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APRIL 13, 2007 California Farm Bureau Friday Review

SB 773 (Pat Wiggins, D-Eureka), passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on an 8-0 vote. The bill would allow licensed carriers of livestock utilizing semi-trailer combinations, which do not exceed 70 feet in total length and kingpin to rear axle settings of 43 feet, access to Humboldt and Del Norte counties via Highway 101. These trucks and trailers are the industry standard, but are currently prohibited from traveling on sections of highway 101 at Richardson Grove, Confusion Hill and Big Lagoon. A total of seven turns with a combined length of an eighth to a quarter of a mile have prevented the north coast livestock industry from being able to use interstate livestock haulers. SB 773 will be heard next in the Senate. CFBF is in support.

SB 311 (Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno) would provide an additional $1,000,000 each year to the state’s existing network of Weed Management Areas (WMAs) administered by the Department of Food and Agriculture. In previous years, every dollar provided by the state was leveraged 3-to-1 from outside grant funding, federal funding and in-kind donations and services. The program has been successful in the treatment of over 128,421 acres and the eradication of over 2,015 high priority weed infestations in California, and has grown to include more than 40 Weed Management Areas covering all 58 counties. The WMA program has been effective in encouraging local partnerships between state and federal agencies, private landowners, farmers, ranchers and conservationists. The bill will be taking a vital step towards protecting California’s agriculture and environment. SB 311 will be heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 17th. CFBF is in support.

SB 974 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach) would impose a fee of $30 per twenty-foot equivalent unit on cargo owners to pay for pollution mitigation, and highway infrastructure programs in the state of California. While the fee may appear minimal, shippers will have an incentive to move this significant amount of freight through other North American ports that do not impose the fee. This is another tax masquerading as a fee that will place California businesses including agriculture at a significant competitive disadvantage. SB 974 will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on April 17th. CFBF is opposed.

Assembly Member Nicole Parra (D-Hanford) has authored AB 744 relative to off-highway motor vehicles (OHV/ATV). Currently, these vehicles cannot be driven across a two-lane highway, but must be towed, pushed or loaded on a trailer and carried across. This bill addresses this problem by providing a safe and reasonable solution for farmers and ranchers who must drive a short distance on the shoulder or median or simply cross a two-lane highway to access their adjacent property when using an OHV/ATV. AB 744 will be heard in Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 18th. CFBF is in support.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved AB 541 on a 7-3 vote that would have a chilling effect on the future production of bioengineered crops in California. The bill, authored by Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) ignores the economic and environmental benefits of biotechnology-derived crops and the right of growers to choose the type of seed they plant in an attempt to create a strict liability statute from nuisance law. It contradicts the buffer zone requirements for organic crop production required of growers in the National Organic Act; establishes a crop registration process for anyone growing biotech crops and prohibits the open-field cultivation of medicine-producing crops. AB 541 will be heard next on April 23rd in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. Please contact the members of this committee and let them know of your concerns. Committee Link. CFBF opposes this bill.

The Assembly Agriculture Committee unanimously approved the California Apple Pest and Disease Prevention Act of 2007, an important piece of legislation that will reduce risk from the introduction of exotic apple pests and diseases not currently found in our growing regions. AB 1021 (Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy) provides a mechanism to protect the agricultural community and its consumers by preventing pest and disease problems so no further measures are needed. Although direct impacts to agriculture are well known, these pests also impact grasslands and forests, contaminate water sources and waterways and disrupt or destroy ecosystems. They can also alter the environment, destroy native habitats and displace or replace native species.

A recent problem that might have been prevented if AB 1021 was in place is the detection of the light brown apple moth, an invasive species native to Australia that has been detected in San Francisco and Marin County. The light brown apple has a broad range of host plants with more than 250 plant species known to be susceptible to attack by this pest including ornamental and landscape plants. This pest will have far-reaching impact to Californians beyond traditional agricultural settings.

AB 1021 will insure that apple growers statewide receive fair pest and disease protection with a program that will enable the industry to protect our state’s apple growers and their consumers. CFBF supports.

A similar pest prevention bill, the California Avocado Pest and Disease Prevention Act of 2007, will be heard next Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture Committee. SB 486 (Abel Maldanado, R- Santa Maria) enables the industry to reduce risk from the introduction of exotic pests and disease that threaten avocado production. It will provide protections for both consumers and the agricultural community by preventing problems thus greatly reducing the need for costly eradication programs.

