EPA Publishes Update on Herbicide Strategy Progress

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing an update to its draft Herbicide Strategy, which is part of the Agency’s plan to improve how it meets its Endangered Species Act (ESA) obligations. The revised draft strategy is in response to comments received on the initial draft. The draft strategy, which EPA released for public comments in July 2023, describes whether, how much, and where mitigations may be needed to protect listed species from agricultural uses of conventional herbicides. The goal is for EPA to use the strategy to proactively determine mitigations for registration and registration review actions for herbicides even before EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) formally complete the lengthy ESA determination on whether an herbicide has effects on a listed species. EPA received extensive comments on the draft strategy, who identified concerns with specific aspects of the draft strategy and suggested revisions. EPA plans to make a number of improvements to the draft based on this feedback, with the primary changes falling into three categories.

  • Making the strategy easier to understand. Many commenters noted the complexity of the strategy to determine the amount of mitigation a label requires for a particular pesticide—up to nine points of mitigation. In response, EPA is simplifying its approach, such as by using four tiers—none, low, medium, high—to describe the amount of mitigation that may be needed for each herbicide. EPA also plans to create educational materials that concisely explain the four-tier mitigation approach.
  • Increasing flexibility for growers to implement the mitigation measures in the strategy. EPA expects to expand its mitigation measures, especially for specialty crops such as cherries and mint, to include new measures such as erosion barriers, reservoir tillage, and soil carbon amendments. EPA is also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other organizations to identify other measures to add to the mitigation menu that can reduce pesticide runoff and erosion.
  • Reducing the amount of mitigation that may be needed when growers have already adopted voluntary practices to reduce pesticide runoff or where runoff potential is lower due to geography. For example, in areas of the country with flat lands or minimal precipitation where runoff potential is low, growers may need less or no additional measures to use agricultural herbicides, compared to what is currently in the draft strategy. EPA is also considering whether growers could meet any necessary mitigation requirements if they participate in agricultural conservation programs or work with qualified experts to design and implement mitigation measures.

EPA is also working on other changes to the Herbicide Strategy and how it is implemented. For many listed species, the maps used in the draft strategy for determining where mitigation measures would apply are often too broad, covering areas not needed to conserve the species. EPA is working with FWS and others to develop a process for refining maps for hundreds of species. Through this work, EPA expects that the land area subject to the pesticide restrictions under the final strategy could shrink for many species.  The Agency expects to publish the final strategy in August 2024.

Bureau Increases Federal Water Allocation

This past week the Bureau of Reclamation announced an increase in Central Valley Project 2024 water supply allocations. After below average precipitation in January, Reclamation announced an initial water supply allocation for the CVP on Feb. 21. Mid to late February storms have since improved hydrological conditions particularly for Northern California, allowing for a more robust water supply allocation.   “Thanks to the improved hydrology, we are pleased to announce a bump in water supply allocations for the Central Valley Project,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Karl Stock. “While the series of storms in Northern California improved the water supply outlook, a number of factors, particularly anticipated regulatory constraints throughout the spring, continue to limit the water supply allocation for south-of-Delta agriculture.”  In recognition of recent efforts to develop a south-of-Delta drought plan, Reclamation is reserving approximately 83,000 acre-feet of water currently in San Luis Reservoir that will contribute to a drought reserve pool and is not considered as a volume of water available for this year’s water supply allocations. Additionally, approximately 185,000 acre-feet of rescheduled water from the 2023 water year, also stored in San Luis Reservoir, is not included in the 2024 water supply allocation. Based on current hydrology and forecasting, Reclamation is announcing the following increases to CVP water supply allocations: 

North-of-Delta Contractors

  • Irrigation water service and repayment contractors north-of-Delta are increased to 100% from 75% of their contract total.

South-of-Delta Contractors

  • Irrigation water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta, including Cross Valley Contractors, are increased to 35% from 15% of their contract total.
  • M&I water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta are increased to 75% of historical use or public health and safety, whichever is greater, up from 65% of historical use.

