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California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review, legislative and governmental update

January 17, 2014

Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency on Friday, 1/17/14, that directs state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted, to hire more firefighters and initiate a water conservation public awareness campaign. For more details, go to the Governor’s Webpage.

Additionally, it directs the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) to expedite processing voluntary water transfers, including transfers between water users in the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The Water Board will also put water right holders on notice that they may be directed to cease or reduce water diversions.

The Department of Food and Agriculture will launch a one-stop California Drought Information and Resources website, which will provide timely updates on the drought and connect farmers to state and federal programs. DWR will take necessary actions to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta, including installation of temporary barriers, or temporary water supply connections.

The state’s Drought Task Force will immediately develop a plan to provide emergency food supplies, financial assistance, and unemployment services in communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee had an informational hearing (no votes taken) on SB 42 Lois Wolk (D-Davis) that repeals provisions of the $11.14 billion Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act currently scheduled to go before California voters in November 2014. As a two-year bill held in the Senate last year the measure must move to the Assembly before the end of January. Therefore, Senator Wolk recently introduced a new measure with the same language, SB 848. The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Flood Protection Act of 2014 (SB 42 and now SB 848) if approved by the voters in its current form would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $6.475 billion in four separate categories. The four categories include $2 billion for Safe Drinking Water, $2.1 billion for Water Quality and Watershed Protection, $1.375 billion for Flood Protection and $1 billion for Water Storage and Water System Operational Improvements. All four 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 a support position for the current water bond as approved in 2009.

AB 177 (V. Manuel Perez, D- Coachella) previously broadly addressed greenhouse gas emission goals and electric energy procurement, but was significantly amended this week in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. It was amended to require the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, in cooperation and consultation with the Public Utilities Commission, the 2 Natural Resources Agency, and the Salton Sea Authority, to convene a stakeholders group to advise the Commission on the steps that should be taken to properly develop, integrate, and transmit the electricity generated by eligible renewable energy resources located in and around the Salton Sea. As amended, the bill was approved on a 9-4 vote. It will next be heard in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. CFBF had joined other parties in submitting an opposition letter on the earlier version of the bill, but with the amendments we will no longer be taking a position on the bill.

At the quarterly meeting of the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee held this week at the Department of Food and Agriculture, USDA/APHIS distributed an urgent Pest Alert concerning the Polyphagious Shot Hole Borer, a pest of very serious concern. This tiny beetle has a long and varied list of trees that serve as its host such as oaks, maples, willow, elder and avocado. It is also believed that peach, almond, walnut and other tree crops could be potential hosts. The PSHB was originally discovered in 2003, but was misidentified and was not recognized until 2012 when it was found in a backyard avocado tree. Since then it has been found in backyard trees in Los Angeles and Orange counties and one site in San Diego County.

Dr. Tim Spann, California Avocado Commission, described how the beetle drills into trees and brings with it as of yet unidentified Fusarium fungus. Pregnant females bore through the tree’s bark, creating galleries under the bark. They plant the fungus in these galleries, where it grows and spreads throughout a susceptible tree. The female then lays her eggs in these galleries and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the fungus. The larvae develop into adults in about a month. The pregnant females then pick up some of the fungus in their mouths, and leave through the entry holes created by their mothers to start the process. Systemic pesticides are ineffective because the insect does not feed on the tree. The PSHB originates from Vietnam and Thailand and is brought into California in various forms of wood, i.e. wood packing materials, furniture and transported around California via firewood. For more information on this pest connect with the University of California’s Pests and Diseases website.

The Assembly Health Committee considered legislation that creates a trust fund administered by the Department of Public Health for the purpose of financing health care provided by public health clinics for undocumented workers. AB 175 (V. Manual Perez, D-Coachella) allows employers and charitable organizations to make contributions and public health clinics to apply for funding from the trust fund. To be eligible for funding, clinics would be required to provide information about who employs the patients they expect to care for, how many employees each employer employs and the time frame of employment. Farm Bureau, Western Growers, Grape and Tree Fruit League, Nisei Farmers League, California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers and California Citrus Mutual all expressed opposition to the bill. One concern is that the legislature could in the future easily change the voluntary employer contribution into a mandatory contribution. AB 175 was approved on a 5-3 vote.



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