Almond Assessment Increase Comment Period Reopened

Comment Period Reopened for Almond Assessment Increase Through October 12.


Julie Adams, vice president global, technical, and regulatory affairs with the Almond Board of California, commented in an exclusive interview with California Ag Today on the proposed additional one cent almond assessment increase from 3 cents to 4 cents a pound by the Board of Directors to use in marketing the anticipated crop increases over the next three years, starting this season.

The proposed rule change was first published in the Federal Register on July 18, 2016. The comment period was reopened on Sept. 12 with an announcement in the Federal Register. The comment period is open for 30 days, ending Oct. 12, 2016, at midnight, Pacific Standard Time (PST).

California Ag Today (CAT): Where do almond growers go to make comments about the increased almond assessment?

Adams: Growers can go to www. and search for almonds.

Click here for the direct link to the Assessment entitled, Almonds Grown in California: Increased Assessment Rate.

CAT: The first comment period in August was only two weeks. How long will this one last?almond assessment increase

Adams: The new comment period is now open and will be stay open until Oct. 12. We have also sent out notifications to handlers and we’ve included it in our communication to growers. 

CAT: Why did the comment period reopen?

Adams: Basically this discussion has been going on for quite some time, actually, and started with planning and strategic meetings within the production and environmental research committees. Some of this discussion also started back a year ago when we were talking about all of the challenges facing the industry related to environmental issues, water requirements, and sustainability issues. And then, of course, with the anticipated increase in crop size, what was that going to mean in terms of keeping demand growing ahead of supply?

Discussions at strategic planning meetings underway and within our global market development committees, started feeding up to the Board recommendations that we really needed to get ready both for the challenges facing growers as well as building that [market] demand. It was at that time that the Board started talking about an increase in the assessment for a specific period of time.

We recognized that crops were increasing, and to get us through this period, we really needed to accelerate our activities. The increased assessment was approved by the Board several months ago and was published in the Federal Register. It was, at that point, a two-week comment period. While there had been a lot of communication out to the industry, the comment notification had not been sent out in a timely fashion as it needed to be since it was such a short comment period.

Based on that, as you’ll see from the reopened comment period, USDA determined that they would go ahead and reopen the period for 30 additional days. That’s the process we’re in right now.

Almond Board of California CAT: One argument against the assessment is that the almond industry is heading into big record crop, and the 150,000 to 200,000 non-bearing acreage will soon be bearing—and that alone is sure to increase the Almond Board’s marketing budget.

Adams: It does. What we have found throughout our programs is that the more we can start building consumer awareness and demand for the product, it’s going to be ready as those crop sizes increase. We really want to be ahead of that supply situation so that we’re not trying to chase the opportunities in the market. We want to make sure there’s a strong foundation. As crops are more available, customers are ready to take in that product, really ready to put more on the shelf for consumers, and hopefully [meet] increased demand from consumers.

I think the other part of this assessment increase is about what’s happening on the production side. Research takes time and growers are facing more challenges now in terms of water availability, water quality, production issues, and environmental concerns. There’s more pressure on growers now than ever before. Part of this assessment increase for this three-year period is really to accelerate a lot of the research and work that’s underway on irrigation practices and harvesting practices, and to ramp up our food safety education. We’ve got the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) coming on board now—a  requirement starting to put additional burdens on the industry.

With all of that happening, the concern is that we really need to get in front of all of this. The idea is to do that with some additional funding, so while we’re keeping up our ongoing programs, accelerating some of this research over the next three years will put us in a position, when we do come into those larger crops, where we will already have a lot of those programs in place and we will have accelerated the research so we can continue to meet a very demanding market.

California AlmondsCAT: We can see the need to increase our momentum in research and marketing. Of course, the vast majority of the Almond Board’s budget is for marketing right? Will the vast majority of this extra assessment go toward global marketing?

Adams: The global marketing demand portion of the budget is over 70%. That includes more than just market development. It includes a lot of consumer research, attitudes and awareness research It also includes a lot of the investment we’ve made lately on reputation management—how consumers really perceive almonds and how we need to best communicate back to consumers about what our industry is doing.

CAT: Obviously there is not going to be a vote on the added assessment. There is going to be a comment period, and if the USDA approves the assessment, it will go forward.

