Recently, leading farm bill negotiators in the House and Senate announced that they have reached an “agreement in principle” signaling that a final deal will be made before the end of the year.
Included in the initial agreement is language providing $25 million per year for 5 years for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB).
The Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill, which dedicated research funding for citrus.
“The trust fund language is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers,” California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said. “It’s critical for the future of our industry and the domestic citrus market that we continue to invest in research aimed to find a solution for HLB.”
The Farm Bill funding specific to HLB research complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB, which has been detected in over 900 backyard citrus trees in Southern California. In recent years, the state of California has dedicated funds to augment ACP and HLB control efforts in urban areas, including the rearing and release of millions of beneficial insects in backyard citrus trees.
Negotiators have also agreed to maintain funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers.
“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I want to thank the lead farm bill negotiators in both houses for their commitment to passing a Farm Bill that includes this vital funding for the U.S. citrus industry and specialty crops,” Nelsen said.
More California Ag News
Preventing the Spread of ACP Valley Citrus Growers Continue Vigilance
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
The spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) continues to be a loomin...
Millions Spent to Fight Huanglongbing, with No Cure
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
The California citrus industry—made up of 3,500 growers in Ventura, Riverside, and the San Joaquin Valley, and encompassing 70-75 packing houses—is an agricultural facet that continues to make California a fresh citrus powerhouse. Joel Nelsen, President and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual, spoke to California Ag Today recently on the industry-wide issue of Huanglongbing Disease—a deadly disease that has threatened the industry in every part of the state.
“For our industry, it’s a combination of enthusiasm, unity, frustration, and aggravation because we continue to fight the spread of the disease in Southern California.”
“We’re continually frustrated because science has not yet found a cure. We’ve given the scientific community an average of thirty to forty million dollars a year to find a cure for this disease.”
In a recent study done by the University of California, Riverside, economic outputs of the citrus industry is roughly $7 billion.
“It’s an economic engine for certain parts of this state. Lose it, and it’s not a positive alternative, that’s for sure,” Nelsen said.
Citrus Research Board Explains Cost Impacts on Growers
News Release From California Citrus Mutual
New regulations are expected to cost California citrus growers an average of $701 per acre per year, or $203 million annually statewide, according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).
“Compliance with environmental regulations not associated with groundwater sustainability is estimated to increase costs by $17.7 million, or $67 per acre of citrus,” predicts Bruce A. Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside who authored the study. “New labor requirements will increase costs by $112 million, or $357 per acre, once they are all phased in.”
“Babcock has presented a well-researched economic report that shows how new regulations will increasingly impact California’s citrus industry,” said CRB President Gary Schulz.
The report, Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, also predicts that controlling the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) “will increase costs by $65 million, or $248 per acre per year, if controls are extended to all citrus-growing regions.” Compliance training costs are estimated to increase costs by another $29 per acre, or $7.5 million for the state citrus industry.
“As I read and reread Dr. Babcock’s report, two things kept jumping off the page: one, ‘Cost increases borne by California’s citrus but not by … other citrus growing regions decrease the future competitiveness of California’s citrus industry’; and two, ‘… future compliance with these regulations is estimated to increase costs by $203 million, or $701 per acre per year,'” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen. “When the cost of citrus at store level gets too expensive, consumers look for lower priced fruit. This UCR report paints a clear path for policy makers if their goal is to drive the citrus industry out of California and onto off-shore production areas.”
The 20-page report includes a breakdown of increases in labor costs, including California’s minimum hourly wage increases, which are scheduled to rise in annual increments to $15 over the next four years. The report also covers the projected cost increases of recent state legislation dealing with paid sick leave, payment rates for rest and recovery periods, overtime and workers compensation.
The section on insecticide treatment addresses grower cost of spraying for ACP, even though the severity of the problem currently differs greatly in various areas of the state. If ACP establishes itself in all citrus regions in the state, which the report says is “almost inevitable,” control efforts would amount to $39.5 million per year, according to Babcock. This would be in addition to the state-mandated tarping of fruit that is transported to packinghouses, at a cost of approximately $9 million per year.
According to the report, The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011 and is still being implemented, will not require major changes for growers who are already GFSI-certified (Global Food Safety Initiative compliant).
The impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is hard to predict, according to Babcock. “It will not be possible to calculate the impact of SGMA until each basin’s groundwater sustainability plans have been finalized,” he states. “Without new surface water supplies, it seems inevitable that some farmland that currently relies on groundwater will need to be fallowed to balance withdrawals with recharge rates.”
