NEWS & ISSUES

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.

Association Testifies at CDPR Hearing on Statewide Notification

More than 50 people attended the public hearing last night in Clovis on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (CDPR) proposed regulation to Provide Public Access to Pesticide Information Prior to Applications.  The Association’s President/CEO Roger A. Isom was in attended and spoke in opposition to the proposed regulation.   At the beginning of his comments Isom stated “CDPR is doing a disservice to the people in attendance here tonight and to all parties involved.  CDPR must explain the lengthy and robust process that every single pesticide goes through to become registered.  The restrictions on the labels come after years of testing and thorough review by the scientists at CDPR and EPA.  I do not believe CDPR would allow the use of any pesticide that would cause harm to any farmworker, resident, or innocent bystander.  So why is this regulation needed if the necessary precautions to ensure a safe environment are already in place.  CDPR needs to explain that”.

Many commenters blamed pesticides for cancer, asthma, valley fever and one even blamed pesticides for fading the color of her clothes within days of exposure to pesticides.  Another blamed pesticides for causing all the fallowed lands in western Fresno County stating “they must be contaminated from pesticides.”  Isom further commented “our opposition is not to the notification itself, but to the ramifications of the notification like we have seen in Monterey County where applications have been put on hold for weeks due to public appeals only to be approved in the end.”  Joining the Association in commenting was the Nisei Farmers League and several growers, PCAs and an aerial applicator.  Comments are being accepted until January 12th.

Association Part of Two Panels at the 2023 SJVAPCD Governing Board Study Session

Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom represented agricultural interests on two important panels at the 2023 San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board Study Session.  The two-day Study Session is held every year to allow the Governing Board to take a deeper dive into major issues facing the District.  The issue for the first panel was the topic of “Continued Efforts to Partner with Valley Agriculture to Reduce Nut Harvest Emissions”.  Isom kicked off the panel and focused on highlighting the existing incentive programs for “low dust harvesters”, as well as a need to expand the programs to include conditioners and “low dust conditioners”.  Isom further highlighted the need for research to support these efforts, while emphasizing the importance of incentives as the key to any successful and meaningful replacement  of this equipment, especially given current commodity pricing.  Joining Isom on the Panel were representatives from the Almond Board of California and the USDA NRCS.  On the second day, Association President/CEO Isom opened up the panel on the issue of “Zero-Emission Heavy Duty Vehicle and Equipment Infrastructure Challenges and Opportunities.”  Isom focused on major issues with the lack of infrastructure for both electric and hydrogen fuel sources, as well as major cost implications.  Isom commented that compliance dates need to be adjusted once we truly understand our infrastructure needs including how much, when and where the demand will be for either electricity or hydrogen.  He also stated that two rules are impacting agriculture in this matter, including the new truck rules and the proposed forklift rule, and stated incentives were needed to assist agriculture on both of these regulations.  Joining Isom on the panel were representatives from the California Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, Go-BIZ and the California Transportation Commission.

Ag Meets Tractor Replacement Goal for Clean Air!

Last week, representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 (US EPA) came together in Modesto to sign a historic proclamation lauding the successful efforts to reduce agricultural-related air quality emissions in the San Joaquin Valley. The proclamation stated, “that through the emissions reductions achieved by the District, CARB, and NRCS grant program partnerships, the agricultural industry has met their commitment to accelerate turnover of agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley to cleaner equipment and achieved over 11 tons per day of NOx emission reductions in 2024”.  According to the District, in order to meet the emission reduction commitment, through the Carl Moyer, FARMER, DERA, TAG, and EQIP incentive programs, the agricultural industry turned over and destroyed over 12,800 pieces of older agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley, of which over 7,300 were the oldest Tier 0 agricultural equipment with no emissions controls.

“The agricultural sector in the San Joaquin Valley is an economic powerhouse for the state. Moving towards the cleanest available technology in this sector continues to be critical to improving the air in the Valley,” said Liane Randolph, Chair of the California Air Resources Board. “We all have a role to play in building a healthier, more sustainable California, and today’s event shows what we can achieve when we work together.”

“NRCS California is proud to have helped our farmers replace more than 6,000 old, polluting tractors since 2008, with an emission’s reduction equivalent of removing 1.5 million cars off California’s roads,” said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “But we didn’t do this alone – a robust partnership of agriculture and governmental partners have teamed with us for more than a decade working together to make our air cleaner and healthier for Central Valley communities.”

“The District applauds the leadership of local and state legislators, as well as Valley farmers in recognizing the public health and climate benefits provided throughout California from clean air investments,” stated Samir Sheikh, Executive Director/Air Pollution Control Officer for the Valley Air District. “The San Joaquin Valley agricultural sector feeds the world and coordinated multi-agency efforts like this must continue to support farmers’ ongoing transition to sustainable and air-friendly practices.”

In a District press release, they commented “While the San Joaquin Valley has some of the most challenging fine particulate matter and ozone air quality issues in the nation, the Valley has a long history of collaboration with Valley agricultural stakeholders, partner agencies, state and federal legislators, and the California Governor.  This collaboration has led to the accelerated turnover of older agricultural equipment to lower-emitting equipment through significant funding under the federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), Targeted Airshed Grant (TAG) funding programs, and the state Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) Program. CARB, the District, and NRCS also partnered with the Valley agricultural industry for decades through the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program (Carl Moyer Program), and the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The total public (District, CARB, NRCS, and U.S. EPA) and private investment in agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley since 2015 has equated to over $1.6 billion, more than half of which was spent by farmers and others in the agricultural industry.”

On hand for the event was Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom. Isom commented “The Association spent a lot of time, effort and political capital over the past several years to make sure this day happened, and to stave off any type of mandatory replacement rule like the CARB Truck Rule that would have ultimately put farmers out of business.”