Adams: It was a unanimous recommendation coming forward from the Board of Directors and from a number of committees that included industry members that made recommendations to the Board of Directors. Obviously the Board is responding to the strategies and recommendations coming through the committee process. That’s what the Board unanimously endorsed and put forward in a recommendation to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and USDA. Now based on the comments that start to come forward through this period, then USDA will assess all of that and publish a final rule, a final determination, after the comment period closes.

CAT: If the added assessment is for this season, the USDA will have to turn it around very quickly?

Adams: They would. Obviously the USDA is monitoring this comment period and will respond to the comments and the issues expressed by individuals who are commenting on the rule. They will reflect their thinking as they come forward.

CAT: If there is a big mixture of No and Yes comments, is it possible that the comment period will stay open past the 30 days to get a consensus?

Adams: I think the USDA will look at the issues and the context of the comments. If the comments are more about clarifications and they feel what has been proposed will deal with those concerns or areas of focus, then they will look at that and make a determination. I really couldn’t say whether they would go forward with an additional comment period.

CAT: And the additional assessment will automatically sunset in crop year 2018/2019?

 Adams: Exactly, and it would go back to the current 3 cent assessment. Really nothing has to be done for that to happen and that’s why the industry put in that sunset period. The Board does not have to vote on it; there does not have to be any further consultation. It will automatically go back to the 3 cent assessment.


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ILRP Changes Target All Calif. Farmers

Proposed Changes to Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Could Impact Farmers Statewide

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor


Kings River Water Quality Coalition LogoThe recently proposed changes to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), open for public comment until Wednesday, May 18, could significantly impact farmers, according to Casey Creamer, coordinator for the Kings River Water Quality Coalition“The proposed modifications concern the east San Joaquin Region, within Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties,” Creamer said. “That’s the scope of it.”

According to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) website, ILRP “regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands. This is done by issuing waste discharge requirements (WDRs) or conditional waivers of WDRs (Orders) to growers.” Discharges include irrigation runoff, flows from tile drains and storm water runoff, which can transport “pollutants including pesticides, sediment, nutrients, salts (including selenium and boron), pathogens, and heavy metals, from cultivated fields into surface waters. Orders contain conditions requiring water quality monitoring of receiving waters and corrective actions when impairments are found.”

While ILRP currently targets only the east San Joaquin region, Creamer said, “It’s a precedent-setting deal, so everything in there is going to affect not only the entire Central Valley, but the Central Coast and the Imperial Valley—that may not have near the issues or the current regulatory programs that we have here in the Central Valley. So, its very important statewide.”

Creamer emphasized, “Farmers need to know that this is not a minor issue; this is a big issue that affects their livelihoods and their ability to operate. They need to get involved. They need to communicate with their other growers, communicate with their associations, get involved and have their voices heard.”


The State Water Board is hosting a public workshop on the proposed order on Tuesday, May 17, in Fresno—one day prior to the closing of the ILRP public comment period. The workshop will be held at 9:00 a.m. in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Central Region, 1990 E. Gettysburg Avenue, Fresno.

The SWRCB is also soliciting written comments on the proposed order. Written comments must be received by 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Please indicate in the subject line, “Comments to A-2239(a)-(c).” Electronic submission of written comments is encouraged. Written comments must be addressed to:

Ms. Jeanine Townsend

Clerk to the BoardSWRCB-logo-water-boards

State Water Resources Control Board

1001 I Street, 24th Floor [95814]

P.O. Box 100

Sacramento, CA 95812-0100

(tel) 916-341-5600

(fax) 916-341-5620



The Kings River Water Quality Coalition is a non-profit joint powers agency established by the irrigation districts in the Kings River service area. It is governed by a board of directors of landowners from each of the districts. Staffing of the Coalition is administered through an agreement with the Kings River Conservation District located in Fresno. The Coalition was formed in 2009 in order to allow growers within the region a cost-effective avenue to comply with the regulations developed by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Coalition conducts regional monitoring and reporting and assists members in compliance with regulations. The Coalition is not a regulatory agency. Enforcement of the ILRP is handled by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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Drought Lessons from Israel, Part 2

Drought Lessons from Israel, Part 2

Drought-Stricken Israel has Plenty of Water

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Israel is a drought-stricken country, yet they have plenty of water for farming and for their cities. What can California learn from these drought lessons from Israel?

