With less than six (6) days to go, the California State Legislature is attempting a “gut and amend” which would impose a $2.5 billion surcharge on electric ratepayers at an amount of $0.005 per kWh through the year 2051. For our members, that equates to $7,000 to $20,000 in additional annual electricity cost depending upon usage! The legislation begins with talking about the more than 500 wildfires this year, yet they admit they were caused by lightning. Nothing in this bill can or will stop lightning from occurring. Furthermore, the more than $2.5 billion raised by this surcharge on our members will be used for things like $50 million for the Air Resources Board to find alternatives for pile burning, $200 million for forest restoration, $300 million to Strategic Growth Council for cooling centers and backup solar power, and $50 million to restore flows in the San Joaquin River. Where’s the connection to lightning caused fires? Association President/CEO Roger Isom stated “It is unacceptable in a year like 2020 to think it is okay to levy $2.5 billion in taxes on the very ratepayers who are keeping Californians employed during this pandemic. Adding $7,000 to $20,000 in annual electricity bills to the businesses in California, who already pay the highest electricity rates in the country, is simply unacceptable. To use these funds for projects like restoring flows in the San Joaquin River, cooling centers and pile burning under the guise of reducing fire risk is inexplicable.” We urge every one of our representatives to oppose yet another tax increase and vote NO on AB 1659.
NEWS & ISSUES
Wildfires continue to burn throughout California – be sure to protect your outdoor workers by following the Protection from Wildfire Smoke regulation §5141.1:
– Monitor the Air Quality Index, airnow.gov enter your location and the current AQI will be listed
– AQI of 151 or greater is unhealthy for general population. When AQI is for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, employers must provide respirators to all employees for voluntary use in accordance with §5144
– 1Respiratory protection such as disposable respirators – for voluntary use – to filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99 or P-100 and must be labeled with NIOSH approval.
o Encourage employees to use respirators.
o Bandanas, t-shirt, surgical masks will not provide protection against wildfire smoke.
– Train employees on wildfire smoke hazards, health effects of wildfire smoke, the right to obtain medical treatment, how employees can access current AQI for PM2.5, communicate with employee of harmful air quality, protections available and how to use respirators using section 5141.1 Appendix B.
– Implement modifications to the workplace, if feasible, to reduce exposure.
– Implement changes to work procedures, if practicable, to work schedules.
1Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the N95s and other filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) are in limited or zero supply, the Association is working with a statewide coalition to convince the state to allow for alternative masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the County Agricultural Commissioners (CAC), the CAC’s began to distribute no-cost N-95 masks to pesticide applicators. However, with the recent wildfires and shortage supply of N-95 masks, the CAC’s will now be distributing a limited supply of no-cost N-95 masks throughout the state to agricultural businesses for worker protection from wildfire smoke. The limited supply of N-95 masks will be at no cost to you. Contact your local county agricultural commissioner to schedule a pickup time to receive these N-95 masks for your business.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pink Bollworm Program has released its report for monitoring Silverleaf Whitefly. The program monitored for whitefly and other cotton pests from July 27, 2020 to August 7, 2020. For the full report, please click here.
The Cotton Board will be hosting Jon Devine, Senior Economist for Cotton Incorporated, as he discusses the current climate of the U.S. Cotton market. Jon will share a unique analysis of the latest events affecting the world cotton supply and demandsituation and world cotton prices.
You can view the flyer here for more information.
The Central Valley will be hit with high heat temperatures for the next several days with some areas experiencing temperature over 108 degrees. It is imperative to follow your high heat procedures – when temperature is 95 degrees or above for outdoor work:
⇒ be sure to conduct a tailgate meeting before work beginsand review heat illness prevention procedures, weather forecast, emergency response and additional safety measures;
⇒ remind employees to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, and
⇒ take a cool down rest break in shade as needed.
⇒ If possible, adjust work schedules:
o start the work shift earlier in the day or later in the evening;
o schedule heavy work activities during cooler parts of the day (early morning or
evening) and less physically demanding work during the hot parts of the day;
o split work shifts to avoid work during the hottest part of the day;
o rotative employees through less physically demanding jobs, or
o cut work shifts short or stop work altogether.
⇒ Encourage employees to drink water throughout the work shift to prevent dehydration.
⇒ Observe employees more closely for alertness or any signsor symptoms of heat illness by using your mandatory ‘buddy system’.
⇒ Maintain effective communication via voice, observation, two-way radio, cell phone, so employees at the work site can contact a supervisor when necessary. Encourage communication about how they are feeling on a more frequent basis.
⇒ Provide an additional 10-minute cool down rest period every two hours – if timing coincides with regular rest period, no additional preventative cool-down rest period required.
You would be hard pressed to say that any other commodity has been hit as hard as cotton as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prices have dropped, shipments have essentially stopped, and the stores selling ELS cotton products have closed and some have even gone out of business. But apparently, USDA does not agree. Yesterday, USDA expanded the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to include 59 additional commodities and livestock, ranging from bok choy, dill, and kohlrabi, to largemouth bass and cut flowers. But they failed to include ELS cotton, which has not only experienced a reduction in price, but almost a complete shutdown in terms of the sale and movement of ELS cotton. With mills shut down across the globe and retail outlets closed and filing for bankruptcy, ELS cotton is suffering like never before. The cotton industry submitted price information in response to the May 22nd, Federal Register notice requesting additional information for those commodities that were left out of the first round of CFAP funding. In response to that submittal, USDA claimed that the industry only provided export prices, whichUSDA believes does not reflect grower prices. ELS cotton does not have a futures price, and is only determined through a contractual agreement between the seller and the buyer. Export prices were the only prices that could be used. President/CEO Roger Isom stated “The failure by USDA to recognize the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the ELS cotton industry is mind numbing. Our prices have dropped and cotton is not moving.” The ELS cotton industry and the Association is now turning its attention to Congress to see what relief may come in the next COVID-19 aid package.
The District has reopened the Zero-Emission Ag Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) Voucher program for the replacement of existing diesel or gasoline-powered UTVs, as well as tractors less than 25 horsepower, with new zero-emission UTVs to qualified individuals, businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations involved in California agricultural operation as defined by The California Air Resources Board. The District is now accepting applications under this program. This program is intended to fund up to 75% of the eligible cost of new equipment, with a maximum eligible funding amount of $13,500. Eligible costs does not include additional batteries. To complete your application and to review Guideline documents, please visit the District’s website at http://valleyair.org/grants/utv.htm. If you do not see the “Apply” link, you may need to refresh your browser. Please contact the District’s Zero Emission Ag UTV Program Staff at 559-230-5800 with any questions you may have.