NEWS & ISSUES

Water Announcement Tempers Enthusiasm on California Cotton Acreage Increase

The good news is that cotton acreage looks like it will increase for the 2nd year in a row.  Record rainfall and snowpack, coupled with stable cotton prices and falling prices from other commodities are leading to an increase in cotton acreage.  However, that increase is being tempered by a disappointing, less than expected water allotment from the Central Valley Project (CVP) of only 65%, and the potential flooding in the Tulare lake bottom in Kings County.

As of today, all indicators of water supply are above normal.  Way above.  Currently, the statewide snowpack is at 164% of average, while statewide rainfall is over 200% of average to date, with Blue Canyon in the northern Sierras at 245% and Mariposa in the central Sierras at 211% of average to date.   Reservoirs are all higher than average with Shasta at 87%, Oroville at 74%, New Melones at 77%, Don Pedro at 88%, and most importantly San Luis is at 98%.  Flood releases are occurring at many of these dams including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and Millerton.

Yet, with all of these positive factors, farmers relying upon the CVP water are only going to receive 65% of their allotment.  While industry is thankful for the water, it is inconceivable that the number isn’t closer to 80% or more.  Unfortunately, this will have a direct impact on the cotton plantings for this coming year.

According to preliminary planting intentions survey conducted by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association this past month, the Association is currently estimating approximately 186,000 acres of pima and 70,000 acres of upland statewide for the 2017 cotton season.   This survey is based on surveys from all of the gins in California prior to planting and a lot can happen between now and when things are actually planted.  If it plays out, it will represent a 22% increase in pima acreage and a 6% increase in upland acreage in California as compared to 2016.

Successful Sticky Cotton Summit at Fresno State

The California cotton industry gathered at Fresno State to participate in the 2017 Sticky Cotton Summit hosted by California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA). Dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Dr. Sandra Witte welcomed the group to Fresno State campus and thanked the attendees for the ongoing support that the agriculture industry has shown for the Jordan College. Attendees of the summit had the opportunity to meet Dr. Margaret Ellis of Fresno State. Dr. Ellis is the recipient of a CCGGA research grant surrounding Fusarium in cotton and fungicide efficacy, she is the first professor at Fresno State to receive a grant from the Association.

Jordan College Dean Dr. Sandra Witte welcoming Sticky Cotton Summit attendees.

As the program for the Sticky Cotton Summit got underway panels from the mill, merchant, ginner, grower, PCA and UCCE offered their perspective on how sticky cotton impacts their respective segments of the industry. In addition, USDA-ARS researcher Chris Delhom demonstrated the diverse testing methodologies that are present throughout the country, in part creating an issue of developing uniform testing standards for the industry to adopt. The conclusion of the summit resulted in an open group discussion that led to action items for the industry and CCGGA to pursue. The items included looking into a uniform gin level penalty for sticky cotton delivered, conducting outreach, education and retraining on thresholds and best management practices for growers, seeking additional research dollars to invest in sticky cotton testing measures as well as increasing awareness in order to have more open communication surrounding the issue. CCGGA was directed to develop an industry subcommittee to ensure the progress of the action items outlined from the day’s discussion. We will be sure to provide updates and progress as these items are pursued.

Following the summit Fresno State’s Ag One Foundation welcomed members and staff of CCGGA to tour Fresno State’s 1,000-acre farm, the Fresno State Gibson Farm Market as well as a tour of the new Jordan Agricultural Research Center. The tour showcased the diversity of the agricultural operations students have access to use as well as the vision for the agricultural centered research to be conducted on campus for years to come.

Air District Puts Everything on the Table to Address PM2.5

Succumbing to the pressure of having to attain an impossible air quality standard with very little assistance from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) or Federal EPA, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District unveiled a long list of far reaching control measures to reduce PM2.5.  Those measures up for discussion include:

 

  • Replace all almond harvesters in Valley with latest low-emitting harvester technologies
  • Install PM control technology on larger under-fired charbroilers installed within last 10-15 years (360 out of 1,800)
  • Enhance CMPs for ag operations to reduce directly emitted PM
  • Replace 23,628 older high emitting residential wood-burning devices with cleaner devices
  • Electrify 1,053 ag pump engines in areas impacting peak PM2.5 sites where access to electricity is available
  • Lower NOx limit for container glass plants
  • Lower NOx emissions from various boiler, steam generator, process heaters > 5 MMBtu/hr
  • Lower NOx emissions from various boiler, steam generator, process heaters 2 to 5 MMBtu/hr
  • Install ultra-low NOx flare technology and require additional flare minimization practices
  • Lower NOx emissions from various non-agricultural engine categories
  • Replace 74,912 heavy heavy-duty trucks with upcoming 0.02 g/bhp-hr ultra-low NOx trucks that are 90% cleaner than 2010 trucks recently required by ARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation
  • Replace 110,000 medium heavy-duty trucks with upcoming 0.02 g/bhphr ultra-low NOx trucks that are 90% cleaner than 2010 trucks recently required by ARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation
  • Replace 102,936 light heavy-duty trucks with upcoming 0.02 g/bhp-hr ultra-low NOx trucks that are 90% cleaner than 2010 trucks recently required by ARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation
  • Install 2,622 natural gas fueling stations for deployment of 0.02 g/bhp-hr ultra-low NOx heavy duty trucks
  • Replace 320,000 passenger vehicles with zero-emission vehicles
  • Replace 76 locomotives with new Tier 4 locomotives