Uri Shani, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, professor and former director of the Israel Water Authority during the high-stress drought six years ago, said Israel reached its current water-secure status using recycled water from cities and commissioning seven desalination plants along the Mediterranean Sea. Shani said, “Clean, desal water is used by everybody, even the farmers; however, they mostly use the recycled water from the cities. The advantage of desalinated water over recycled water is improved quality because it comes from natural water that is cleaner and less salty.”

“Of course the desal water that goes to the cities is then recycled,” explained Shani, “which goes to the farmers. We’ve solved the water quality problem in irrigation by generating more desal water, as it is not expensive anymore.”

Shani summarized, “In the competition between the cities and the farmers, the farmers will lose by definition because you must supply drinking water. So, when water is limited, the farmers will lose; there is no question about it. Now, the possibility of getting more water will always favor the farmer,” he said.



Israel Water Authority

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences


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Top Ten Issues Facing Ag

The Top Ten Issues Facing Agriculture:

California Fresh Fruit Association’s Bedwell Lays Them Out

By Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today

For the first time in nearly eight decades, the California Fresh Fruit Association met in San Diego to carry on all the traditions established over the previous 79 years by the organization originally known as the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.

“How does that feel?” said President Barry Bedwell as he addressed a big part of his membership. “For the most part, I think the feedback has been more than positive. As we explain the rationale behind the name change and why we have moved from a very dear moniker, if you will, for an association that has such a great history, I think it is altogether fitting and proper to recognize our position in the state of California,” said Bedwell.

The Association covers the state from Lake County in the North to the Coachella Valley in the South, and represents 13 commodities with a combined value of $2.5 billion.

“The new name transition has gone very well,” noted Bedwell. “And as we look at 2015, I think it is a ‘schizophrenic’ time for agriculture. On the one hand, as our chairman, David Jackson, pointed out, economically, things look very strong for most commodities.”

“However, here we are in a situation of increasing anxiety. If you look at the feedback every year on our top ten issues, you can see the concentration of issues that are not simply operational in scope. They may be historic in impact when talking about water availability and groundwater management, as we move forward,” said Bedwell. “The availability of water, along with the availability of labor, are simply game changers. They can change things overnight. And I think, inherently, farmers understand that and all of you in this room working together as a supply chain understand that.”

Bedwell then announced his traditional Top Ten Issues Affecting Ag and the association and discussed how they changed from the prior year:

#10  Workers’ Compensation costs.  We bought up our partnership with Zenith Insurance. It’s about how to run programs more efficiently to save you money, but we understand that when it comes to the issue of worker’s comp, it is the issue of the legislature changing the laws to benefit certain classes of participants that leads to higher costs that render our competitiveness more difficult.

#9 Invasive Pest Issues. Look no further than what’s happening with the citrus industry and their struggle agains HLB and the idea of the Citrus psyllid continually being found in new counties throughout the state. Pests for us on one hand are more associated with things like the European Grapevine Moth, where we have done a good job, made progress, and have a chance at eradication, but pests are always on our minds because we are only one quarantine away from not being able to ship our fruit, and we understand that.

#8 Water Quality. We hear so much about water availability, but creeping up into our mindset as well, is water quality because we know we have issues with salts and nitrates in the Valley. How does agriculture get involved with this? It continues to be an issue.

#7 Groundwater Management Legislation. We saw on our list—for the first—groundwater management legislation. This is potentially a game changer. We just had a meeting with some of you in Visalia with the California Water Foundation. They are trying to explain the timeframe for this new law, and quite frankly, the more you learn about it, the more you have to be concerned about any potential outcome other than the scope of agriculture in the state of California.

Because what they are saying in an almost commonsense contradiction is that this has nothing to do with your water rights. Those don’t change, but we may limit the amount of water you can use. That is a tough one to figure out at times, but that is potentially where we are headed in the fourth year of the drought. As you hear the vernacular in Sacramento, the mindset begins to change from one of, ‘Maybe we’ll get rain this year,’ to ‘Maybe we are in the fourth year of a ten-year drought.’ So all of the sudden, the mindset begins to change to more management of water. This is a major concern.