Babcock, a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. He received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis.
The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower-funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act, as the mechanism enabling the state’s citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. The full report on the Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, as well as more information about the Citrus Research Board, may be read at www.citrusresearch.org.
CCM President Issues Statement Regarding Chinese Tariff Announcement
News Release from California Citrus Mutual
While the proposed 15% Chinese tariff increase will affect all fruits, nuts and vegetables shipped to China, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen issued the following statement regarding the tariff increase on California citrus as a retaliatory counter to President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum:
The decision by the Chinese government to levy exorbitant tariff increases on U.S. produce will surely have a direct impact on California citrus producers. Maintaining access to foreign markets and having the ability to compete in a global market place are critical to the success of the citrus industry.
The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China hinders our ability to be competitive by increasing costs for Chinese consumers, an important market for California citrus. Family farmers in our industry will suffer from the economic fallout unless we can find alternative markets for California’s While our Administration focuses on those business sectors requiring attention, the Chinese Administration has chosen to expand the discussion to include the agricultural industry. In fact, the Chinese indicated last week in a statement that constructive talks could alleviate the real issues, yet insufficient time was given to accomplish that objective. Now Chinese consumers and California citrus producers are innocent parties to a trade debate.
Nelsen, CCM Executive Vice President Casey Creamer, and Board Chairman Curt Holmes have traveled to Washington, D.C. recently for meetings with Congress and the Administration regarding trade and other important issues affecting the California citrus industry.
Intense Inspections of Urban Citrus Trees Continue
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Joel Nelsen is president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, based in Exeter. He told California Ag Today recently that there is an “active plan to look for trees harboring Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) infected Huanglongbing (HLB) trees in urban areas because we’re looking for nobody else across this country, let alone in the southern hemisphere, to look for infected trees in the urban area. Mexico and Brazil didn’t do it. We’re doing it.”
The hope is that they find HLB and stop it there.
“Commercial growers are under tight testing programs to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid. As far as it relates to commercial growers, we’re doing enough trapping that we’re not finding what we call hot spots of Asian Citrus Psyllids,” Nelsen said. “Secondarily and most importantly, we have a very strict clonal protection program, so growers are only allowed to access trees after they’ve gone through a rigorous testing program at both the nursery and the rootstock from the university.”
Nelsen said that the chances of a grower introducing the insect into an area is rather slim; it’s more often likely that the disease will be introduced to a grove.
Testing is random and more lab space is needed.
“Most of it’s been random because it is an intensive program. We’re analyzing roughly 20,000 leaves and twigs every month,” Nelsen explained. “We’re analyzing several thousand ACP every month. In fact, our lab capacity is capped, and one of the discussions that we’re having is to identify what labs can do what and whether or not we need to expand the number of labs doing business.”
“So we are looking at additional lab space, and in fact, we have already contracted with the University of Arizona Lab in Tucson and maybe we’ll consider using private labs to do the initial work,” Nelsen said. “Now, they’re not going to be able to confirm whether or not an ACP is there, but they go in and evaluate that twig or green waste waste and if in fact there is a suspicion, then you send in the California Department of Food and Agriculture folks.”
Citrus Health Response Program Discussed at UC Riverside
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
California Ag Today recently interviewed Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual. He spoke on his recent trip to UC Riverside about the Citrus Health Response Program. While speaking with USDA, they discussed the game plans that will be used to battle Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which is vectored by an invasive insect called Asian Citrus Psyllid.
“We got into it, which I thought was an interesting discussion. What would growers do if in fact HLB was discovered in a grower’s orchard and what would the be obligated to do,” Nelsen said.
“And what came out of that discussion is that we are going to work with the USDA. We’re going to develop a war game scenario. We’re going to bring people into a room and start talking about it, just to see what the reactions were, and we’re going to challenge these individuals to do what needs to be done,” Nelsen explained. “We’re just going to have to figure out how best to address the industry and areas like this.”
Nelsen said that they discussed whether or not there was enough being done in that partnership with the homeowner. “We came to the conclusion that no, quite frankly the industry has been carrying that ball and that USDA and CDFA can do a little bit more in their role as government”
Tree removal and beneficial insects were also discussed.
