Almond Alliance Convention Set For May 1-3, 2018 in Monterey

Nov. 27, 2017 – -Join us for our 37th Annual Convention May 1-3, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, California.  Almond Alliance hosts an annual four-day convention, which includes opportunities for both Regular and Associate members. This is the event where business happens! Registration opens Jan. 22,2018.

At the convention:

The trade-show allows Associate members to directly market their latest products and services straight to Regular members and other industry professionals.

Informational seminars are held to provide updates, tools and resources about current issues facing the almond industry.

Our annual business meeting affords members the opportunity to get insight and understanding of the Almond Alliance activities on behalf of our members and industry.

A number of networking activities, including: dinner banquets, cocktail hours, a golf tournament, tennis tournament, and other site specific events.

If you have any questions about the convention or are interested in sponsorship opportunities please email ahollis@almondalliance.org

Almond Alliance Underscores Importance of North America Free Trade Agreement

Nov. 20, 2017 – – Almond Alliance of California and 167 other organization endorsed a letter sent to all governors, state ag commissioners and state leaders of economic development underscoring the importance of the North American Trade Agreement to the U.S. food and agriculture industry and expressing concern about the potential of a withdrawal for this critical trade agreement.

If President Trump were to withdrawal from the existing trade agreement the negative impact on the U.S. would far outweigh any benefits from higher U.S. tariffs, including a net loss of 256,000 U.S. jobs, a net loss of at least 50,000 jobs in the U.S. food and agriculture industry, and a drop in GDP of $13 billion from the farm sector alone. NAFTA withdrawal would also disrupt critical industry supply chains, close markets, eliminate jobs, and increase prices for the basic needs of American consumers.

Click to read complete letter

Additionally, a letter was sent to United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Lighthizer, in support for NAFTA’s trucking provisions. This letter urges the Ambassador not to eliminate NAFTA’s trucking provisions in an updated agreement. Our industry strongly depends on the trucking industry, both American and Mexican, to safely and efficiently haul our products in both countries. Eliminating NAFTA trucking, including any investment protections, would have a long-term negative impact on our businesses.

Almond Alliance was one of 102 trade associations to sign on to this letter.

Click to read complete letter

 

Action Needed Today!

Nov. 16, 2017 – – As Congress considers tax reform, it is crucial that the farming community weigh-in to OPPOSE the proposed elimination of three key deductions in H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:( 1) the eradication of the Section 199 deduction,( 2) the repeal of state and local tax deductions, and (3) the termination of IC-DISC that help farmers. Rather than eradication, these important deductions must be protected.

With farmers and producers experiencing many challenges, this is certainly not the time for Congress to take any action that would raise taxes on those producing our food.  The impact of eliminating any one of these deductions would be a burden—but with all three combined—it will be devastating to family farms.

DO NOT DELAY – Your voice is critical at this time.

Click here to take action!

Almond Alliance will be active at Almond Board Conference

Nov. 13, 2017 – -The Almond Alliance will have an active presence at the 45th Almond Conference set for Dec.5-7, 2917 at the at the Sacramento Convention Center. The conference surpassed 3,500 registrants in 2016. As the largest event for almond industry professionals in the world, the Almond Conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with the people, the science, the products and the trends at the forefront of the global almond community.

We invite you to join us on the trade show floor at  booth #929!

The Almond Alliance will be hosting a Mixer where we welcome all members and non-members on Wednesday, December 6 at 3:30-5:30 P.M. in ROOM 314. Join President Kelly Covello and Alliance Board of Directors for drinks and a brief overview of our plans for 2018.

Almond Alliance President, Kelly Covello will be moderating two sessions at this year’s Almond Conference:

ALMOND BIOMASS: THE REAL, WEIRD AND WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES FOR GREATER UTILIZATION 

Tuesday, Dec. 5

10:45 – 11:45 A.M.  ROOM 308–309

Speakers: Chris Simmons (UC Davis), Bor-Sen Chiou (USDA Albany),

Jean Vanderghyst (UC Davis)

Moderators: Guangwei Huang (ABC), Kelly Covello (Almond Alliance of California)

As the California Almond acreage grows, so does our biomass, but at the same time, the traditional outlets for hulls, shells and woody biomass are less. Come to this session to learn more about what the ABC Almond Biomass Working Group has focused on for the past year and the emerging research we are funding.

WHAT IS NEXT ON CALIFORNIA’S LEGISLATIVE AGENDA?

Thursday, Dec. 7

2:35 – 3:25 P.M.   ROOM 306-307

Speakers: Dennis Albiani (Almond Alliance of California), Emily Rooney (Agriculture Council of California)

Moderator: Kelly Covello (Almond Alliance of California)

California legislation has never been more complex or critical for the entire almond industry—landmark groundwater legislation, biomass challenges, air quality regulations and possible fees. Come hear what California legislators have in the pipeline for the coming years. You won’t want to miss this session!

