This past week Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2020-2021 Budget for the State of California. While we are encouraged by the Governor’s proposed investment in rural communities through food and education programs, the Governor’s budget proposal falls woefully short in delivering necessary funds to the San Joaquin Valley for programs to improve air quality. Specifically, the budget proposal calls for only $50 million in FARMER incentive funding to replace old farm equipment such as tractors and harvesters with new low emission equipment.
The use of the FARMER Program incentives has proven to be hugely successful with the replacement of farm equipment having already achieve significant reductions of NOx emissions in the first three years of implementation.
FARMER received $75 million in 2019-20 and $130 million in 2018-19. Last month, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) called for a minimum of $193 million per year in FARMER funding as the only way to achieve attainment of the State’s air quality standards. The proposed $50 million in the 2020 budget is inadequate to reach the State’s emissions reduction goals and assures that the San Joaquin Valley, which faces some of the worst air quality in the Nation, will not achieve the standard.
The FARMER program is an example of industry and government working together to provide solutions for a significant challenge facing our rural communities and is worthy of continued investment.
With rising farm equipment prices, increasing fuel prices, and ever growing labor costs coupled with stagnant commodity prices, a mandatory farm equipment regulation will be overwhelming to the agricultural industry in the San Joaquin Valley.
For the health of the San Joaquin Valley and all who live and work here, we call on our Central Valley legislators to see that funding for the FARMER program is fully restored and increased to the necessary level.
Last night Association President/CEO Roger Isom attended and participated in the Chlorpyrifos Alternatives Work Group Public Roundtable. Unfortunately, the meeting was a complete travesty. The stated purpose of the meeting was to present the group’s preliminary recommendations to the public and listen to the public’s reactions and comments.
What followed was an utter farce. The presentation did not include any list or hint of alternatives, and instead what was a presentation of how the agencies could conduct better outreach, carryout applied research and determine alternative approaches to pest management. None of these will solve the immediately problem of the loss of chlorpyrifos in the short term. Then the meeting was broke into small workgroups with the intent to hear comments on the proposed recommendations, discuss how farmers, workers and communities can protect a thriving agricultural industry in California while increasing the use of safety pest management tools, and finally, what the audience thought where more funding should be placed to create a more sustainable and healthy agricultural system. While these are good questions, they had little to do with the task at hand which is to find immediate alternatives to the loss of chlorpyrifos. Furthermore, the pesticide and environmental justice activists seized the opportunity to lambast farmers with accusations of corporate greed and spraying indiscriminately, and attack county agricultural commissioners for not actively enforcing the regulations. And while participants were repeatedly told to keep the comments on point and limit their time, the activists were given free reign to comment on anything they wanted, which they did in attacking agriculture on all aspects from pesticides to air quality. In one of the most revealing moments of the night, a prominent local environmental justice activist was seen co-moderating one of the Spanish sessions, in a clear conflict of interest.
In the end, the meeting did nothing it was intended to do. Rather it is clear that this event was only done to check the box that the agencies had outreached to the community, and nothing meaningful was ever intended to come of it.
More than 230 farmers and farmworkers attended the inaugural Spray Safe event for Fresno and Madera Counties. Senator Melissa Hurtado kicked off the successful event by congratulating the industry for coming together to promote worker safety. Senator Hurtado was followed by US EPA Region IX Administrator Mike Stoker, and then the Fresno and Madera County Ag Commissioners, who provided regulation updates to attendees. In the main section of the event participants were educated on Paraquat regulation changes for 2020, Hazmat preparedness, herbicide/insecticide equipment calibration, Personal protective equipment (PPE), and respiratory protection. The training and education was provided in both English and Spanish. The event is modeled after the very successful and long running event in Kern County and a similar event is being held this week in Tulare for Tulare and Kings Counties. The Association is a sponsor and supporter of both events. Additional sponsors and supporters included the Western Plant Health Association, California Association of Pest Control Advisors, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Brandt, Simplot Grower Solutions, TriCal, Bayer, Simplot Agribusiness, California Citrus Mutual, Syngenta, California Fresh Fruit Association, Verdegaal Brothers, Wilbur Ellis Agribusiness, Madera County Farm Bureau, Fresno County Farm Bureau, American Pistachio Growers, Big W Sales, Nichino America, Green Valley Farm Supply, Stanislaus Farm Supply, Nutrien Ag Solutions, and Mid Valley Agricultural Services.
Late last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the revised Biological Opinions (BiOps) for the analyzing the operation of the Federal Central Valley Project (CVP) and the California State Water Project (SWP). Following the release of the BiOps, there have been numerous mischaracterizations of the opinions. The California Farm Water Coalition has developed a document that spells out the myths versus facts on the BiOps, and we have attached that summary here.