“We talked about the continued trees being removed, and everybody was satisfied about that. We talked about whether or not beneficial insects can help in this situation. Surprisingly, the answer was pretty much no,” Nelsen explained. “Beneficial releases may help in an urban environment to a small extent, but from a commercial standpoint, it doesn’t help. So there were a lot of discussions, some debate, and most of all, some camaraderie that was developed as far as going forward.”
Nearly 400 trees in front and back yards of homes have been destroyed due to testing positive to HLB disease.
“They’re all in a clearly defined geographical area in Southern California,” Nelsen said. “So what we have is a lot of backyard adventures that bring in rootstock that unfortunately was diseased, and as a result of that, those individuals are the ones that are seeing problems associated with their own trees.”
More California Ag News
Fighting Huanglongbing Is Job One Citrus Health Program Protecting State's Industry
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus M...
Joel Nelsen, president and CEO of the California Citrus Mutual based in Exeter, spoke to California Ag Today about a recent trip to UC Riverside to discuss the Citrus Health Response Program and huanglongbing disease.
“For the last several years, the federal government and the California citrus industry had a wonderful partnership with some ideas, some regulation, and most importantly, with some funds,” Nelsen said. “So periodically, USDA comes to do an audit as to what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and whether or not there needs to be some reevaluation.”
“The Citrus Health Response Program is the program we call a CHRP for a two-day evaluation. You had scientists and regulators from USDA; you had regulators from CDFA, along with a few scientists,” Nelsen explained.
“You had that entire stakeholder group and members from the scientific community and UC Riverside to evaluate what we’re doing and why, but eventually we did achieve one objective and that’s coming up with several action steps that we need to do as an industry in partnership with government,” he said.
The concern of Huanglongbing disease was discussed and game plans were presented.
“What was interesting is this was a friendly audit. They weren’t interested in taking money away, they weren’t interested in determining if we’re using dollars appropriately, but they wanted us to talk about why we were still spraying in the urban environment for the Asian Citrus Psyllid, which vectors Huanglongbing,” Nelsen said.
“They wanted us to talk about whether or not growers were doing what they were supposed to be doing and of course, they are doing what they need to do to keep the deadly disease out of commercial citrus orchards,” Nelsen said.
ALRB Rejects Gerawan’s Motion to Disqualify Isadore Hall III
By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor
Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), Gerawan Farming, Inc. and California farm workers chronicles the continuing, increasingly complex quagmire that masquerades as protecting California farm workers’ rights.
In short, after a series of legal volleys between Gerawan Farming and ALRB this past spring, the ALRB, again, refused to disqualify ALRB Member Isadore Hall III, former state senator (35th District, D-Compton), from participating in specific Gerawan legal cases on the basis of alleged pro-UFW bias.
In legal terms, ALRB issued an administrative order on June 9, 2017, denying Gerawan Farming, Inc.’s May 23, 2017 motion for reconsideration of request to disqualify Isadore Hall III from participating in specific case deliberations and decisions regarding Gerawan Farming, Inc. Likewise, ALRB also denied Gerawan’s request for a stay of the proceedings pending resolution of Mr. Hall’s participation.
Condensed Early History
The UFW was certified as the bargaining representative for Gerawan’s agricultural employees in July 1992, after a 1990 election. After one preliminary negotiating session in February 1995, the UFW disappeared for almost two decades, having never collected dues, negotiated for a wage increase, attempted to bargain for a contract or filed a single grievance on behalf of Gerawan employees during their abandonment, according to an April 17, 2017, Gerawan news release.
In 2013, the UFW invoked a controversial 2002 Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) law that allows the ALRB to draft and impose a “contract” on the employer and employees against their will. UFW also proposed that Gerawan employees pay 3% of their wages to the UFW or be fired. Fewer than 1% of the current Gerawan workforce voted in the 1990 election, and many current employees were not even born when that election took place.
The majority of employees twice asked ALRB for an election to decertify the UFW. At the ALRB’s request, the Fresno Superior Court intervened and supervised the decertification petition process—the first time in ALRB history that a court oversaw an ALRB election.
On November 5, 2013, thousands of Gerawan workers cast secret ballots to decide whether to decertify the UFW. The ALRB impounded the ballots, which remain uncounted to this date in an undisclosed (possibly insecure) location.
Current History – 2017
Appointment of Isadore Hall III to ALRB
In his January 13, 2017, letter of resignation to Governor Brown as ALRB Chairman, William B. Gould IV stated that the Agricultural Labor Relations Act [ALRA or “Act”] “is now irrelevant to farm workers, in particular, because, for the most part, they are not aware of the provisions, procedures, and rights contained in the law.”
