The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations this past week. The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards will continue to remain in effect while the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) reviews the proposed Non-Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. OAL has 30 working days to complete its review. If approved by OAL, the new regulations will remain in effect for two years.
Notable provisions include:
- COVID workplace measures: Employers are legally obligated to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace for employees, including by taking measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure. Employers must maintain an effective written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) that addresses COVID-19 as a workplace hazard and includes measures to prevent workplace transmission, employee training, and methods for responding to COVID-19 cases at the workplace. Employers may address COVID-19 workplace measures within their written IIPP or in a separate document.
- COVID Testing: Employers must make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees following a close contact, except for returned cases.
- Ventilation: For all indoor locations regardless of size, employers must review applicable CDPH guidance and implement effective measures to prevent transmission through improved filtration and/or ventilation.
- Close Contact Definition: Close contact is defined by the size of the workplace:
- For indoor spaces of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor, a close contact is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace as a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period, as defined in the regulations, regardless of the use of face coverings.
- For indoor spaces of greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor, a close contact is defined as being within six feet of the COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period, as defined in the regulations, regardless of the use of face coverings.
- Offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, break or eating areas, bathrooms, or other spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls shall be considered distinct indoor spaces.
- Infectious Period Definition: The regulations use the definition of “infectious period” found in the most recent California Department of Public Health (CDPH) State Public Health Officer Order.
Cal/OSHA is updating its resources to assist employers with understanding their obligations required by the COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. When the new regulation becomes effective, Cal/OSHA will publish an updated set of FAQs and model program.
It was a very special visit today from the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, as she toured the school farm at California State University Fresno, and then met with industry officials and the President of California State University Fresno, Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval. Association President/CEO Roger Isom joined a select group of industry representatives to discuss critical issues facing agriculture and what role the university might play. During the lunch meeting discussion, Isom commented on the role of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) Tree Nut Processing Laboratory and educating students and prospective employees by highlighting on some recent success stories of recent graduates impacting member operations. Isom also highlighted the critical applied research Fresno State is conducting such as the fusarium research that Dr. Maggie Ellis is doing on cotton. Following the discussion several Fresno State researchers made brief presentations on critical work being performed at Fresno State.
Federal investment in Sites Reservoir was reinforced this week with an additional $30 million in funding allocated from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (passed in 2021). With the allocation of these funds, Sites has now received roughly $134 million in federal funding from the Bureau of Reclamation for construction of the Sites Reservoir Project. “Sites Reservoir creates new resiliency for California in the face of climate change,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority. “Through Sites, we are building smarter infrastructure that will provide water supplies for people, farms and the environment when it’s needed most.”
Sites will provide significant public benefits, including environmental, flood control and recreational benefits. The investment from the project’s federal partners will enhance what the project will deliver for the environment and would be additive to environmental benefits provided by the State’s Proposition 1 dollars. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, commented “Our investment in these projects will increase water storage capacity and lay conveyance pipeline to deliver reliable and safe drinking water and build resiliency for communities most impacted by drought.”
Sites Reservoir is an off-stream facility that does not dam a major river system and would not block fish migration or spawning. Sites captures and stores stormwater flows from the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – for release primarily in dry and critical years for environmental use and for California communities, farms, and businesses when it is so desperately needed. One of Sites Reservoir’s greatest strengths is in its broad statewide representation including cities, counties, water and irrigation districts throughout the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area, and Southern California. The Sites Reservoir Project is locally led by the Sites Project Authority which is made up Sacramento Valley water districts, cities and counties.
Today, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board accepted and appropriated $118 million in new FARMER funding to help replace older diesel tractors and harvesters with new Tier 4 equipment. This is the 5th year for the FARMER program, and in the first four years, the District had allocated more than $432 million to replace ag equipment. This year’s money is a significant shot in the arm and comes just in time as the Air District’s queue of applications increased from 2,061 to 3,305 just since April! Association President/CEO Roger Isom attended the Governing Board Meeting and testified in support of the allocation. In doing so, Isom thanked the District staff and the Board for their support in this funding and emphasized the need for this funding to help agriculture be a part of the solution to the Valley’s air quality problems. Isom stated “Agriculture can’t pass along the cost of new equipment like other industries, and this is exacerbated by the drought and incredibly high input costs. The incentive programs, like FARMER have been hugely successful and we must continue them.” In allocating the $118 million, the District will also hire additional staff to help address this growing backlog of applications.
Following a somewhat surprise ruling by the California Third District Court of Appeal, which affirmed the California Fish and Game Commission’s authority to determine if insects such as four bumblebee species can be protected under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), a coalition of seven agricultural organizations including the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) and the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) have filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court asking them to hear this case. The Appeals Court’s new order reverses a previous trial court decision and opens the flood gates to include many potential insect species under CESA. This process began in 2018 when some public interest groups petitioned the Commission to list four species of bumblebees as endangered. The Commission accepted the petition and began the process to list the 4 species as candidate species. At that point, seven agricultural organizations, including CCGGA and WAPA, challenged the decision, and the California Superior Court agreed. In response, the Commission and public interest groups filed an appeal with the Third District Court of Appeal. Unfortunately, the Third District found that the legislature intended the definition of fish to include insects (invertebrates). Feeling confident in the agricultural groups’ position, the coalition decided to move forward with filing the petition with the hopes the case will be heard by the California Supreme Court. Stay tuned!