#6 Labor Costs. Knowing and trying to educate legislators about the fact that seventy to perhaps eighty percent of our variable costs as farmers is tied up with labor because we deal with the most labor-intense costs possible with our 13 commodities. I don’t look at any as being machine harvested or machine pruned. So, every time there’s a good-will gesture of, ‘Boy, we should move that minimum wage up,’ we try to explain to people we don’t pay minimum wage. Wages are higher; but incrementally, all of our sectors move up, whether you are a tractor driver or an irrigator, and that has a major impact on our ability to compete on a world-wide basis. And you start to see the labor influence spilling into Baja, California.

As you read recently, workers there are demonstrating because they are making about $8/day, and we are probably more about $12/hour for seasonal labor. But we still have to compete with those instances, so labor is always going to be a concern. We always talk about labor laws and regulations.

#5 Agriculture Labor Relations Act. A year ago at this time, we talked about a case involving one of our members, Gerawan, and the United Farm Workers (UFW), who won an election back in 1990, disappeared for 22 years, then showed up again last summer. The UFW said, “We are the certified representatives for the employees, we’re now here, we want our contract.” The catch was that the employees said: “We don’t know anything about you; we don’t know why we should pay you three percent of our wages for dues.”

That situation resulted in a hearing beginning on September 29th. At that time, the hearing was in front of an administrative law judge in Fresno, and was scheduled to go for ten weeks. Those ten weeks finished up about two weeks ago—after 23 weeks had past. That’s incredible, to think, we have heard it cost as high as 7 million dollars to have that administrative hearing, all paid by California taxpayers.

This is not really how the law was intended to benefit the workers. So, as we move forward, we are always going to see efforts by organized labor to change the law to change the scale for their benefit. We saw it last year with SB 25, which really tried to create a perpetual mandatory mediation situation.

We have to continually push back on these bills. The most effective way to do that is to communicate the voices of those impacted, and in this case it is the employees. And so we have tried very hard to create a relationship with the members on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and a couple of weeks ago when we were in Sacramento, we had dinner with two of the three board members. And I know the chairman spent most of the time speaking with Harold McClarty, president of HMC Farms, so I know we are in good shape. It is really about relationships and that is what we continue to work on.

#4 Healthcare Mandates. What is happening with the Affordable Care Act, and how is impacting you?

We saw some very practical instances last year where many of our members who use farm-labor contractors were approached. And the labor contractors said, “Well, because of the Affordable Care Act, I’m going to have to raise my rates from $0.70 to $1.10/hour. But under closer examination, we said: “Well—hold it. What percent of your workforce really has to be covered under the Act?” In many cases we found that it certainly wasn’t 100 percent; it was sometimes closer to 10 percent. So we are trying to help administer the understanding of that Act for the best benefit of our members.

#3 The Continuing Need for Immigration Reform. It hasn’t gone away. I am so pleased to have Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, here with us today, along with his Board chairman Ron Carkoski, because we work very closely on these national issues with Tom and Ron. And our voice is still there. Our level of frustration has grown because as we entered this legislative session in Congress, guess what? What did we hear most about? E-Verify; the Legal Workforce Act; and the concern that we have documented workers. We don’t disagree with that. We think that’s a great idea, but you don’t put the cart in front of the horse; you don’t do E-Verify before you create a system for a legal workforce. That’s a very simple message we are trying to get to the leaders in Congress, and Tom and Ron do an absolutely fantastic job in helping to get that message across.

#2 Food Safety. Last July, I received a phone call from one of our members on a Saturday. It was hard to gauge the impact at the time, because that member said, “I want to let you know that we had four peaches show up in Australia, and there was an indication of Listeria.” Now in Australia, there is technically a tolerance for Listeria, and these were such low levels of Listeria, that that shipment was released.

It went on its way with no issues. But under further examination, Listeria was discovered in the plant. As the U.S. and FDA have no tolerance for Listeria and as U.S. law requires, there was a recall. This was not a small recall. It was a period from June 1st to, I think, July 17th. That is a huge amount of product.

During that time, there were no confirmed illnesses. That doesn’t mean there weren’t claims, because once you start a recall and information goes out to the public, there will be plenty of claims. But from an association point-of-view, how do we react and plan for the future with regard to food safety? Because all of the sudden, the perception of tree fruit in this instance, and peaches and nectarines, in particular, being a low-risk commodity, has changed.