Stepping Up Political Engagement: It’s a cost of doing business

Nov. 13, 2017-By Andrea York, Manager of Government Relations – – Almond Alliance President Kelly Covello recently provided attendees of the Pacific Nut Producer Expo with an update on the State of the Almond Industry. With a total of 1.3 million acres (bearing and non-bearing) and 2.25 billion pounds expected this crop year and an anticipated increase in production of 20% by 2020, the almond industry has never been more visible and more scrutinized by legislators and regulators.

In a recent article (Oct. 5, 2017), Peter Drekmeier who serves as Policy Director for the Tuolumne River Trust said, “The Legislature should adopt a fee on water used to grow export crops, and invest the revenue on water-efficient irrigation practices and groundwater recharge to make more water available for environmental purposes. Such investments would help us prepare for future droughts, improve the health of our rivers, and maintain a vibrant and sustainable agricultural economy. It’s simply not fair that crop exporters privatize the gains from using a public trust resource while socializing the losses.”

Negative rhetoric around the almond industry’s use of water and other resources continues and with increasing acreage this rhetoric will continue. But the Almond industry and the agricultural industry as whole can change the dynamics of our government, but it’s going to mean looking at politics as a cost of doing business. In 2016, the environmental industry paid out $98,033,139 in financial contributions related to political activity making them the top industry paying political contributions in the State of California. The internet industry rounded out the bottom of the top 10 with a total of $22,594,416.

Source: https://www.opensecrets.org/states/indus.php?state=CA&cycle=2016

Hypothetically speaking, what if every almond grower was willing to pay $20/acre and look at that expense as a cost of doing business to protect their almonds? This industry would raise $26,000,000 (1.3M acres X $20) and the almond industry could be in the top 10 politically engaged industries in the State. One might ask themselves – what’s more expensive, the fully implemented new minimum wage and ag overtime laws, or $20/acre for prevention?

If the entire agricultural community started thinking this way, raising $100 million dollars is a realistic goal.  In fact, the Environmental industry wasn’t on the top 10 list in 2012 and in a two-year window became the number one industry in 2014 with $78,063,049.

The Almond Alliance started an Almond PAC – – state PAC three years ago and federal PAC last year – –  and while they have been successful there is so much potential to do better. I would challenge you to increase your engagement and support the Almond PACs and/or the PACs for whatever organizations you are involved in. For more information on the Almond PACs and any questions you have, please contact Andrea York at ayork@almondalliance.org.

Assembly Ag Chair Anna Caballero Tours Stanislaus County farms

Nov. 6, 2017 – -Almond Alliance continues to work on developing relationships with the legislature with specific focus on educating urban and moderate Democrats about our industry and our issues. Tours are one of the most valuable tools we use to educate California’s urban legislators about who we are and what we do.

On Oct. 25 the Almond Alliance was pleased to host a tour for Assemblymember Anna Caballero, chair of the Assembly Ag Committee. Assemblymember Caballero toured Fisher Nut Company and Mapes Ranch in Stanislaus County as part of her ongoing effort to keep up to date on ag issues.

During the tours, Caballero said she was interested in the technology used throughout growing, hulling/shelling, and processing, the industries water usage, and the advancements industry has made to use water effectively and efficiently.  We also discussed the biomass concerns in this state and specifically with our orchard removal materials and lack of co-generation plants due to recent closures.

 

Assemblymember Caballero discusses irrigation technology with Billy Lyons.

Almond Alliance Expands with New Hire of Andrea York, Manager of Government Relations

Nov. 6, 2017-By Andrea York, Almond Alliance of California – – First and foremost, I’d like to thank the Almond Alliance Board for offering me the opportunity to fill the newly created position of Manager, Government Relations. I am excited to advance the political interests of the association and to support the Alliance in realizing its goals to develop a fully robust advocacy program and to enhance and grow the Almond PAC.

For the last decade, I have served as an advocate for healthy and well educated communities across diverse policy arenas, including energy, environment, agriculture and workforce development. I am a lifelong admirer of the agricultural community, having spent my childhood in Ventura County, surrounded by orchards and farms. I understand the critical nature of how state policy interfaces with agricultural practices and California’s economy and I am honored to represent the Almond Alliance of California before the state’s legislative and regulatory bodies.

My advocacy career has provided me the opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of the Capitol, but has also immersed me in political activities outside of the legislature, including statewide and local initiative campaigns, PAC development, grassroots mobilization, and coalition building amongst competing stakeholders and disparate groups. I am excited to bring these skills to the Alliance and to raise the Capitol’s profile of the industry in 2018.