Friant Division Contractors

  • Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River and categorized by Class 1 and Class 2. The first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1; Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet. Class 1 is increased to 65% from 60%; Class 2 remains at 0%.

As the water year progresses, changes in hydrology, actions that impact operations, and opportunities to deliver additional water will influence future allocations. 


Cal/OSHA Adopts Indoor Heat Illness Standard – Will it Stick?

This week the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved the “Indoor Heat Illness” Standard.  However, they did so in defiance of direction from the Department of Finance who notified the Standards Board Wednesday that the regulation would not be approved due to significant costs to its own states agencies, supposedly the state prison system.  After notifying the public at its hearing in San Diego, activists ran wild chanting and protesting and eventually shutting the hear down.  Later, the Standards Board reconvened and adopted the standard anyway, allegedly as a sign of protest the last-minute direction from the state.  The Association has actively been engaged in opposition to the proposed standard stating it would cost millions to retrofit ag buildings, such as cotton gins, nut hullers and processors and farm shops.    The Association even made a standalone presentation to the Standards Board last June on the matter.  Unfortunately, those concerns went largely unnoticed until the State’s own agencies determined how costly compliance would be.  So now we wait to see what the state will do.  The Department of Finance must approve the regulation for it to go into effect, so we are in uncharted territory here.  Stay tuned to hear the latest.

Association Addresses Senate Ag Committee on Energy Issues

This week, Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom spoke to the Senate Ag Committee as a panelist at a committee hearing entitled “Navigating Threats to California Agriculture – Continuing the Discussion.”  Speaking on behalf of not only the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) and the Western Agriculture Processors Association (WAPA), but also the Ag Energy Consumers Association of which he chairs the board, Isom was one of five panelists that addressed everything from SGMA and water to energy, land use and pesticides.  Isom focused on the impacts of the State’s efforts to address climate change and how the shortage of electric infrastructure, skyrocketing electric rates and the high cost of new electric equipment will make California agriculture even more non-competitive than it is today.  Isom opened his comments by stating “California is headed for a train wreck.  Agriculture in California is doing these things to address climate change and the state is not ready.  We don’t have the infrastructure; we already pay the highest electric rates in the country, and we cannot pass along the cost to pay for the new infrastructure or the new equipment.”   Senate Ag Committee Chair Melissa Hurtado thanked Isom for his comments and thought the hearing was important for the legislature to hear the concerns.  Will the legislature do anything to step in and change things.  Only time will tell.  But one thing is for sure.  Electric rates are getting a lot of attention by the legislature, and we are only beginning to feel the pain.  Maybe this will be our opportunity to reign this runaway freight train in.


24 States Sue EPA To Overturn Tougher PM NAAQS

This week twenty four (24) states filed a lawsuit against Federal EPA to vacate the Agency’s recently strengthened national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).   The lawsuit was filed the very same day as EPA published the rule in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day window for litigants to file petitions for judicial review. The 24 states suing EPA over the rule are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.  These same states urged the Biden administration before the rule was promulgated not to proceed with tougher standards.  “Petitioners will show that the final rule exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law. Petitioners thus ask that this Court declare unlawful and vacate the agency’s final action,” the States say in their suit.  EPA’s rule tightens the prior annual “primary,” or health-based standard for PM2.5 from 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) down to 9 ug/m3.   Most believe the new standard will place many more areas into “nonattainment”  and as a result these areas must develop state implementation plans (SIPs) outlining measures to attain the limit and must impose tougher-still permitting requirements on new and modified industrial facilities.  For California, especially the San Joaquin Valley, this new standard will be problematic to meet and could trigger even tougher requirements on farm equipment and even tighter fugitive dust regulations.