Is it really a low-risk commodity? Absolutely, it is a low-risk commodity. But are we immune? Absolutely not. We found out that we have food safety issues, like so many other fresh produce commodities. We had to communicate the right way not only to the segment of our members who were involved. Many of them were, quite frankly, in a state of denial, saying, “This shouldn’t be happening.” Well it happened.

But I want to applaud the industry, and especially our leadership Association, who said, “We have to do the right thing. We have to communicate our concern. We have to be positive about this.” They not only moved forward with our membership aspect, but  they also created the partnership with the Center for Produce Safety in Davis to develop the best possible practices as we move ahead.

Food safety was further complicated late in the year because of the apple recall. Now those were candied apples, they had caramel on them. But as you can see, the fact is the Listeria found was attributable to the apples, not the coating. Again, we had an industry that thought, quite rightfully, they were low-risk. And once again, we are learning we are not immune. As we move ahead, food safety is going to be a very important component of our work as an Association.

We have created a food safety sub-committee, chaired by George Nicolate.

#1 Can anybody guess? Water. From our perspective, there are three general areas of water we have to focus on. Number one, the Water Bond, and what happened last summer. It is a very good success story, in that we were able, with the help of individuals in the legislature, to maximize the amount of dollars in that bond for above-ground storage. But in Sacramento today, there are challenges and perceptions regarding dams. People have mindsets that unfortunately go to the extreme and in many case, dams is one of those.

I can guarantee that through the efforts of people who were involved in our Association and through the Agricultural President’s Council, we were able to move up what was first a $2 billion proposal, then $2.5, then $2.7, with a commitment for a subsequent legislation on Cross-Valley conveyance in Kern County.

This was a major accomplishment, but as accomplishments go, unless you follow-through, you’re never going to realize the results. And I think George Soares, attorney with Kahn, Soares, and Conway in Sacramento, said it best when he said, “As these things happen, amnesia sets in with people very quickly. And all the sudden the people with whom you were discussing above-ground storage with will start to say, ‘Well, you know the bond says it doesn’t have to be above-ground storage; maybe we could do local projects, regional projects, or maybe we can do underground banking.’”

Our message has been very clear, “No, the deal that was made was on two above-ground storage units, and the fact is that these will be decided by water commissioners. There are public benefit formulas, and those projects should be at the top. And until they are disqualified, they should be the first two that are qualified.”

As we were up in Sacramento a couple weeks ago, I think there was frustration among our participants as we heard the governor’s point person on water start to demonstrate that amnesia right in front of us. And that was a concern.

Number one, we have to push the true intent of the water bond to the finish line.

Number two, we have to have input into the groundwater management regulations a process that will require regulations sustainable management agencies for local water agencies. This is a very complicated issue. It’s very difficult to talk about what sustainability is. When they set baselines to talk about the ability to use groundwater, it is vital that we have the opportunity to give our input to stress the importance of sustainability and to emphasize that human health also involves vibrant farms and the employment of individuals. We have to have those concepts melded together.

Lastly we have the long-term issues of water conveyance in the state. If we are going to remain the agricultural giant that we are with the, I believe, all time record in 2014, we are going to have to find a more efficient way to move water, whether is that is the governor’s BDC plan, which doesn’t appear to be gaining traction, or not. But longer-term, members have said, “We are not against moving excess water South. We have to make sure the health of the Delta is maintained. We have to respect environmental laws, but we have to respect the impact of agriculture on our quality of life. So, water is at the forefront.

So, how’s the association doing? Very well. Financially we are on strong terms, I feel very good about our name change and our voluntary leadership moving ahead. I think we can take confidence in looking ahead at the future for this Association.

In summary, I just want to reiterate my thanks for being able to work for production agriculture. It is frustrating at times. It’s always difficult. Working with people who sometimes don’t understand, … it reminds me of the saying that I read in the paper yesterday and need to share with you. It is by Mark Twain, who said, “You never want to get into an argument with a stupid person, they will simply drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.”

Many times, in the world of public policy, that’s what we’re are dealing with at times. But we tend to look at it as an opportunity to educate as well as advocate. Those are two separate things, you have to be good at both of them, and I think our leadership does a very good job with them.

