NEWS & ISSUES

Bi-Weekly Bull Sessions

California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Western Agricultural Processors Association and the Ag Labor Team are scheduling “Bi-Weekly Bull Sessions” for our members that will take place on the first and third Wednesdays of every month beginning February 3, 2021.

Sessions will take place via Zoom and will be approximately one hour each, and members can join one of three (1 of 3) offerings at their leisure at the following times: 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Zoom logistics are as follows:
Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84109772049?pwd=OEhCakNQckwxek0rdzVhM2luT2hIdz09
Meeting ID: 841 0977 2049
Passcode: 185144
Zoom invitations will be sent out one (1) week prior to each session, with a one (1) day reminder.

We will start out with Bi-Weekly Bull Sessions and once we get deeper into the season (July), sessions will be throttled back to monthly management briefings to stay informed, and those sessions will take place on the first Wednesday of every month.

Bi-Weekly Bull Session Flyer

 

Construction Underway on Fresno State Tree Nut Processing Course Lab

After a year and a half of methodical planning, construction is finally underway at CSU Fresno for the Tree Nut Processing Course.  This lab & lecture structured course will provide students with an in-depth look at various equipment, technologies and programs that assist tree nut hulling, shelling and processing operations throughout the season.  Mirroring a similar class offered at Fresno State focusing on citrus packing, the Tree Nut Processing Course will provide students with hands on experience with industry equipment operation and maintenance.

WAPA Board Member Dan Pronsolino (Dunnigan Hills Hulling & Shelling) was instrumental in developing the overall scope of the course, while also contacting manufacturers on potential equipment donations for the lab.  WAPA would also like to recognize Gary Dunn with Wonderful Pistachios for his tireless work on developing the layout of the lab space, and for assisting in the installation of equipment.  This class would not have been possible without the partnership of CSU Fresno’s Department of Industrial Technology Department Chair, Dr. Athenasios Alexandrou as well as CSU Fresno’s AgOne Foundation Director Alcidia Freitas Gomes.  We would also like to take the opportunity to thank Tomra, Nolin, Forsberg, Wonderful, Cortina Hulling and Shelling, and Capay Canyon Ranch for their equipment donations; and a big thank you to Excelsior Construction and JTI for their installation expertise.  The course will undergo a semester to fine tune the curriculum this Spring, and will be opened for further student registration come Fall of 2021.

State Support Overview Meeting for California, Arizona & New Mexico

The Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated will be hosting a virtual Zoom meeting next week to help educate and inform growers and ginners of the many research projects that are supported through grower check-off dollars in our states in the West. It will be a brief 45-minute zoom call, with Cotton Incorporated staff providing an overview of the research projects that will be conducted throughout 2021. The zoom meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 27th, at 8:00 a.m. PST .

If you would like to register for the zoom meeting please email Christi Chadwell Short at cshort@cottonboard.org or giver her a call at (469) 951-6161and a zoom invite link will be sent to you. For more information see the attached invite.

COVID-19 Vaccine Phases and Tiers

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has distributed the COVID-19 vaccines in Phases and Tiers.  The first vaccines have been distributed to Phase 1A – Healthcare workers and Long-term care residents.  They now have allocated the COVID-19 vaccines to Phase 1B – which includes Food and Agriculture.  However, due to the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, some local health jurisdictions are providing registration and notification services.  Please click https://covid19.ca.gov/get-local-information/  – scroll down to find your county and click link.  Each county is different and you will need to either click on COVID-19 Resources or COVID-19 Vaccine Information on their webpage.

Food and Ag workers may need to show some form of verification that the worker is employed in the food/ag industry at the vaccination site (i.e., company letter designating essential worker, etc. – see attached sample).  Should you need assistance, please contact our office or Elda Brueggemann at (559) 351-1157.

