2018 Convention Registration is Open!

Jan. 26, 2018 – -It’s that time of year! Almond Alliance staff and the Meetings & Seminars Committee have been hard at work putting together a premier program for this year’s Annual Convention! We hope to see you all May 1st – 3rd at the Hyatt Regency Hotel & Spa on the Del Monte Golf Course, in stunning Monterey, California.

Register Here

The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course is nestled within 22 acres of soaring Monterey Pines. It is a destination hotel providing all guests and travelers with the quintessential Monterey experience. Its Central California Coast location offers guest close proximity to downtown Monterey, Monterey Airport and easy access to some of the Peninsula’s most well-known attractions.

Registration runs until March 22, 2018. Late registration will be available starting March 23, 2018. Late registrants will be subject to corresponding fees. For more information click HERE.

Exhibitors: Booth selection is on a first-come, first-serve basis, priority may be given based on level of sponsorship support and membership status/history.

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

Plans for New Dams, Reservoirs in California Hit Big Hurdle

Jan. 26, 2018 – -State water officials last week announced none of nearly a dozen landmark water storage projects that could help California cope with its next drought provide the public benefits that their supporters claim, potentially putting their state funding at risk, according to a published report in the San Jose Mercury News.

Three years ago, during the depths of California’s historic drought, state voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion bond measure to pay for new water projects, including building more dams and reservoirs. Water districts drew up plans and submitted lengthy applications for 11 projects.

But on Thursday, the staff of the California Water Commission, which must decide by July which water storage projects will receive bond money, raised major concerns. They announced that nearly half of the projects have no public benefits that meet the ballot measure’s rules for getting money, and the rest fall significantly short of providing as much benefit to the public as they would cost.

Joe Yun, executive officer of the commission, whose nine-member board is appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, said at a meeting in Sacramento that his agency will provide more details to the public on Feb. 2, and that the projects’ supporters will have three weeks to appeal. The scores could change after those appeals come in, he said, which would affect how much money, if any, is approved for each project. “We are not kicking folks out,” he said. “This is an expression of additional information that needs to come.”

If the low scores by the commission’s staff hold up through its appeals process in the next few months, many of the dam and reservoir projects are likely to get no state money from Proposition 1 or in some cases, less than they have budgeted, reducing their chances of ever getting built.

“We were shocked,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, a coalition of 430 public water agencies across the state. “I think the voters would be concerned that staff working for the state government are clearly raising huge hurdles toward moving these projects forward,” Quinn said.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen, (R-Yuba City), said the state is risking losing its best opportunity in 50 years to build new reservoirs. “The public should be concerned. They voted for large new dams and reservoirs,” Nielsen said. “I think this is an effort to undermine the intent of the voters. It looks like the staff is setting the bar so high that nobody can reach it. The citizens of California need to know what’s happening. I can’t say how important this is.”

 

 

USDA Secretary Perdue Announces USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles

Jan. 26, 2018 – -USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue this week announced the USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018.

The Farm Bill outline — described by the administration as a statement of principles — is meant to guide legislation proposed in Congress, Perdue said in an interview with Bloomberg News. The White House is ready to get more deeply involved if lawmakers veer far from the administration’s approach, Perdue added. “You will see more of an evolution than a revolution” in this year’s law, Perdue said. “There are some things that we can do and will propose to do in the farm bill that can be helpful.”

In a press release announcing the statement of principles, Perdue said, “Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I’ve traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not. The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018. These principles will be used as a road map – they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require.”

President Trump told the American Farm Bureau Federation earlier this months that he’d work with Congress “to pass the farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, have both said they’d like a bill in their chambers early this year. Neither has revealed a plan.

Click here for a copy of the USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018.