“I have pointed out [in several speeches] that only one representation petition has been filed during the 34 months of my Chairmanship,” Gould continued. “More than 99% of the agricultural workforce appears to be unrepresented and the instances of unfair labor practice charges and invocation of the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Act (MMC) are few and far between.”
“Regrettably, though the Board adopted the proposed rule 14 months ago for worker education about the Act’s features, the rule has languished in the bowels of state bureaucracy for the past 14 months. My view is that this long delay is substantially attributable to the fact that the ALRB, unlike the NLRB, is not a standalone, independent administrative agency.”
Also on January 13, 2017, Governor Brown designated Genevieve Shiroma as Chair of the ALRB, where she had served as a member since 1999, an appointment that did not require Senate confirmation. Likewise, Governor Brown appointed Isadore Hall III, and the California Senate confirmed his appointment, despite Hall’s public history of pro-UFW activity and endorsements and allegations that he threatened farmers who opposed his nomination.
Agricultural Community Responds to Hall’s Appointment
In “Farmers Deserve a Balanced Ag Labor Board,”a letter published in the Sacramento Bee on February 23, 2017 by George Radanovich, (president of the California Fresh Fruit Association), Joel Nelsen (president of California Citrus Mutual) and Tom Nassif (president of Western Growers Association), the authors explained, “The purpose of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) was to bring about a sense of justice and fair play during a tumultuous time in the farm fields of California in 1975.”
“When the ALRB was formed in 1975,” the authors stated, “it was with the understanding that membership would consist of two members representing labor, two representing agriculture, and one public or neutral member. Instead, the board has become one of the most contentious, lopsided administrative boards ever assembled by the state of California. The recent resignation of Chairman William Gould IV and his prompt replacement by former state Sen. Isadore Hall, D- Compton, only further illustrate this imbalance.”
In place of conducting outreach to all affected stakeholders, including agriculture, “in a matter of 48 hours, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a termed-out state senator and failed congressional candidate who has no labor law background whatsoever but with strong ties to the UFW.”
Hall’s UFW ties were listed as “financial support by the UFW, personal ties with UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and raising the union banner while marching with the UFW. While a state senator, Hall was the principal co-author of two UFW-sponsored bills and voted in favor of two other bills that would make it easier to force ALRB-written contracts on farmers and workers. These close ties should disqualify him from the position where he will judge UFW issues almost daily.”
“There is no denying that the ALRB’S recent decision to prevent the disclosure of the November 2013 election results, from the high-profile decertification fiasco of Gerawan Farming of Fresno was to cover up the fact that most farm workers don’t want to unionize.”
“Today, California farm workers are protected by the strictest labor laws in the nation, and they decline to unionize because they value a good employer over a union. Brown should recognize this and rewrite the ALRA to guarantee employer representation on the board. California farmers deserve better than a lopsided Agricultural Labor Relations Board.”
ALRB Decides Gerawan Negotiated “in Bad Faith”
On April 14, 2017, ALRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) William Schmidt issued an interim decision finding that Gerawan committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to negotiate “in good faith” with the UFW. Essentially Judge Schmidt contended, “Gerawan engaged in collective bargaining negotiations with the UFW with no intention of reaching an agreement covering the wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for the employees in the collective bargaining unit.”
According to David Schwarz, counsel for Gerawan Farming, “This decision was riddled with legal and factual errors. The most glaring of these errors was the fact that ALJ Schmidt found that Gerawan failed to negotiate when it had already been ordered to [follow] a process [MMC] where traditional give-and-take negotiation had been replaced by government-imposed forced contracting.”
According to an April 17, 2017 Gerawan newss release, “The so-called MMC procedures are neither consensual nor voluntary. It is forced contracting. The ALRB tells the employer what wages to pay, what employees to hire, or fire, or promote, and what portion of the employees’ salary will be turned over to the union. The employer may not opt out and the employees are not given the choice to ratify or reject the so-called contract that will be forced on them, even if there are provisions detrimental to them.”
“There is a fundamental – and constitutional – difference between consensual bargaining and state-compelled contracting,” said Dan Gerawan, president and CEO of Gerawan Farming. “The ALJ obliterates this distinction.”
Gerawan added that MMC does not facilitate negotiations. Rather, it is an imposed agreement by force of law and Gerawan was compelled to abide by it.