The avocado industry has had to deal with the threat of armored scale from Mexico and the introduction of the Light Brown Apple Moth, found in Santa Clara. These are pests known in other areas of the country and the world, but not California and we need to prevent their spread. Pest prevention helps protect California’s ecosystem. A University of California, Berkeley study concluded that pest prevention returns 8 to 14 times the cost in economic benefits. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! CFBF supports.

The United Farm Workers (UFW), having had limited success over the years to organize workers through secret ballot elections under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), have introduced legislation to circumvent the process. The measure, SB 180 by Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) would allow a union to gain the right to represent employees through a “card check” in which a union simply would have to collect the signatures of a majority of employees on authorization cards in order to represent them. The result would be that farm workers would lose their absolute right under existing law to a secret ballot election.

In Farm Bureau’s opinion, nothing could be more undemocratic. When the ALRA was enacted in 1975, the UFW and other unions fought for workers’ right to a secret ballot election on union representation. With workers mostly rejecting the UFW at the ballot box, now the union wants to change the rules.

Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups are vigorously opposed to this legislation.

AB 771 (Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles) was amended this week to address technical issues relating to the California Citrus Advisory Committee. Previously the bill provided authority to CDFA to develop regulations regarding seedless citrus in the Counties of Fresno, Kern, Madera, and Tulare. The intent of the regulations was to limit access of bee hives within areas where seedless citrus varieties are planted. The provisions relating to seedless citrus were completely removed from the legislation. CFBF has no position on AB 771. However, CFBF is continuing to watch this bill and, at the same time, work on a non-legislative solution to address the issue of cross pollination causing seeds in seedless citrus varieties.

CFBF was finally provided with amended language for Senator Florez’s (D-Shafter) package of food safety legislation. Unfortunately, the amendments do not address our concerns and CFBF remains opposed to SB 200, SB 201, and SB 202. SB 200, which initially provided broad recall and quarantine authority to the new Department of Public Health (DPH) for leafy green vegetables and created a licensing program for all leafy green growers, now just gives recall authority to DPH and creates an inspection program for leafy greens administered jointly by DPH and the Department of Food and Agriculture.

SB 201, which would have codified best management practices for leafy green growers and essentially would have banned the use of surface water for irrigation was amended to eliminate the surface water restriction. Amendments were also added to eliminate the legislation’s authority, should a marketing order be adopted for leafy greens. In the event that a marketing order is adopted, the legislation requires that the marketing order be placed in statute. CFBF has significant concerns with placing management practices in statute and with putting an industry led marketing order in statute.

SB 202 originally required a trace back system using Julian Dating and an annual mock recall. The bill was amended to require a trace back system using Julian Dating or another scientifically validated system and requires a mock recall occurring at least every two years.

All three bills are set to be heard by the Senate Health Committee next Wednesday.

The Assembly Business and Professions Committee heard AB 1634 (Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys), the California Healthy Pets Act, this week. This bill would require that all dogs and cats be spayed and neutered unless they are eligible for and obtain an intact permit. Very few dog owners would be eligible to obtain an intact permit. It is unlikely that any dogs used to herd or guard livestock would meet the requirements set forth in the bill to obtain an intact permit. As with all animal related bills, the hearing room was packed. 115 people testified in favor of the bill and 114 people testified in opposition. The committee did not vote on the bill due to numerous technical problems with the bill. The author will present the bill again on April 24th. CFBF remains opposed to this bill due to its impacts on ranchers who rely on working dogs.

SB 63 (Carole Migden, D-San Francisco) was heard in the Senate Health Committee this week. This bill would require all meat and milk from cloned animals or their progeny to be labeled as such. Prior to the hearing the author held a press conference to highlight the threats of cloned product on our food supply. At the hearing, Senator Migden’s key witness was Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, who stated that he had never seen any evidence that meat and milk from cloned animals was safe. Senator Aanestad challenged Mr. Schlosser on this assertion because he had likely never seen any evidence that meat and milk from cloned animals was unsafe either. Consumers Union also testified about the limited scientific evidence that the Food and Drug Administration used in its Draft Risk Assessment. Despite testimony in opposition by CFBF and other organizations, the bill passed out of the committee easily on a party line vote of 6-4. The bill will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1100 (Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City) also requires labeling of all meat and milk from cloned animals and their progeny. This bill is set to be heard in the Assembly Health Committee next Tuesday. CFBF is also opposed to this bill.
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