Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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California Farm Bureau
Friday Review 8/25/06
Last week we reported that Senator Sheila Kuehl's (D-Santa Monica) latest groundwater bill, SB 1640,
was moved from the Assembly Appropriations Committee to the Assembly Floor. The bill was not taken
up on the floor this week, and it is not enjoying the same level of support as last year's groundwater bill.
Farm Bureau, along with a broad coalition of agriculture, business, water district, and local government
organizations, continues to oppose SB 1640 because it mandates that every groundwater basin in
California be monitored and reported to the State for groundwater levels. In an effort to forge a solution to
this impasse, Farm Bureau proposed a workable solution that would build on the existing voluntary local
groundwater management planning process by making existing data more readily accessible. The Senator
has declined those amendments, and the deadline for amending bills on the Assembly Floor has now
passed. Farm Bureau continues to oppose the bill. Friday Review readers who wish to send a message
to their Assembly Member can visit the CFBF Farm Team website at: Legislative Action Center
Yesterday, Thursday August 24, was the last day to amend bills pending on the floor of either house
under the normal rules. As a result, a long list of bills were amended, and some previously defeated bills
were placed on the list of bills to be reconsidered. One of these bills was SB 646 by Senator Sheila Kuehl
(D-Santa Monica), which Farm Bureau opposed last year because it would micromanage and jeopardize
existing successful agricultural water quality management programs around the state. The Senator's staff
has assured CFBF that the bill will not be advanced as currently written, but instead will be made
available for another purpose, by the same or another author. CFBF will remain vigilent to ensure that this
bill is not advanced as is.
Legislation that will provide a uniform state law to clarify the state’s jurisdiction to determine what seeds
and nursery stock may be planted on all of California’s farms, ranches and agricultural operations passed
the Assembly a strong bipartisan vote of 51-24. SB 1056 authored by Dean Florez (D-Shafter); Barbara
Matthews (D-Tracy) and Bill Maze (R-Visalia) will insure the state’s growers can continue to choose
from the best available management practices and technology for their operations. A county-by-county
patchwork of regulations undermines agricultural viability.
California grows nearly 600,000 acres of biotech-improved crops. This acreage will need to expand
significantly to meet renewable energy goals as the majority of bioenergy crops have been produced using
biotechnology or are now in the research phase to improve their energy efficiency for fuel production. If
we cannot grow these superior renewable bioenergy crops, they will have to be imported from other parts
of the country and world. Importing feedstock into California for biofuel production will only increase
our fuel prices and defeat the effort to assure energy independence and stability.
SB 1056 will insure that current and newly developed food, fiber and agricultural products can be grown
in California once they have been thoroughly researched and properly reviewed through the regulatory
process. SB 1056 will insure that growers who produce organic, conventional or biotechnology-based
commodities can mutually co-exist in a supportive manner that allows each sector to grow safe and
healthy products for consumers.
SB 1056 is slated to be heard on the Senate Floor before the 20005-06 legislative session ends at
midnight, Thursday, August 31st. Please thank your state Assembly representative if they
supported SB 1056 and ask your state Senator to support SB 1056 by letting them know how
important this issue is to our industry.
Legislative language to substantially increase the cost of workers’ compensation for employers has been
amended into SB 815 by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) during the final days of the
legislative session. The measure, carried by the Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata for organized labor,
would roll back the successful 2004 workers’ compensation reforms by doubling the permanent disability
benefits paid to injured workers over three years.
SB 815 would provide for three separate increases to the permanent disability fees paid to workers. The
first on 1/1/2007, the second on 1/1/2008 and the third on 1/1/2009. The increases in the fees would occur
in the number of weeks that an injured worker is paid benefits. For example, a permanent disability rating
of 5% requires that benefits be paid to an injured worker for 15 weeks. Under this legislation that would
double to 30 weeks of benefits paid to an injured worker.
An increase of the magnitude proposed under this legislation would serve to significantly roll back the
savings realized as a result of SB 899 (Poochigian), and return California to the days of increasing
premiums, high litigation, and unpredictability in workers’ compensation.