 

 

Legislature Determines Fate of 2017 Bills; DPR Expanded Authority in New Bill

Jan. 26, 2018 – -As the end of January nears, the Legislature is set to hit its first deadline of 2018 as all bills that were introduced last year must be passed out of the house of origin by January 31. The last two weeks have provided a host of activity on several bills key to the Almond Alliance:

Labor 

AB 5 (Gonzalez-Fletcher) this measure would require an employer to offer additional hours of work to an existing part time employee who has the same skills and experience to perform the work before hiring any additional employees or subcontractors. An employer shall use a transparent and nondiscriminatory process to distribute the additional hours of work among existing employees.  This measure was expected to be brought up but was held on the Assembly Appropriations Suspense file and is essentially dead for the year.

AB 281 (Salas) is an attempt to address PAGA labor law suits. The bill extends the “right to cure” period from 33 to 65 calendar days essentially granting employers more time fix certain violations of the labor code. AB 281 was scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee on January 11, but was pulled from consideration by the author due to insufficient support for the bill on the committee. The association supports the measure.

Pesticides

AB 1419 (Quirk) would expand the authority for the Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation to pursue enforcement cases directly.  The bill would also increase their fine authority from $5,000 to $25,000, per violation. A more limited authority was previously in statute but expired and DPR says they want to reestablish the law especially in cases where a grower might operate in several counties or there is a serious human or environmental health impact. This week a coalition of agricultural associations met with Assemblyman Quirk and expressed grave concerns about the expanded authority and significant penalty increase.  Agriculture coalitions are working on amendments that would provide narrowly tailored authority but reduce the amount of fines.

Assembly Pushes Tax Increase by Ballot Box Initiative

Jan. 26, 2018 – -This week the Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), introduced ACA 22: Middle Class Fiscal Relief Act.  This measure would take to the ballot that, for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018, the state would impose a surcharge of 10% on the net income of all corporations that is over $1,000,000. The measure would authorize the Legislature to increase or decrease the surcharge by a 2/3 vote of each house. The measure would require the deposit of those revenues, less refunds, into the Middle Class Fiscal Relief Fund, which would be created by the measure. Revenues in the fund would be allocated, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for specified purposes, including providing fiscal benefits to lower and middle-income Californians.

Click here to read the bill in its entirety.

The Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D- Los Angeles), earlier this month released SB 277, the Senate’s response to federal tax reform legislation. The measure establishes the California Excellence Fund in the State’s General Office to accept charitable donations and offer a tax credit equal to the amount of the contribution to taxpayers. These provisions would, in theory, allow Californian taxpayers to deduct funds contributed to the California Excellence Fund under the federal charitable donation credit limits to counterbalance the impacts of the reduced State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap to $10,000 per year established by HR 1 (the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). While this plan may provide tax relief to Californians, the State’s authority to allow for these deductions as “charitable” is unclear and may be prohibited if the Internal Revenue Service denies the federal deductions or Congress clarifies the law.

Utilizing FSMA’s Commercial Processing Exemption

Jan. 26, 2018 – -Primary or Secondary Farms can be exempt from the Produce Safety Rule. Regulation states that exemption can apply to if produce will receive a commercial process that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance §112.2(B)(1). However, Grower/ Farms will need to provide Written Disclosure Statements: “Almond are not processed to adequately reduce the presence of microorganisms of public health significance.”
Discloser may be made in documents accompanying the products including: Grower/ Field Tags, Delivery Statements, Bills of Lading, etc..

Almond Board of California will be hosting an Industry Exemption Webinar
February 6, 2018 at 1:00 PM

FSMA Update: CDFA Launches Produce Safety Program

Jan. 26, 2018 – – Federal and state government agencies are working together to implement this new regulation (FSMA Produce Safety Rule) throughout the U.S. The FDA, in collaboration with State Departments of Agriculture, will provide oversight and verify compliance. California Department of Food Agriculture (CDFA) is launching the California Produce Safety Program, which will include educational information designed to assist California produce farms in understanding the requirements of the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule and how to comply with this new regulation.