We just wanted to provide a friendly reminder that the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Truck and Bus reporting system for heavy duty diesel trucks is now open. The Truck and Bus Regulation is set to sunset in 2023, at that point, all vehicles older than 2010 must be retired, junked or sold out of the state. Over the past year, CARB has sent out over 50,000 enforcement letters to non-compliant fleet/truck owners, forcing them to comply with mileage limitations or sell the equipment outright and pay a significant fine for being out of compliance. Please note that there are changes to the current mileage limitations for agricultural compliance options. The significant changes include the Low Use Exemption being lowered from 5,000 miles per year down to 1,000 miles per year, and the Agricultural Mileage Extension dropping from 10,000 miles per year down to 5,000 miles per year. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Chris McGlothlin with CCGGA at (559)-252-0684, or by email at email@example.com.
With the New Year right around the corner, agricultural employers must review and update their overtime policies yet again to comply with Assembly Bill 1066. The timetable created by Assembly Bill 1066 back in 2016 will continue to be felt in the agricultural community until 2025. If you recall, the new law passed gradual change to overtime rules in order to align California Wage Order 14 overtime to be paid on the same basis as most other industries.
The changes are a phase-in schedule that require employers with 26 or more employees to pay overtime, effective January 01, 2020, after nine hours of work. The schedule for changes can be found here. Small employers with 25 or less employees can still pay straight wages for workdays that are 10 hours or less, or workweeks that are 60 hours or less. As a reminder, these small employers with 25 or less employees will be effected beginning January 01, 2022, at which point they will be required to pay overtime for workdays greater than 9.5 or workweeks over 55 hours.
Management can expect to see increased costs for labor for 2020 and beyond. If you are currently unsure how to plan for and calculate rates for overtime calculations, contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.
The mission of Spray Safe is “To encourage the safe application of agricultural chemicals through education and farmer to farmer communication and cooperation”. This is a free half day intensive training program, which offers Continuing Education Units for eligible employees and course work that focuses on the prevention of pesticide exposure incidents. It is also an excellent opportunity to improve communication among growers, chemical applicators and farm employees. There will be live demonstrations in English and Spanish on the topics of field worker safety; equipment calibration and maintenance; laws and regulations; and more. All agriculture employees are encouraged to attend.
To register for the Fresno-Madera Spray Safe training held on January 10 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, click here.
In addition, there will be a Tulare-Kings Spray Safe training on January 16 at the International Agri-Center, to register, click here.
If you have any questions regarding either training, please contact Elda Brueggemann at 559-455-9272 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Association’s Director of Technical Services Christopher McGlothlin was selected to participate in the Almond Board’s Almond Leadership Program for 2020. The program is a yearlong program designed to provide a mentored experience for the next generation of leaders, and includes leadership training seminars, hands-on educational opportunities, field experience and a firsthand look at the inner workings of the Almond Board of California. Through the Almond Leadership Program, participants will learn how to effectively lead, manage and inspire others in the almond community; enhance business relationships; understand current social, political, scientific and economic issues facing almonds; and master communication and leadership techniques relevant to managing or retaining a leadership role in almond organizations and their local community. Congratulations to Christopher!
California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association and Western Agricultural Processors Association, in collaboration with several agricultural groups, are planning a Spray Safe event at the Fresno Fairgrounds on January 10, 2019. The event is free and open to all farmers, employees, pest control advisors, and applicators. Please mark your calendars and join us for a great day of education. To register and see class schedule for the Fresno-Madera Spray Safe event please click here.
In addition to this event, there will be a Tulare-Kings Spray Safe event on January 16th at the International Agri-Center. To register for the Tulare-Kings Spray Safe event please register here.
The Association testified at last week’s hearing in Sacramento at the California Resources Board (CARB) in support of the voluntary incentive approach to replacing tractors in the San Joaquin Valley. The hearing was important because CARB must consider a backstop regulation beginning in 2025 if the voluntary approach doesn’t prove successful. Association President/CEO Roger Isom testified on the fact that agriculture did what it said it would do and over 1,000 tractors and harvesters have already been replaced. The San Joaquin Valley has now reduced 5.9 tons of NOx of the required 11 tons of NOx reductions for the State Implementation Plan (SIP) hearing. Association Director of Technical Services Christopher McGlothlin testified on the fact that more than 1,550 ATVs have been replaced with electric UTVs, which was an unexpected surprise. While there was very limited testimony in support of the effort, the SIP element update was approved. The San Joaquin Valley reported at the hearing that more than $200 million in projects are awaiting funding. Statewide over $97 million in projects have already been funded through the incentive program known as FARMER. FARMER funding comes from CARB’s greenhouse gas “Cap and Trade Program”. Unfortunately, after two years of funding in excess of $135 million, funding was reduced in fiscal year 2019-2020. The Association is leading a coalition that will be working to increase that funding in fiscal year 2020-2021 and is already lobbying on that effort.