Weekly Legislative Review


Friday, May 4, 2012

A measure that would address fertilizer impacts on groundwater will be heard in the Assembly  Agriculture Committee next week. AB 2174 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) would direct the California Department of Food and Agriculture to use fertilizer assessment dollars currently collected from fertilizer sales to support specific University of California Agriculture Extension programs. Programs would include those that advise farmers on measures to reduce fertilizer use, reduce the impact of fertilizer use on groundwater quality, and address drinking water contamination associated with fertilizer use. Farm Bureau has been actively working with the author, our agricultural colleagues and the bill sponsors from the environmental justice community on clarifying amendments that would broaden language to focus on efficient and agronomically sound fertilizer use and to include others, beyond UCCE, which could be eligible for program development. Farm Bureau has an “oppose unless amended” position.

The State Water Resources Control Board held the second of three public workshops this week on their newly proposed policy regulating Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS). As reported previously in Friday Review, AB 885 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara), which became law in 2000, requires the State Water Resources Control Board to develop a policy for permitting and operation of onsite wastewater treatment systems. The new proposed policy has a tiered approach for addressing the wide variety of conditions and septic systems throughout the state and leaves much of the control with the existing local permitting agencies such as county health departments. The Board is expected to adopt the policy at their June 19, 2012 board meeting. The proposed Policy and information on the upcoming workshops and hearings is available at:
http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water issues/programs/owts/index.shtml.
Farm Bureau has continued to be actively engaged throughout the process.

The UC Davis Center for Watershed Science held the first of two outreach workshops this week on the  nitrates in groundwater study they conducted for the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in  the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley. SBx2 1 (Don Perata, D-Oakland), which became law in 2008, requires the SWRCB, in consultation with other agencies, to develop nitrate assessment pilot projects in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley. These two areas represent more than 40 percent of the irrigated farmland and half of the dairy herd in California. The bill directed the SWRCB to create an interagency task force as needed, to oversee the pilot projects to study nitrate contamination, and identify remedial solutions and funding options to recover costs associated with cleanup or treatment of groundwater and to report to the Legislature within two years.

This week’s public outreach workshop for local stakeholders in the Tulare Lake Basin was held at the University of California Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier with standing room only and approximately 150 in attendance. The workshop included an overview of the study findings, a panel discussion and a question and answer session to help get information out before a SWRCB public workshop May 23rd at 9:00 a.m. at the Joe Serna, Jr. Cal/EPA Headquarters Building in Sacramento. For more information go to the SWRCB website at:
http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water issues/programs/nitrate project/index.shtml

A second UC outreach workshop will be held May 17, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the University of California Cooperative Extension, 1432 Abbott Street, Salinas, CA 93901. This event is free and there is no registration required. Farm Bureau continues to actively monitor this effort closely and is working with other agricultural stakeholders in responding to the UCD report.
AB 1439 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) was placed on the Assembly Appropriations suspense file on May 2nd. The bill would annually index the minimum wage in California to the California Consumer Price Index. Farm Bureau has joined a host of other business and employer groups in opposing this legislation.

The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee approved  AB 1855 (Norma Torres, D-Pomona) on May 2nd over the objections of many business organizations representing employers, including Farm Bureau. AB 1855 amends the Labor Code to require businesses to disclose sensitive business information that may be in service contracts to investigators or employees making wage claims. This disclosure goes a significant step beyond the disclosure of terms of employment required by last year’s Wage Theft Prevention Act and disclosures by farm labor contractors to their employees under AB 243. AB 1855 is now scheduled for Assembly second reading.