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California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review
JUNE 1, 2007
Today's Friday Review is an update on bills that were recently on the Suspense File

The Appropriations Committees in the Senate and Assembly did their annual belt tightening on Legislators whose bill proposals would have cost the state’s taxpayers billions of dollars that do not exist in the State Treasury. Nearly 900 bills, approximately 270 in the Senate and 600 in the Assembly, were sent to the committees’ “Suspense Files” and a vast majority will remain there until the end of the 2007-08 Legislative Session. For bills that were allowed to move to their respective floors, most were significantly amended to reduce or eliminate the required appropriation of funds, or the suggested policy was changed to cut or remove the cost. Many of the bills that Farm Bureau has been supporting or opposing were caught in the Suspense File nets.

AB 287 (Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara) would have provided agricultural employers, who lost 50 percent or more of their farm income in 2007 due to the January freeze with a credit equal to 40% of wages paid to employees through January 1, 2009. The measure, sponsored by the Western Growers Association, was amended significantly in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee but apparently the $11M estimated cost over the next three was unacceptable to the Assembly leadership. AB 287 was held on suspense. Farm Bureau supported.

Another proposal to grant sales and use tax relief to alpaca and llama fiber producers was also held on suspense. AB 1050 (Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale) would have exempted these animals whose fiber products can be harvested without killing the animal from the sales tax when they are used for breeding purposes. Even though the cost of the exemption was a modest $150,000 annually and the bill would have sunset in 2012, opponents stated that the sales tax exemption on food animals is justified because food is a life-sustaining necessity. They argued that the same justifications did not hold for fiber producing animals.

AB 1180 (Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo), which would allow the director of the California Department of Conservation (DOC) to administer grants from sources other than the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund (CFCPF) for the acquisition of voluntary agricultural conservation easements, was unanimously approved and sent to the Assembly Floor. This measure is being sponsored by the Schwarzenegger Administration to allow DOC greater access to funds approved as part of the infrastructure bond package and Prop. 84. The committee also imposed a minor clarifying amendment to insure continued legislative oversight of any grants funding. Farm Bureau is in support.

SB 466 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento) would penalize landowners for timber and forestland conversions by requiring a landowner to set aside timberland, either in fee or by conservation easement, to fully mitigate the loss of carbon sequestration potential from timberland that is converted to another use. In addition, the mitigation lands shall be managed in accordance with the California Climate Action Registry Forestry Protocols. CFBF opposes this bill and was pleased to see it remain on the Senate

Appropriations suspense file. It now becomes a two-year bill and CFBF will continue to track this issue to ensure that similar language is not amended into other legislation.

AB 1100 (Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City) and SB 63 (Carole Migden, D-San Francisco) were sent to their respective floors on party line votes. These bills are similar because both require the mandatory labeling of meat and milk from cloned animals or their progeny. CFBF has significant concerns with requiring labeling of a product that is identical to its conventional counterpart. Mandatory labeling of cloned product will ultimately act to ban the technology due to increased identification and tracking costs. CFBF remains opposed to these measures and will make our opposition known as the bills move ahead.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all three of Senator Dean Florez’s (D-Shafter) food safety bills off the suspense file this week on a straight party line vote. CFBF remains opposed to SB 200, SB 201, and SB 202 because they are all duplicative of what is included in the industry-led Leafy Green Marketing Agreement and are therefore unnecessary. The bills now move to the Senate Floor.

SB 974 (Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach) was also approved and sent to the Senate floor. Lowenthal’s bill would impose a fee of $30 for each "twenty-foot equivalent unit" (TEU) shipping container that is processed at the L.A./Long Beach Port Complex and the Port of Oakland. This bill will put California growers at a competitive disadvantage. California’s farmers cannot simply increase the cost of their product when shipping costs increase. The bill is a one-size-fits all approach that is inappropriate for financing the infrastructure improvements and environmental mitigation projects created by California’s growing population and economy. Farm Bureau is opposed.

SB 23 (Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto) that would create a pilot program to deal with gross polluting vehicles within the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District) was ammended and sent to the Senate Floor. The Democratic leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee however, decided to impose a hostile amendment which would link Cogdill’s SB 23 to Senate Bill 719 (Machado, D-Linden), making the Cogdill measure contingent upon the passage of Machado’s bill. SB 719 is a measure that would change the composition of the District’s board and is opposed by Senator Cogdill and a host of local governments, and agriculture and business organizations, including CFBF

“Senate Democrats on the Appropriations Committee today have showed that they are more about playing games than improving air quality in the Central Valley,” stated Senator Cogdill. “The High Polluting Vehicle Replacement Pilot Program legislation has had widespread support. We have spent three long years crafting this legislation in order to make quantifiable improvements to our Central Valley air. Instead of approving this worthy legislation based on its own merits, Senate Democrats have decided to poison SB 23 by tying it to a very controversial measure, a measure that I have never supported, a measure that has garnered an immense amount of opposition. This is a slap in the face to the Central Valley.”

SB 240 (Dean Florez, D-Shafter) is an attempt to raise $100 million on the backs of the businesses and citizens of the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley. It would impose a new $300 annual fee on all stationary and area wide sources of air pollution and allow the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District) to increase vehicle-licensing fees up to $30 per vehicle. SB 240 would impose new state mandates on a district that is successfully dealing with addressing the Valley’s most pressing issue—improving air quality.

CFBF opposes SB 240 because it places a disproportionate emphasis on highly regulated stationary sources in the San Joaquin Valley that account for 20 percent of the Valley’s pollution. The most significant source of pollution comes from the huge volume of vehicles traveling along the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 corridors. Furthermore, it is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of all truck movements don’t even originate or end in the San Joaquin Valley but are passing through. The District has limited authority to regulate these mobile source emissions. So it is not reasonable to require businesses with stationary sources, which currently pay emission fees, to shoulder this added burden. SB 240 goes to the Senate floor.

Legislative efforts to regulate local groundwater monitoring and reporting continue. SB 178 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento) is a reintroduced version of last year’s vetoed SB 1640 (Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica). The bill would impose a requirement that local entities monitor and report groundwater levels to the state government, or allow the Department of Water Resources to perform the monitoring and charge local landowners for the cost. Farm Bureau opposes the bill and continues to lead a strong coalition in opposition. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill yesterday, and it will be heard on the Senate Floor next week.

CFBF’s sponsored bill, AB 844 (Berryhill), passed unanimously out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday. CFBF is hopeful that this bill will reduce the incidence of metal theft by limiting the market for stolen metals, however due to opposition by the scrap recycling industry we were forced to take amendments that weaken some provisions of the bill. Both Assembly Member Berryhill and Assembly Member Galgiani presented convincing testimony on AB 844 as did Farm Bureau members, representatives of the business, utility and communications industries, water agencies, electrical workers, and law enforcement. The bill now moves to the Assembly floor, where it is expected to be heard next Wednesday. CFBF urges you to contact your Assembly member to explain how metal theft is hurting your farm or ranch.
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