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Friday Review

California Farm Bureau Federation 3/14/08

This issue touches on the "fight of a lifetime" state budget, hearings on Leafy Greens Marketing, AB 1760 (veterinarian board temporary licensing); AB 2222 (ground water quality), SB 1176 (reducing water board members), AB 2714 (CFBF sponsored "chaff" bill), and SB 1663 (waste and used tire hauling).

Declaring that the adoption of this year’s state budget was “going to be the fight of a lifetime,” Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) made it crystal clear that he believes that the state needs to raise taxes to close the remaining $8 billion budget gap. Senator Perata also served notice to his Democratic colleagues that they might as well cancel their plans to attend the meeting in Denver. This is a very pessimistic prediction of things to come since the convention is set for the last week of August and the California Constitution requires that the state budget be adopted by midnight on June 15th. “We are not going to be going anywhere this summer,” he told a press conference on March 4th in Sacramento. Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) is the only state legislator that serves as one of the 796 Democratic superdelegates and, at the moment, she is undecided.

The Legislature held two separate hearings on the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) this week. First up was Senator Florez’s (D-Shafter) Select Committee on Food Borne Illness, which focused on both the LGMA and the Taco John’s E. coli outbreak from 2006 and the California Department of Health Service’s (DPH) recent report on its findings. Senator Florez was critical of the LGMA and focused on the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s role in the auditing and penalty process.

In the afternoon, Assembly Member Parra convened the Assembly Committee on Agriculture for an update on the LGMA. Committee members were supportive of the LGMA and pleased to be provided an update on its progress. CFBF staff testified in support of the LGMA’s efforts, but did mention concerns with large buyers imposing food safety standards above and beyond what’s required by the LGMA Good Agricultural Practices. Committee members shared our concern on this practice and expressed interest in holding future hearings on the issue.

The Assembly Business and Professions Committee heard AB 1760 (Galgiani, D-Tracy) on Tuesday. This bill makes technical changes to the California Veterinary Medical Board’s temporary licensing provision and allows out-of-state veterinarians who have been practicing for two out of the last three years to become licensed in California without taking the California exam. Assembly Member Galgiani hopes to alleviate the current shortage of food animal veterinarians and is working with CFBF and other agricultural organizations to find a solution to this challenge. CFBF supports the bill.

AB 2222 by Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and sponsored by the Planning and Conservation League addresses groundwater quality. This bill would create a public advisory committee and interagency task force, and require them before June 1, 2009, to identify and recommend to the Legislature funding options to extend the comprehensive monitoring program until January 1, 2016. The bill would require the State Water Resources Control Board, on or before January 1, 2010, in consultation with the advisory committee and interagency task force, to evaluate information obtained through the comprehensive monitoring program and submit to the Legislature a prescribed report. The bill would require the advisory committee and interagency task force to identify additional resources to complete that report. CFBF is working with the Western Growers Association, California Cattlemen’s Association, California Chamber of Commerce, and the author and sponsor of the bill to address concerns.

SB 1176 Perata (D-Oakland) is similar to a bill he authored last year that was vetoed by the Governor. This bill would make legislative findings and declarations related to the water boards and their responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. This bill would reduce the number of members on the regional water boards to seven, and change the current appointment categories, no longer specifying a member associated with irrigated agriculture. CFBF is working with a coalition of interested stakeholders, and will soon have a position on the bill.

Rick Keene (R-Chico) agreed to author CFBF sponsored AB 2714 to address the “loss of load” issue presented by the incidental loss of hay or straw chaff when being transported on the highway. This has been a costly issue for a number of our members hauling hay on the highways, especially in the North bay area. The bill will be amended from its current form and CFBF will be working with his staff and the California Highway Patrol to draft appropriate and mutually agreeable language to amend the California Vehicle Code and pave the way for California to be in compliance with federal regulation regarding this issue.

SB 1663 (Denham, R-Merced) would exempt farmers and ranchers from the waste and used tire hauler registration requirements. Existing law exempts certain persons from registration if transporting fewer than 10 waste or used tires at any one time. This bill would additionally exempt an owner or employee of an agriculture business concern, that is not operating a waste tire generating business, hauling used or waste tires that were used on a vehicle owned or operated by that agriculture business concern from the waste and used tire hauler registration requirements. CFBF is in support.

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