In Politics, there is an old adage that “If you aren’t at the table you are on the menu.” Jokes aside, this is an accurate illustration of the practical reality that the Almond industry faces in Sacramento. When the legislature returns to begin a new year in 2018 they will be tasked with acting on contentious policy issues from 2017, including how to fund clean drinking water programs, procurement mandates for biomass, advancing state goals to achieve 100% renewable energy, and if California should restructure the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), in order to exchange energy with other states.  Additionally, the Senate will elect a new Senate Pro Tem as the incumbent, Sen. De Leon (D-Los Angeles), is termed out of office and running against U.S Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco). The change in leadership will rearrange the dynamics in the Capitol and the Almond Alliance is well positioned to advocate on these critical issues to ensure that your interests are protected.

Aside from legislative advocacy, I will also be working to strengthen the Capitol’s understanding of agricultural communities.  In California, over 80% of the population lives in urban areas. Our cities are dynamic hubs struggling with how to tackle major societal issues- the continued shrinking of the middle and working classes, lack of affordable housing, costly infrastructure- while trying to maintain harmony amongst diverse communities. If you visit our major cities, you will see “Farm to Fork” advertisements abound at restaurants and markets, however, for many urbanites and the legislators who represent them, there is still a disconnect between the food they consume and understanding how it was grown and produced. This is where the Almond PAC become essential in getting a seat at the table. We must be able to support legislators from both parties that are interested in our issues, will seek us out as primary source of expertise for our industry and discuss with their colleagues the value our industry provides to the state. I urge you all to consider a donation to the Almond PAC so that we can continue to have a seat at the table.

Finally, I am eager to meet and visit with the membership. I will be on the road and available to travel to you. Please contact me to arrange a meeting so I can hear firsthand how I can be your best advocate at ayork@almondalliance.org

SJVAPCD Toxics Emissions Inventory Plan Notices Requiring Huller/Shellers and Processors to Comply with AB 2588

Oct. 27, 2017 – -Recently, some members have received notifications from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) that they need to submit a Toxics Emissions Inventory Plan (TEIP) to comply with AB 2588, the Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Information & Assessment Act. AB 2588 was passed in 1987, and until recently, most almond huller/shellers and processors did not have compliance requirements under AB 2588. In March 2015, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) adopted changes to the Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Program Guidance Manual for the Preparation of Risk Assessments (Risk Assessment Guidelines). These revisions were mainly designed to provide enhanced protection to children as required by “The Children’s Environmental Health Protection Act.” Generally, the new adopted methodologies result in an increase in calculated health risk compared to previously estimated risk. As a result, the District is reassessing all facilities’ risk under the revised health risk estimation method.

All facilities emitting air toxics will be evaluated through the “Hot Spots” process in coordination with the District. Under this process, affected facilities are required to prepare a TEIP and Toxics Emissions Inventory Report (TEIR) to quantify site-specific inventories of air toxics emitted. Facilities currently on a quadrennial cycle under the “Hot Spots” program will remain on their current schedule for “Hot Spots” reassessment. For other facilities subject to “Hot Spots” reassessment, the District will follow the phased schedule below, starting in 2016-2017:

– Year 1, Phase I Facilities: more than 25 Tons of Emissions per Year

– Year 2, Phase II Facilities: more than  10 and less than 25 Tons of Emissions per Year

– Year 3, Phase III Facilities: less than 10 Tons of Emissions per Year

– Year 4, Phase IV Facilities: Industry-Wide and Agricultural Operations

The SJVAPCD will provide each facility with a customized TEIP template, which is basically an outline of all the equipment you have on-site based on your permits. The TEIP requires the facility to report both permitted and non-permitted equipment, describing what the equipment does, the type of emissions it has, and how to calculate the emissions. Once the TEIP is submitted, the District will review the TEIP, approve it, and then a TEIR will be due. The District will review the TEIR and then perform a prioritization analysis. Facilities will be classified as low-priority, intermediate-priority, or high-priority facilities. For low-priority facilities, no further information will be required. For intermediate-priority facilities, a toxics survey will be required every 4 years. For high-priority facilities, a health risk assessment will be required.

The Almond Alliance partnered with Yorke Engineering to provide our members with a complimentary one-hour webinar on  Oct. 24 to further explain the requirements of AB 2588 and answer any questions you may have. Yorke Engineering will also provide our members with compliance assistance. For members who were unable to participate in the webinar, click here to download a copy.

Alliance Comments on National Trade Estimate Report

Oct. 27, 2017 – -The National Trade Estimate (NTE) report has been published by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) annually for 32 years. The report is a companion piece to the President’s Trade Policy Agenda and outlines the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports, and helps facilitate U.S. negotiations aimed at reducing or eliminating these barriers. You can view a copy of the 2017 report by clicking here.