Association’s Priscilla Rodriguez Joins Water Blueprint Board

At this past month’s Board of Directors Meeting for the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint, the Association’s Assistant Vice President Priscilla Rodriguez was elected to the Board.  Ms. Rodriguez brings many years of water experience with her from the time she worked for the Friant Water Authority and the Latino Water Coalition to the many years she has worked here at the Association.  The Water Blueprint commented in its press release that her expertise on water policy will be invaluable as the Blueprint continues its efforts to address the water challenges facing the San Joaquin Valley.   She joins new elected board member Daniel Hartwig with the California Fresh Fruit Association.  Newly elected Chairman Eddie Ocampo said “We are thrilled to welcome Daniel Hartwig and Priscilla Rodriguez to the board.  Their insights and perspectives will be invaluable in guiding our work and shaping the future of water management in the San Joaquin Valley. The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley is a collaborative initiative bringing together stakeholders from agriculture, industry, government, and non-profit organizations to address the region’s water challenges. Through research, advocacy, and community engagement, the Water Blueprint works to develop sustainable water management solutions that support economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and social equity in the San Joaquin Valley.

Cal/OSHA Considering 4th Draft of Walking/Working Surfaces Regulation

This month the Cal/OSHA Standards Board will convene an Advisory Committee to consider the 4th draft of its Walking/Working Surfaces Regulation.  These revisions are necessary to meet Federal OSHA requirements and prevent falls.  The Association’s President/CEO Roger A. Isom was asked by Cal/OSHA to sit on the committee and will be participating.  Walking/Working Surfaces include but are not limited to:

  • Floors
  • Stairways
  • Steps
  • Roofs
  • Ramps
  • Runways
  • Aisles
  • Scaffolds
  • Dock plates
  • Step bolts


The draft proposal would revise and update several safety orders, including definitions, guardrails and toeboards, guard rails and fall protection at elevated levels, personal fall protection systems, falling object protection, fall protection training requirements, roof and floor openings, service pits, and yard surface openings, stair railings and handrails, and stairways.  Agricultural buildings including cotton gins, tree nut hullers and processors, and packing houses all will be affected by the proposed changes.  The latest FedOSHA requirements were adopted in 2017 and Cal/OSHA must adopt these changes. 

Association Attends Meeting with Senator Butler and Congressman Costa

This past week, Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom attended and spoke at an invitation only meeting with United States Senator Laphonza Butler and Congressman Jim Costa.  Representatives from Westlands Water District, Friant Water Authority, San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority joined representatives from the Nisei Farmers League, California Fresh Fruit Association, African American Farmers of California, Fresno County Farm Bureau, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association and the Western Agricultural Processors Association.  Discussions focused on water, immigration, exports and equity.  Isom commented on lack of water is impacting crops in the San Joaquin Valley and highlighted the efforts of the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and its goal of attempting to makeup the 2 million acre-feet of water shortfall to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Association President/CEO Isom Addresses APMA Convention

Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom gave the keynote address to more than 450 people at this year’s Ag Personal Management Association (APMA) 2024 Forum in Monterey, California. Isom discussed the State’s push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to improve climate change, as well as the push to improve labor conditions and the alleged impacts of pesticide applications. Isom highlighted rules and regulations devastating the agricultural industry based on hysteria and baseless claims. Isom encouraged the crowd to “get involved” and help push back at hearings and workshops when agriculture is outnumbered every single time at rates as much as 10 to 1. He stated “agriculture’s voice mush be heard, and the facts have to be presented above the noise of the accusations with no scientific basis to support them. 

Association Announces Election Results

The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association is pleased to announce the re-election of the following board members.   Re-elected to the board were the following Ginners: Tom Gaffney, J.G. Boswell Company; and Tom Pires, West Island Cotton Growers.  The following Growers were re-elected: Kings County: Jim Razor, Geoff Toledo, and Phil Hansen; and newly elected for Southern California: Aaron Palmer.  Not seeking re-election was Tim Cox from Southern California.  Cox had served on the board since 2010, and the Association is truly grateful for his service and participation over the past 13 years.  All board member positions are three-year terms.