For these reasons, the Farm Bureau and other employer groups are urging legislators to oppose SB 815
and will be urging the Governor’s veto if it should get to his desk.
Governor Schwarzenegger, joined by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Assembly
Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) have announced an agreement to increase California's minimum
wage to $8 an hour from the current $6.75. The bill for this increase is AB 1835 by Assemblymember
Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View). Lieber's bill had previously provided for an increase to $7.75 plus
indexing the minimum wage every year to the rate of inflation. The Governor had said last year that he
supported a minimum wage increase but without indexing.
Once AB 1835 is signed into law, the minimum wage will increase by 75 cents on January 1, 2007 and 50
cents on January 1, 2008.
Statistics just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service
show that California's average hourly wage for all agricultural workers is $9.21, with field workers
averaging $8.60 and livestock workers earning $10.67. Also, a recent study from the University of
California, Davis, indicates that the state average for a milker is $9.69 an hour.
"For years our own Farm Employers Labor Service surveys, in addition to the reporting from USDA,
have indicated that California farmers provide an average wage well above the minimum," said California
Farm Bureau Administrator George Gomes. "Only time will tell how much of an influence this increase
will have in bumping up all wages." For now however, Gomes said the impending increase doesn't seem
to be that critical for most of the state's farmers.
"CFBF policy, however, supports a national, uniform minimum wage," Gomes said. "Our Farm Bureau
leaders have repeatedly stressed that it's imperative that California's wage rate remain on par with the
wage rates of other states."
Gomes said that California's operating environment; high land prices, utility costs and environmental
restrictions all are more expensive than other states.
Given the increasingly competitive global market for agricultural products, CFBF director of labor
relations Roy Gabriel said, "We simply can't pass along increases in wages when we compete with other
states and nations."
AB 1147 the industrial hemp bill authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is on its
way to the Governor’s desk after both the Senate and Assembly voted to pass the bill. This bill will allow
farmers to grow industrial hemp with a THC level below three-tenths of one percent for sale in California.
It remains to be seen whether the Governor will sign the bill. Significant law enforcement opposition has
arisen recently as it became clear that the bill was going to pass out of both the Assembly and the Senate.
CFBF has no policy on the issue and is therefore neutral on the bill.
AB 450 by Assemblymember Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) passed off of the Senate Floor this week on
a 35-1 vote. This bill requires the Office of Emergency Services to incorporate the California Animal
Response Emergency System into its standardized emergency management system. California’s livestock
producers are well aware of the difficulties faced during emergencies when trying to evacuate or protect
livestock. CFBF supports this bill as a way to improve coordination between the livestock industries and
agencies tasked with emergency planning to ultimately reduce risks to livestock and livestock producers
during emergencies. The bill now returns to the Assembly for concurrence on the amendments taken on
the Senate side.
Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) amended SB 1578, the dog-tethering bill, this week to exempt
dogs used in agriculture and hunting from the restrictions in the bill. Originally the bill outlawed the
tethering of dogs for more than three hours in a 24-hour time period. This restriction would have
impacted family farmers and ranchers who rely on working dogs and need to tether these dogs for their
own safety. With the most recent amendments, CFBF has removed its opposition and is now neutral on
the bill, which is set for a vote on the Assembly floor sometime next week.
SB 419 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) has been amended to require that rail tank car
owners/lessee’s give priority to the transport of chemicals used by water agencies in water treatment. This
amendment does nothing to prevent the shortage of necessary raw materials, fuels, gases and chemicals
used for crop production and protection, sewage treatment, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and
electronic equipment in California that will result, if this bill becomes law. Farm Bureau is opposed and
will continue to work with the large business coalition in opposition. SB 419 will be heard next week on
the Assembly floor. Thank you for all of your letters in response to the Farm Team Alert last week.
This week, both houses of the state legislature unanimously approved SB 775 by Senator Dave Cox (R -
Fair Oaks). Farm Bureau sponsored this bill, which clarifies procedures for Northern California water
rights holders to replace the California Department of Water Resources as their watermaster with a more
cost effective local agency. The bill now goes to the Governor's office for signature.