Schwarz explained, “Per the ALRB’s own regulations, MMC kicks in only after the Board has certified that further negotiation between the parties would be futile.”
At that point, according to Schwarz, a government-appointed arbitrator steps in, hears evidence from each party, drafts a CBA (or collective bargaining agreement), which the Board approves and imposes on the parties by force of law. Since there is no place for negotiation in this process, Schwarz contends there is no logical or legal basis for ALJ Schmidt to conclude that Gerawan’s conduct during MMC could justify his finding that Gerawan failed to negotiate in good faith with the UFW.
Gerawan Files Motion to Disqualify Member Hall from participating in “Bad Faith” Negotiating Case
On April 28, 2017, Gerawan Farming, Inc. filed a Motion to Disqualify Board Member Isadore Hall from participating in the deliberations in the case above based on documented “sweeping prejudicial” statements Member Hall made against Gerawan.
“Our DQ motion was very compelling,” Dan Gerawan said. “Hall marched specifically against us and our employees and received an endorsement from UFW in return. It’s ridiculous that he was assigned to a job where 90% of his work will be to adjudicate UFW-related issues, and half of his work will be Gerawan-related.”
ALRB Rejects Gerawan’s Motions to Disqualify ALRB Member Hall and to Request a Stay from Participating in “Bad Faith” Negotiating Case
On May 18, 2017, the ALRB rejected Gerawan’s motions to disqualify ALRB member Isadore Hall and to request a stay in order to resolve the motion to disqualify.
“Hall’s disqualification would leave the ALRB without a current valid quorum of three members to hear the case,” Schwarz said, “thus lacking the statutory power to act. The Governor can resolve this issue by simply doing what the ALRA requires him to do – appoint two additional ALRB members, thus bringing the Board to its statutorily-requisite composition, which is five members.”
Gerawan Files Motion for Reconsideration of the Board’s Order Denying Motion to Disqualify Member Hall
On May 23, 2017, Gerawan filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Board’s Order Denying Motion to Disqualify Member Hall, repeating its request for a stay of the proceedings pending resolution of the motion.
“Gerawan filed this motion for reconsideration both to correct serious legal errors in the Board’s initial decision,” Schwarz said, “and to bring to light new evidence regarding the identity of an individual who participated in a conversation with Mr. Hall in which Mr. Hall stated that he was going to ‘get’ Gerawan once he was a member of the Board. This individual, Mr. Shaun Ramirez, provided a declaration in support of Gerawan’s first motion to disqualify Member Hall. However, Mr. Ramirez and his employer, concerned that the Board (or Mr. Hall) might retaliate against them for speaking out, initially asked that Mr. Ramirez’s identity remain confidential.”
“The Board initially refused to consider Mr. Ramirez’s declaration – precisely because he asked that Gerawan not reveal his name for fear of retaliation. After the Board denied Gerawan’s motion to disqualify Mr. Hall, Mr. Ramirez allowed Gerawan to file an unredacted version of his declaration with this motion for reconsideration. This declaration set out in great detail Mr. Ramirez’s interactions with Mr. Hall and Mr. Hall’s statement, in reference to Gerawan, ‘I am going to get their ass.’”
ALRB Denies Gerawan’s Motion For Reconsideration to Disqualify Board Member Hall from Deliberations in this Case
On June 9, 2017, ALRB denied both Gerawan’s motion for reconsideration to disqualify Board Member Hall from deliberations in the case and Gerawan’s request for reconsideration of an immediate stay of the proceedings.
“As discussed,” Schwarz said, “Gerawan filed a motion for reconsideration with an unredacted version of Mr. Ramirez’s declaration. The Board again refused to consider Mr. Ramirez’s detailed account of his conversation with Member Hall. The Board took the position that it was under no requirement to consider such evidence in a motion for reconsideration, as the declaration was not ‘newly discovered’ or ‘previously unavailable.’ The Board discounted Mr. Ramirez’s reasons for desiring anonymity, and disregarded the merits of his sworn statement, without explaining why the revelation of his identity did not require it to reconsider the basis [the anonymity of the declarant] for disregarding it in the first place.”
“Of equal significance is that Mr. Hall participated in deciding his own disqualification motion,” Schwarz added. “This violates a basic rule of due process and long-standing Board precedent that a member accused of bias cannot decide his own disqualification motion. Instead, Member Hall offered his own statement that he was not biased against Gerawan, albeit without denying or affirming the truth of Mr. Ramirez’s declaration.”