Sample Letter

More than 200 Organizations Push Congress to Address Western Water Infrastructure

A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts including the California Cotton Ginners & Growers Association urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership today to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package. The coalition includes organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production, nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country, and tens of millions of urban and rural water users.  In separate letters to President-elect Biden and congressional leaders, the coalition said existing Western water infrastructure is in desperate need of rehabilitation and improvement. Most of the federal water projects in the West were built more than 50 years ago and were not designed with the present and future population demands and climate conditions in mind. Without immediate attention, the coalition said, the Western water system will quickly prove inadequate to meet the needs of urban and rural users and the environment.  The coalition encouraged the federal government to invest in a diversified water management portfolio that enhances water supply and quality for urban and environmental uses while keeping water flowing to Western farms. Specific recommendations include funding for:

• Water conservation.
• Water recycling, reuse and desalination projects.
• New water storage facilities, both surface and groundwater.
• Watershed management, fish passage and recovery, and habitat restoration.
• Federal financing mechanisms for water projects.
• Loans for local districts operating and maintaining federally owned irrigation projects.
• Water quality improvement for rural communities.

Beyond financial support, the coalition also called on the federal government to ensure the timely construction of water projects by streamlining the regulation and permitting processes.   Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom stated the time is absolutely now!  We have gone too many years without upgrades to our water infrastructure.”

Click here for the letter to President-elect Joe Biden and click here for the letter to congressional leadership.

Cal/OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements

Reminder – the annual posting of the Cal/OSHA 300A Summary, which lists the total number of job-related illnesses and injuries that occurred during 2020, must be posted from February 1st – April 30th, 2021. The summary must list the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2020and were logged on your Cal/OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. If no injuries or illnesses occurred in 2020, you must post the summarywith “zeros” on the total line.  The form must be signed and certified by a company executive and should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted. In addition, employerswith 20 or more employees, must upload the Summary data by March 2, 2021 to the OSHA ITA website www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/ita/. Please visit our website for Recordkeeping Forms or contact our office.

Governor Proposes $227 Billion Budget – Good News/Bad News for Agriculture

This past week, Governor Gavin Newsom presented his proposed $227 billion budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, of which $164.5 billion is from the General Fund. The Governor’s proposed budget relies heavily on one-time expenditures, avoiding long-term liabilities, since the State’s out year projections predict reduced revenues. The resulting budget provides some good news, as well as some bad news for agriculture.

This proposed budget prioritizes the Governor’s goals of economic recovery, equity, climate resiliency and emergency response. Governor Newsom was clear that every budget allocation was made in an effort to achieve these four goals. On the good news side of the ledger, the Governor included significant money for tractor and harvester replace in Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER), specifically $170 million one-time Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund ($90 million in 2020-21 and $80 million in 2021-22) for the Air Resources Board.  He also included $30 million for California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program to provide grants for on-farm soil management practices that sequester carbon. The proposed budget also includes $60 million for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Grants, and $40 million to CDFA for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) Grants that help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture pumping.

Unfortunately, the proposed budget also included some significant bad news, and that is the Administration proposed a four-year phased in mil assessment increase for pesticides. The mil will be tiered based on EPA hazard designations, with the pesticides with highest toxicity being assessed the highest. At the end of the four years, those products will be paying approximately 45 mils. There will also be new money for DPR air monitoring and enforcement. The proposed budget will now go to the legislature for review and debate so stay tuned as to what actually gets approved later this year.

COVID-19 Cases

As we begin the new year, the number of COVID-19 cases are rising – ACT NOW!  California has confirmed cases of the new and more infectious strain of COVID-19, it is important to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself, your family, your friends and your co-workers.  Continue to wash your hands often with soap and water, monitor your health daily – be alert to symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms), and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.  For additional COVID-19 information and resources, please visit our website www.agprocessors.org.

New Year Means Updates to Minimum Wage/Ag Overtime

The start of a new year means that minimum wage and agricultural overtime pay scales are being updated.  The current changes to minimum wage are as follows; for employers with 25 employees or less the minimum wage is now $13.00/hour, employers with 26 or more employees will see an increase in minimum wage to $14.00/hour. Minimum wage increases are set to continue for the next two years, ultimately stopping at the beginning of 2023 at $15.00/hour.

Shifting to pay requirements for agricultural overtime applicability, Ag Overtime was initiated through Senate Bill 1066.  Starting this year, overtime pay is triggered after 8.5 hours per day, or 45 hours per week, for employers with 26 or more employees.  It should be noted that employers with 25 employees or less do not trigger the agricultural overtime requirements until the start of 2022.  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Association.