Bedwell gave special thanks to this year’s Chairman David Jackson and his wife Gale. He also reached out to thank his staff for the great job they are doing back at the office and in the field.

For more information, go to: California Fresh Fruit Association.

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Conservation Innovation Grant Pre-Proposals Deadline Approaches

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announced TODAY that April 10, 2015, will be the deadline to submit project pre-proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) this fiscal year. Up to $375,000 is available for the California statewide CIG competition.

CIG is a voluntary program to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. The program leverages federal investment in methods that enhance the environment while also sustaining agricultural production. CIG enables NRCS to work with public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising approaches to address pressing natural resource concerns.

In fiscal year 2015, NRCS California is requesting CIG project pre-proposals that focus on one or more of the following natural resource issues: water quality/quantity; air quality and climate change; energy conservation; waste recycling; and wildlife habitat. The CIG detailed proposal announcement and project requirements can be found at, the California NRCS Programs webpage, or by contacting Erik Beardsley at or (530) 792-5649.

Grants to eligible entities and individuals may not exceed $75,000. Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. Eligible applicants include eligible state and local government, nongovernment organizations, eligible private business or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between one and three years in duration.

Applications for this pre-proposal phase must be received by NRCS before 4:30 p.m. on April 10. NRCS will announce selected pre-proposal applications by May 1. Selected applicants will then be required to submit a full proposal package to NRCS before 4:30 p.m. on June 5.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.

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California Projects in New USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  In addition, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions—for a total of nearly $800 million—to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation efforts,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region. They also encourage private sector investment so we can make an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.”

The RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.

Through the RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

Four of the selected projects are connected to California:

1) Expansion of Waterbird Habitat – The current sequence of events for rice production creates a situation where birds are frequently left with abrupt changes in habitat availability. The proposal extends the “watering” season of flooded rice fields beyond just the production phase and adds shallow water habitat in the winter/spring and fall months. This proposal supports the California Rice Commission in expanding the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP) by 50 percent, thus enhancing the wildlife value of 165,000 acres of rice and the long term sustainability of rice agriculture.

2) Rice Stewardship Partnership – The Rice Stewardship Partnership, composed of Ducks Unlimited, the USA Rice Federation, and 44 collaborating partners, will assist up to 800 rice producers to address water quantity, water quality, and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas.

3) Tricolored Blackbird Habitat – The Tricolored Blackbird once was abundant in California with a population in the millions. It now has an estimated 145,000 birds remaining statewide, and many predict that it is heading toward extinction. This proposal is a partnership between the dairy industry and conservation groups, with Audobon California as the lead partner, to address the factors that challenge California dairy farmers and threaten Tricolored Blackbirds, with the goal of finding a sustainable solution for management of colonies on farms and saving the Tricolored Blackbird from extinction.

4) Klamath-Rogue Woodland Health and Habitat Conservation – Many at-risk and listed species depend on quality oak woodlands that are threatened by conifer encroachment, densification, and severe wildfires in this project area, covering portions of Oregon and California. Working with landowners, including historically underserved producers, and using a sound, science-based approach, the partners will target 3,200 high-priority acres recently identified in a Conservation Implementation Strategy to preserve, enhance, and restore the structural diversity, ecological function, and overall health and persistence of oak habitats and their watersheds.

A complete list of the projects and their descriptions is available on the NRCS website.


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Farmers Hit With New Regulatory Fee

Source: The Porterville Recorder

Farmers who are already reeling from a lack of water to irrigate their crops this summer are being hit with an annual acreage fee to meet a mandated program to monitor water runoff from irrigated lands.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in September of 2013 adopted new waste discharge requirements to protect ground and surface water from irrigated agricultural discharges for the Tulare Lake Basin area. That led to a plan to monitor groundwater and what impacts irrigation has on that groundwater.

Growers who irrigate agricultural lands for commercial purposes within the Tulare Lake Basin area must comply, but they do have a choice. They can either deal individually and directly with the Water Board, or they can join one of several regional coalitions that have been formed to assist growers in meeting all the requirements.

In the Porterville area, that coalition is the Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition. There is also a coalition in Kern County, as well as the Kaweah Basin Water Quality Coalition to the north. Some growers who have irrigated lands in both, will have to sign up with both, said Tulare County Supervisor and citrus grower Allen Ishida.