“Unlike Mr. Ramirez,” said Schwarz, “Member Hall’s ‘concurring’ opinion was not under oath.”
In the official ALRB Decision, Hall wrote, “I reject the claims of bias leveled against me by Gerawan and decline to recuse myself from participation in the deliberations in this case.”
In reaction to the Board’s refusal to disqualify Member Hall, Schwarz said, “Gerawan will appeal the Board’s decision. We are confident that this unprecedented and unconstitutional decision will not stand.”
Featured photo: Isadore Hall III marching with UFW prior to ALRB appointment.
President-Elect Trump May Help Make California Agriculture Great Again!
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States may prove very significant for California. He and his future administration may be able to make sense of the devastating water deliveries diverted from California farms to protect fish species that may already have become extinct, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
Joel Nelsen, president, California Citrus Mutual and a leader in California agriculture, is encouraged by the election results. “You know, the Donald Trump election was a bit of a surprise to me. You can always hope, but the numbers did not look that good. Now that he is our president-elect, I think we can be somewhat optimistic about the next Congress and this next administration,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen said the optimism is going to be on several fronts. “One, I think we have an opportunity now to move water legislation that contains real storage and creates water for a bigger population in California,” he said.
“We also have an opportunity to slow down a rogue agency—which I would call Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and their activity specific to crop protection tools. We can get an effort going to modernize the Endangered Species Act. Nobody wants to eliminate species, but let’s face it, when that was first signed and passed, it was two generations ago. I think we need to take another look at that,” he said.
Nelsen noted there are some opportunities on the horizon. He hopes the upcoming Congress and new presidential administration will generate some positive activity for the California agriculture industry .
Nelsen and other California ag leaders will soon return to Washington to make sure things are getting done. “A couple of us are going back next week for the lame-duck session because we are hoping Congress will pass a budget that will fund the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanlongbing program,” he said. “There is no money for it in the USDA budget. As a result, the support at the federal level is less than what it could be or should be.”
“Because the current administration is going to be in office until January 19, 2017, the activists have until then to get things moving in a direction that cannot be stopped from their perspective. I don’t think these next two months will necessarily be quiet.”
“We must have a mindset that others will attempt to do what they think cannot be done. It will be up to many of us in leadership positions to ensure that there’s still a balanced approach with this administration before the next one comes in,” Nelsen said.
Joel Nelsen’s Commentary on Washington D.C. Meetings, Brexit and U.S. Agricultural Trade
By Lauren Dutra, Associate Editor
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual based in Exeter, Calif., spoke about his advocacy for growers and the impact Brexit has on U.S. agricultural trade as he arrived at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport from Washington, D.C. last week. Brexit is an abbreviation of “British exit,” which refers to the June 23, 2016 referendum by British voters to exit the European Union (EU), according to Investopedia.
Nelsen explained, “There were two missions I was on while I was in Washington. One had to do with a proposal to allow lemon imports from Argentina. We’re definitely opposed to it because of pests and diseases, and a lack of transparency in that country over the last one to two decades.”
“We have a comment period,” Nelsen continued, “but we have asked for an extension on that comment period because of the scope of the rule and the economic impact, and we haven’t heard a word on that,” he said. “We met with our colleagues and friends in Washington, D.C. Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer and a couple of House Office Committees have agreed to make a phone call to the Secretary of Agriculture and get a determination on that,” he said.
The second purpose of Nelson’s trip was to discuss trade and the impact on the U.S. economy due to the recent Brexit, as Nelsen is chairman of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC), a national trade committee that offers information and advice about agricultural products and trade issues to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative. “People from across the country came, and we talked about trade subjects, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Britain’s separating itself from the EU,” said Nelsen. “It’s obvious that this upset everybody; Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative (USTR) who advises the president on international trade and investment issues, said, “I know what I don’t know, and I don’t know a lot right now.”
Nelson explained, “We think [Brexit] will slow down the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, as well as the passage of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, since the U.S. market share of agricultural products and food imported by the EU—the world’s largest importer in the category—is shrinking despite continued growth of the EU market, T-TIP negotiations offer a major opportunity to address unjustified tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. exports.
“Quite frankly,” Nelsen summarized, “we’re less than excited about [T-TIP] because it didn’t address the inherent problem that we have from competition: fresh fruit and vegetable producers in the EU get a direct subsidy and growers in the United States do not.”