The Almond Alliance recently had the opportunity to comment on the National Trade Estimate report. The comments focused on three key regions: China, The European Union, and South Korea. All regional comments focused on unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The Alliance noted China’s implemented of the new Food Safety Law and the expansion of new Maximum Residue Levels (MRL’s). Comments for the European Union explained the challenges the almond industry is facing with “Cut-off Criteria”/Endocrine Disruptors. Finally, The Alliance explained how South Korea’s new positive list for MRL’s could potentially cause major trade disruptions. The three listed regions are major exporting regions for almonds. Any unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary policy changes could potentially cause major trade disruptions.

Preview of Legislation In Store for Next Year

Oct. 27, 2017 –As the Governor finalized his work on the 977 bills sent to him this year, the legislature and staff are already looking ahead to next year.  Below is a brief summary of some of the key legislation that was held over this year and will be considered in the second year of the two year session.

Water

Clean Water Fund/Tax on Drinking Water – SB 623 (Monning) and AB 747 (Caballero)

* SB 623 (Monning) would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund and ensure that monies in the fund to provide emergency, interim and long-term assistance to community water systems where wells exceed the maximum contaminant levels for arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead, manganese, MTBE, nitrate and perchlorate. This bill has identified a fertilizer assessment, milk assessment and a retail water fee to provide $150 million a year for clean water remediation and provides farmers liability from State Water Board prosecution.  AB 747 (Caballero) was amended late last week, authorizing Monterey County, by ordinance, to impose a tax or assessment on the commercial application of fertilizers containing nitrogen within the county. The tax or assessment would fund a short-term program providing replacement drinking water where the maximum containment level exceeds the drinking water standard for nitrate.

Long-Term Conservation –  AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg/Skinner/Friedman) 

* The long-term water conservation legislation was a topic of debate and discussion all year long.  In August, the authors revealed a final “structure” that became the foundation for the bills.  They continued to be amended well into September.  AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg/Skinner/Friedman) both became two-year bills when they were held in the Legislature on Sept. 15.  Water agencies split with Met and East Bay MUD supporting, ACWA and many individual entities opposing.  Agriculture and food processing was able to negotiate to neutrality by getting favorable treatment for their specific industries.

Labor

* AB 5 (Gonzalez Fletcher) – This bill would create the Opportunity to Work Act and would require an employer with 10 or more employees to offer additional hours of work to an existing nonexempt employee before hiring an additional employee or subcontractor, would require an employer to post a notice of employee rights, and would require the employer to maintain certain documentation. It is pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

* AB 1576 (Levine) – This bill would amend the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 to additionally prohibit a business from differentiating between the price charged for the same, or substantially similar, goods because of the gender of the targeted user of the good. It is pending on the Assembly Floor.

* SB 772 (Leyva) – This bill would exempt any occupational safety and health standard and order from the standardized regulatory impact analysis requirement. It is pending on the Assembly Floor.

* SB 562 (Lara) – This bill, the Healthy California Act, provides comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage.  The bill would provide that the program covers a wide range of medical benefits and other services and would incorporate the health care benefits and standards of other existing federal and state provisions. The bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would develop a revenue plan, taking into consideration anticipated federal revenue available for the Healthy California program. It is pending in the Assembly Rules Committee.

Tax Reform

With federal tax reform pending in Congress, tax conformity with the state of California is sure to follow.  This will provide both opportunities and threats to California employers and individuals.

* SB 567 (Lara) – This bill would, for charitable remainder annuity trusts formed on or after January 1, 2018, require that the charitable remainder interest must be at least 40% of the initial fair market value of all the property placed in trust. This bill would revise this provision about decedents who died on or after January 1, 2018, to provide that no adjustment shall be allowed where the person who acquires the property has an adjusted gross income or net income over specified amounts. This bill, for taxable years beginning January 1, 2018, would eliminate those deductions for compensation payable to the chief executive officer for based on commission or on meeting certain performance goals under the Corporation Tax Law, thereby no longer conforming to federal income tax law. It is pending on the Senate Floor.

* SB 726 (Wiener) – Reinstates the Estate Tax – this bill would propose to the voters a repeal of the initiative measure prohibiting the imposition of a tax on or because of any transfer occurring because of death and would impose estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes, in modified conformity with federal law, on and after January 1, 2019, upon estates valued at over $5,490,000, as may be adjusted. It is pending in the Senate Governance & Finance Committee.

Environmental Protection

* SB 49 (de Leon) – This bill would authorize a person acting in the public interest to bring an action to enforce certain standards and requirements implementing specified air, water, endangered species, and labor laws if specified conditions are satisfied. This bill would expressly authorize a person to petition a court for a writ of mandate to compel a state or local agency to perform an act required by, or to review a state or local agency’s action for compliance with, this measure.