The deadline to sign up is rapidly approaching. Growers must sign up with their local coalition by Aug. 4, or they will be stuck dealing directly with the Water Board and having to monitor their groundwater on their own.

“If you received the letter, you better pay it,” stressed Ishida, explaining that monitoring even just a 10-acre plot could cost several thousand dollars a year.

The plan was put into place to improve the quality of groundwater, but Ishida said “They’re regulating without the base science.”

He contends the cause of nitrates in the ground, which is very common in Tulare County, has not been pinned down and that the Water Board is incorrectly blaming farmers. “We’re not the only ones contributing to high nitrates,” said Ishida, agreeing that some nitrates naturally occur, but no one has determined how much is natural.

David DeGroot, who is with 4 Creeks, an engineering firm working for the Tule Basin Coalition, said the only farming operations exempt from this latest order are dairy farmers because they are already under an irrigated management plan.

He said the basin began monitoring surface water in 2003 and now that has been extended to water pumped from the underground.

Farmers got the Water Board to agree to the coalition idea. “Rather than do this individually, maybe we can form a coalition to do the work,” said DeGroot of the idea. “It is a lot more cost-effective.”

The coalition will handle all the monitoring and reporting, which DeGroot said is extensive. Also, it will deal with the Water Board.

The cost for the Tule Basin Coalition is $5 per acre of irrigated land and a $100 participation fee. Both are annual costs. DeGroot and Ishida said the cost for the Kaweah Basin is higher. DeGroot said having to deal with the Water Board is much more expensive.

If a person ignores the order, then there are hefty fines. DeGroot also said if a grower misses the Aug. 4 deadline, they are prohibited from signing up later unless the Water Board grants them permission. Either way, not signing up by Aug. 4 will mean the grower will have to deal with the Water Board, and probably face a fine for not signing up.

According to the state, the Tulare Lake Basin Plan identifies the greatest long-term problem facing the Basin as the increase in salinity in groundwater. Because of the closed nature of the Tulare Lake Basin, there is little subsurface outflow. Thus salts accumulate within the Basin due to the importation and evaporative use of water. A large portion of this increase is due to the intensive use of soil and water resources by irrigated agriculture.

However, the order covers the entire San Joaquin Valley. DeGroot said the total acreage of the Tule Basin is 600,000 acres, of which 350,000 aces are irrigated ag land. He said basically the boundaries are roughly Avenue 196 on the north and the Kern County line on the south, the foothills on the east and the Tulare/Kings county line on the west.

The Water Board said the order requires “the implementation of management practices to achieve compliance with applicable water quality objectives and requiring the prevention of nuisance. The Order requires implementation of a monitoring and reporting program to determine effects of discharges on water quality and the effectiveness of management practices designed to comply with applicable water quality objectives.”

DeGroot said the initial objective is to summarize conditions in a basin. “Once those are approved, then we’ll go out and start monitoring wells,” he said. The plan is to test a well every nine sections.

So far, DeGroot said the sign-ups have gone well, but they know a lot of landowners have held off. As of late last week, he estimated 65 percent of farmers have joined the coalition.

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Many Legislative Bills Introduced

Legislative Update From Calif. Farm Bureau

Many Legislative Bills Introduced in California Last Week!


The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) held a Workshop this week to take public comment on the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) for the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order B-21-13 issued last May the TUCP for these two projects would temporarily modify (reduce) Delta outflow and export requirements to preserve water in storage and maintain in-Delta water quality.

Additionally, the TUCP would temporarily modify (open) the Delta Cross Channel gates to improve in-Delta salinity conditions. State Board staff also presented information on water diversion curtailment notices for junior water right holders. Due to rain events a couple of weeks ago the notices have not yet been issued.

A measure that would repeal provisions of the $11.14 billion Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act, currently scheduled to go before California voters November 4th this year, was heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee this week. If approved by the voters, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Water Supply Act of 2014 (SB 848), authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $6.825 billion in five separate categories. Those five categories include:

  • $900 million for Safe Drinking Water,
  • $2 billion for Integrated Regional Water Management Planning and stormwater capture and reuse projects,
  • $1.2 billion for projects that protect the Delta ecosystem and integrity of Delta levees,
  • $1.7 billion for Watershed and Ecosystem Improvements,
  • $1.025 billion for Water Storage Projects.

