a whole central valley that we all have to pay attention to,” she said.
On that note: Republican David Valadao has widened his lead over Central Valley Rep. TJ Cox, with a 4% difference.

Dairy Council honors Devon Mathis for advocacy
The Dairy Council of California presented a recognition award last week to Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis of Tulare for his support of the industry.
Mathis said the bigger honor “is the hard work that you and your families do.” He saluted the industry’s innovation in technologies like water recycling, dairy digesters and methane capture.
“That makes my job easier in Sacramento to advocate for you and your families for the dairy way of life,” he said.
NRCS awards water efficiency grants
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded $13 million in funding last week through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program and WaterSMART Initiative.
Of the 31 priority areas, several irrigation districts in Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties received as much as $800,000 each in grants. The funding will help farmers improve irrigation systems. NRCS expects it to “double irrigation water use efficiency, reduce water use, extend water supply during drought and benefit downstream water users.”
Biden transition: Priorities include ‘climate-smart’ ag
President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition with promises to move on his climate proposals that involve farmers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Over the weekend, the president-elect went live with a transition website - - that includes a summary of Biden’s top policy priorities, starting with getting COVID-19 under control.
His list of climate priorities includes this: “Create jobs in climate-smart agriculture, resilience, and conservation.” The summary doesn’t spell out any specific actions he plans to take, or when. A key part of Biden’s environment plan would require substantial new funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program in order to carry it out.
Biden also reiterated his pledge to reenter the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Biden’s transition plan also calls for major infrastructure investments, which might be one area where he could reach agreement with congressional Republicans. His infrastructure priorities include “universal broadband.”
Excerpts of how the two largest general farm group’s reacted to Joe Biden being declared president-elect this weekend:
American Farm Bureau FederatioPresident Zippy Duvall: “A global pandemic, trade disputes and severe weather have converged to take a mighty toll on agriculture and beyond, impacting families and communities across the United States. Unprecedented challenges require courageous leadership and the willingness of all elected leaders to work across the aisle for the good of the nation. Agriculture provides a strong model for that, with a long tradition of aligning behind smart policy, not party lines.”
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew: “The last four years haven’t been too kind to family farmers and ranchers. Overproduction, rampant corporate consolidation, trade disputes, and climate change have kept commodity prices stubbornly low, causing farm debt to balloon and farm bankruptcies to proliferate. … (Biden) has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement as well as provide farmers and ranchers the tools they need to implement climate-smart practices. … Additionally, Biden has outlined his commitment to revitalize rural economies, enforce antitrust regulation, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, alleviate racial inequities in agriculture, expand rural broadband, and promote homegrown biofuels.”
Corporate sustainability targets eye farmers
There is growing evidence that farmers and ranchers are going to be asked to address some of the nation’s biggest environmental challenges, including climate change. The question is what farmers will have to do – if and how they’ll be compensated.
We kick off a five-part series today at to provide some answers to those questions, starting with an in-depth look at the sweeping pledges that multinational giants have been making to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chain.
Nearly all the commitments are designed to meet the goals of the Paris accord, and some corporations are even going beyond that. Corporations also are gearing up to lobby on farm bill programs.
In this series, we’ll also look at the critical challenge of measuring and verifying environmental improvements; the possibility of compensation for farmers; the role technology may play in addressing environmental challenges; and what U.S. farmers’ foreign competitors may or may not have to do.
By the way: In an essay for the journal Foreign Policy, former Obama adviser Jason Bordoff argues there are a number of steps the Biden administration could take to address climate change without action by Congress, including rewarding farmers for carbon sequestration and imposing new regulations on power plants and methane emissions.
He doesn’t say how USDA would compensate farmers, but recent changes to conservation programs could direct more spending to conservation practices. The president-elect’s environmental plan calls for using the Conservation Stewardship Program as a way of paying farmers directly, using funding from corporations that need to offset their own emissions.
He said it:
“What used to be a fabulous experience going into a supermarket has become a scary experience.” — Phil Lempert, a consumer marketing analyst, discussing 2020 shopping trends at the California Dairy Sustainability Summit.

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.

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