Even though the compliance date for the Produce Safety Rule is today, January 26, 2018, for farms designated as “large” (those with annual sales greater than $500,000), CDFA will be devoting 2018 to education and inspections will begin in 2019.

CDFA has hired and is currently training produce safety inspectors and other staff members to carry out Produce Safety Rule education and on-farm inspections. Produce Safety Program inspectors employed by CDFA are required to be credentialed by FDA and will have specialized training and education to conduct authorized routine inspections on behalf of the FDA. Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will continue to serve in its role to ensure the safety of California’s food supply. If a CDFA Produce Safety Program inspector believes there is a significant and imminent threat to public health on a produce farm, they will inform CDPH of the situation for evaluation and potential regulatory action.

CDFA has been provided funding to subsidize Produce Safety Rule Grower Training workshops so they can be offered at a reduced rate. These courses are being offered in both English and Spanish in several locations throughout the state (see CDFA Training list). If your company falls under Produce Safety Rule, it is required that every produce farm employ an individual who has completed an approved Grower Training course. If you do not fall under this rule the course is still recommended.

In addition, as CDFA prepares for official Produce Safety Rule on-farm inspections, which will begin in 2019, CDFA will be offering a series of non-regulatory On-Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRR). These are designed to give produce farmers a better understanding of what they can expect from a routine Produce Safety Program inspection. Information on how to schedule an OFRR will be available very soon.

Americans for Farmers & Families Launches NAFTA Support Campaign

Jan. 19, 2018 – -Yesterday, a broad-based group of over 30 organizations, including Almond Alliance of California ally the American Farm Bureau Federation, announced the formation of Americans for Farmers and Families (AFF), a news media campaign focused on delivering effective messages in coordination with gubernatorial and congressional advocacy around the support of NAFTA.

On Wednesday, President Trump reiterated in an interview that pulling out of NAFTA is still a viable option to pursue reforms. The next round of NAFTA negotiations will be hosted by Canada in Montreal, January 23rd-26th.

Click here to learn more about Americans for Farmers and Families.

Governor Announces New Water Resources Director

Jan. 19, 2018 – -Karla Nemeth, a veteran water official and a ranking member of the Brown administration, has been named the new director of the state Department of Water Resources.  Nemeth replaces Grant Davis, who is returning to the Sonoma County Water Agency as general manager.

The change follows a turbulent period at the Water Resources Department, which included the dramatic failure last year of the emergency spillway at the department’s Oroville Dam, an event that an independent report said was due in part to human error. That failure, in turn, followed years of severe drought in California.

State officials also announced the “restructuring and elevation of a number of positions on its executive team to help improve long-term planning and day-to-day management of key water programs, dam safety and flood control, functions that are increasingly critical in the face of climate change.”

The Department will create two new positions — one focused on dam safety and flood management, a move that stems from a recent report targeting the spillway failure. Erich Koch, a veteran DWR executive, will fill the new slot.  The second new position will combine the deal with integrated water management and focus on long-term planning.

Nemeth has been deputy secretary and senior adviser for water policy at the Natural Resources Agency since 2014, was Bay-Delta Conservation Plan project manager at the agency from 2009 to 2014 and was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 from 2005 to 2009.

Career and Ag Education Funding Included in Governor’s Budget

Jan. 19, 2018 – -In a shift of policy, Governor Brown’s budget funds the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant programs, including agricultural education and the Ag Incentive Grant.

The budget proposes an ongoing increase of $200 million Proposition 98 General Fund to establish a K-12 specific component of the Strong Workforce Program to encourage the establishment and support of K-12 CTE programs that are aligned with needed industry skills, and proposes an ongoing increase of $12 million Proposition 98 General Fund to fund local industry experts who will provide technical support to local educational agencies operating, or proposing to operate, CTE programs. This proposal creates a predictable, targeted, and sustained funding stream to support an industry and student-focused infrastructure for workforce development collaboration at the state, regional and local levels.