All five categories would require legislative authority to appropriate the funds. Farm Bureau remains actively engaged in this and every effort to impact the size and structure of the water bond, emphasize the need for increased water storage, area of origin water rights protections and continuous appropriation for water storage dollars. Farm Bureau has an Oppose Unless Amended position on SB 848.

A measure that would allow multiple use registrations for small livestock stockponds was introduced this week. AB 1905 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) would allow small (10 acre feet or less) livestock stockponds to also be registered with the State Water Resources Control Board for use as small irrigation ponds. Currently law allows small irrigation ponds to also be registered for small domestic use, but not for livestock. Farm Bureau is the sponsor of this measure and therefore is also in support.


AB 1634 (Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley) would require employers to immediately abate conditions that Cal/OSHA alleges are a violation of occupational safety and health regulations if the agency classifies the citation as a serious, repeat serious, or willful serious violation. Under current law, if an employer appeals the citation, the employer is not required to abate the violation unless and until the appeal is denied. AB 1634 allows Cal/OSHA to grant a stay of abatement at its own discretion. This is similar to legislation Assemblymember Skinner carried in 2013 (AB 1165) which Governor Brown vetoed in October. The Governor’s veto message cited an appeal process in AB 1165 for abatements parallel to that which already exists through the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board. AB 1634 does not include that duplicative appeal process. Farm Bureau will oppose AB 1634 because it undermines due process protections allowing employers to appeal Cal/OSHA citations.


SB 1034 (William Monning, D-Carmel) would eliminate waiting periods before employers offering health insurance would be required to institute coverage. Current state law allows for a 60-day waiting period; federal law allows a 90-day waiting period. Farm Bureau is analyzing SB 1034 before taking a position.


SB 1087, also by Senator Monning, would impose a laundry list of changes to the California Labor Code for Farm Labor Contractors (FLCs). Several of these changes include:

  • higher licensing fees;
  • increase the size of surety bonds FLCs must obtain and provide documentation of the size of the bond to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE);
  • requires that surety bonds be conditioned on compliance with state laws prohibiting sexual harassment;
  • requires FLCs to receive training on prohibitions on sexual harassment;
  • doubles the number of continuing education hours required of FLCs from 8 hours annually to 16 hours annually;
  • adds violations of laws prohibiting sexual harassment by an FLC or an FLC’s supervisory personnel to the list of violations of law which prohibit DLSE from issuing an license to an FLC and requiring DLSE to revoke an FLC’s license;
  • requires FLCs to provide, upon request to a current or former employee or grower, a written statement showing compensation paid to employees, and requires growers to retain payroll records furnished by FLCs for three years.

Numerous other changes in the Labor Code pertaining to FLCs are further outlined in the bill. Farm Bureau position pending.


AB 1723 (Adrin Nazarin, D-Sherman Oaks) would authorize the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to recover for employees payment of applicable penalties for willful failure to timely pay wages. Existing law provides for criminal and civil penalties for violations of statutes and orders of the commission regarding payment of wages. This bill would expand that penalty, restitution, and liquidated damages provision for a citation to also subject the employer to payment of any applicable penalties for the willful failure to timely pay the wages of a resigned or discharged employee. Farm Bureau is opposed.


AB 1660 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) clarifies that an action taken by an employer to comply with federal immigration law is not a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. AB 60, which became law in 2013, requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driving privilege cards to persons who cannot furnish the requisite documentation to obtain a regular driver’s license. AB 60 also prohibited discrimination under the Unruh Act against people using a driving privilege card. Farm Bureau supports AB 1660.

AB 2033 (Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield), just introduced yesterday, would create an Agricultural Career Technical Education (ACTE) unit in the Department of Education to provide schools with assistance in establishing and maintaining ACTE classes. This bill is in response to the 2014 state budget proposal to eliminate $4.1 million from the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program from the state budget. Ag Incentive Grant funds are used to update and modernize equipment and technology, as well provide vital resource for developing leadership skills and personal growth opportunities for students through ACTE programs and coursework. Farm Bureau is in support.


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