Association President/CEO Roger Isom testified today before the California Department of Insurance (CDI) on the issue of expanding the FAIR Program for insurance. The FAIR program is the “insurance of last resort” when operations cannot get coverage anywhere else. In recent years, many facilities have been unable to get insurance coverage for their property or stock insurance. This primarily a result of the historic wildfires in California chasing insurance carriers away from California, as well as losses in the agricultural industry as well. It has left many operations with limited coverage pieced together with multiple policies or in some cases without coverage on part or all of their property. This is unacceptable, and the Association has been working closely with CDI to find solutions to this crippling dilemma. As a result, State Insurance Commissioner worked with the FAIR Program to increase the commercial limit from $3 million to over $8 million in overall coverage. In his testimony today, Isom asked the Commissioner to seek increases as high as $20 million. Obviously, this does would not cover all of the property and stock that many our members may have, it would be a significant increase and would help in the interim until more carriers come back to the California marketplace. The Association continues to put pressure on CDI and find solutions to help our members.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is seeking proposals through June 1 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials). On-Farm Trials, part of the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches. “USDA is a leader in using the latest science, research and conservation tools to reduce the impacts of climate change,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California. “We’re doing our part in helping America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the natural resources we all depend on, like clean air and water, while supporting the health and resiliency of their operations for the future. Conservation Innovations Grants are an important tool in the development of new and innovative technologies and systems to support agriculture and conservation.” California CIG application packages are due via Grants.gov by 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time (PST) on June 1, 2022. The agency anticipates making selections by June 30, 2022 and expects to execute awards by August 19, 2022. FY 2022 USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants competition for California presentation will be available April 27, 2022. A total of up to $400,000 is available for the California CIG competition in FY 2022. Projects may be between one and three years in duration, with the maximum award amount for a single award in FY 2022 to be $150,000. This program harnesses the expertise, resources and capacity of partner organizations nationwide to help NRCS boost natural resource conservation on private lands and support climate smart agriculture. A critical element of each On-Farm Trials project is the project evaluation. Partners must propose robust scientific approaches for their projects, resulting in data and analyses of the environmental, financial and, to the extent possible, social impacts of the trials. The CIG state component emphasizes projects that benefit a limited geographical area.
How to Apply
To apply, follow the requirements in the California CIG Announcement:
- Applications MUST be submitted electronically through Grants.gov.
- Submissions must be received by the submission due date of June 1, 2022, by 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST).
- See section D of the CIG Notice of Funding Opportunity for more information regarding how to submit an application.
- Required documents and instructions are available on Grants.gov.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) formally invited the Sites Project Authority to apply for a $2.2 billion low-interest loan through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which would bring the project significantly closer to construction and completion. A loan through the WIFIA program could dramatically reduce the costs to participants, making it more affordable for cities, farms, and resource managers to have access to more water in dry years. Sites Reservoir is significant for California and the nation, and a substantial loan through the WIFIA program will help us realize the many environmental and water supply benefits of this project. Sites Reservoir is a beneficiary pays project, which means that the loan will be repaid by project participants. “The significance of this opportunity cannot be overstated,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority. “We thank our federal partners and the Biden Administration for supporting Sites Reservoir in such a meaningful way.”
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by the US EPA. WIFIA’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost federal loans for regionally and nationally significant projects. The Sites Project Authority submitted a letter of intent to apply in July 2021. WIFIA funding helps finance drought resiliency projects as well as clean water and safe drinking water infrastructure projects across the United States. After a robust statutorily required review process, the WIFIA Selection Committee selected Sites Reservoir to apply for a loan. “For Sites Reservoir to be built – bringing substantial and critical environmental benefits to California – it has to be affordable for our participants. This loan can get us there,” added Durst. Sites Reservoir is an off-stream water storage facility that will create resiliency against the impacts of climate change. The reservoir does not dam a major river system and would not block fish migration or spawning. Sites Reservoir captures and stores stormwater flows from the Sacramento River —after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met—for release primarily in dry and critical years for environmental use and for California communities, farms, and businesses when it is so desperately needed.
The Association hosted a meeting with Department of Water Resources (DWR) Deputy Director, Paul Gosselin, who oversees the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The meeting included various Ag Associations, County Farm Bureau’s, SJV Water Blueprint members, Growers and other interested stakeholders. Deputy Director Gosselin heard directly from the group about the devastating effects of SGMA not only to agriculture but also to farm workers, disadvantaged communities, the San Joaquin Valley and the entire state of California. Gosselin provided a SGMA update to the group and discussed the different stages of Groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA)’s groundwater sustainability plans (GSP’s). The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint discussed its’s efforts related to SGMA. One of the action items coming out of this meeting was the idea to pull together a broader and larger meeting to include legislators.
With cotton prices where they are today, it comes as no surprise to see an increase in cotton acreage for 2022. Unfortunately, another year of drought will severely limit the amount of acreage that gets planted this year. As of today, California cotton growers are only increasing their plantings this year by approximately 10% despite record cotton prices. Cotton growers planted approximately 120,000 total acres in 2021 and are looking to plant 132,000 acres in 2022.
According to the preliminary planting intentions survey conducted by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association this month, the Association is currently estimating approximately only 107,000 acres of pima, 1,600 acres of Hazera and about 24,000 acres of upland statewide for the 2022 cotton season plus or minus 10%. This survey is based on surveys from all of the gins in California and things could change when planting is actually completed and final field surveys are completed by CDFA. If it plays out, it will represent a 26% increase in pima acreage and a 31% decrease in upland acreage in California as compared to 2021. Again, this is preliminary, but reflects what all gins are reporting.