 

The price tag for all of these measures, which the District says need to be done by 2019?  More than $51 billion!  The District staff laid this out today to the Governing Board stating their back is up against the wall, but realizes the above listed measures are too costly and impractical to achieve without incentive monies.  Unfortunately, the District will face federal sanctions unless they can get into attainment of the PM2.5 standard by 2019.  CCGGA President/CEO Roger Isom testified before the Governing Board on the issue stating that the almond harvesting and CMP modifications have not yet been proven to reduce PM2.5 emissions and further research is needed.  Isom also expressed concerns with rising electricity prices that may dissuade farmers from switching from diesel to electric, and encouraged the District to help on that particular issue.  Later in the same meeting, the District brought up but did not adopt such “draconian measures” as “no farm days”, “no construction days” and “no drive days” where Interstate 5 and Highway 99 would be shut down.  Again, the District was trying to state the seriousness of the issue while placing boundaries on what can and cannot be done.  The District will have to adopt their PM2.5 plan demonstrating attainment by August of this year.

DPR Releases Revised Pesticide Use Near Schools Regulation

The Department of Pesticide Regulation released the revised Pesticide Use Near Schools Regulation today. After several months of reviewing comments, the revised regulation provides little relief to the agricultural industry from these over reaching proposals amended to become effective January 1, 2018.

Below are the most substantial changes to the document:

  • Schoolsite is given a clearer definition, identifying a schoolsite as a property used as a child day care facility (defined by the Health and Safety Code) or kindergarten, elementary or secondary school. The definition includes all areas of property used on weekdays by children who attend such facilities. Commissioners can identify adjacent parks if used for school activities.
    • Schoolsite does not include family day care homes, private schools, vehicles or bus stops not on schoolsite property.
  • The 48-hour notification was eliminated, however annual notification would still be required.
  • Growers who need to use a pesticide that was not included on the annual notification must provide the required information to the school site and commissioner at least 48 hours prior to application

Despite specific requests directly to DPR and through public comments, the regulations failed to identify commodity fumigation exempt from this proposal. The regulation will be open for a 15-day public comment period from March 20th to April 4th. CCGGA, who testified at the Tulare hearing with more than 20 growers, will continue to oppose the proposal.

Written comments relevant to the modifications may be sent via e-mail <dpr16004@cdpr.ca.gov>; or may be directed to Ms. Linda Irokawa-Otani, Regulations Coordinator, Department of Pesticide Regulation, 1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, California 95812-4015. FAX: (916) 324-1491.

Association Keeps Pressure on Increasing SWRCB Fees

In response to a proposed 27% increase in Irrigated Lands (ILRP) fees and a 7% increase in Waste Discharge (WDR) fees, the Association has been meeting with Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittee members who will review the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) proposed budgets next week.  Association President/CEO Roger Isom has been walking the halls on the issue highlighting the shift of program cost burden from the General Fund to permit holders such as farms and processors.  In particular, the Association has pointed out the problem with assessing the cost burden of programs such as beach cleanup and monitoring, TMDL and Basin Plan amendments on these two sources.  The Association has also gone to great detail to identify concerns with the sheer cost of the WDR permit as compared to other environmental permits including air pollution permits.  Currently, WDR permits typically cost more than 2 ½ times the air quality permits.  With the looming budget hearings, the Association will remain vigilant in fighting these proposed fee increases.

Hydrauli-flex Scholarship Accepting Applications

In an effort to support the fields such as engineers, machinists and inventors the $1000 scholarship will be exclusive for students finishing their studies in a respective field that utilizes hydraulics. To be eligible for the scholarship students but be in the last year of study for their degree program, be in good academic standing (3.0 GPA or better) and must apply online. The application and additional scholarship requirements can be found at https://www.hydraulichose.com/hydrauli-flex-education-scholarship/. Applications must be turned in no later than June 30, 2017.

Tractor Train-the-Trainer Workshops

In the ongoing effort to increase safety awareness in the agricultural industry, a coalition of agricultural organizations is conducting a specialized “train-the-trainer” workshops with an emphasis on tractor safety.
The training is for Owners, Farmers, Managers, Supervisors and those who are responsible for training on agricultural equipment. Each participant will be provided with the information needed for understanding the rules and regulations on tractor operation and conducting training. Sessions will cover Cal/OSHA regulations, safety aspects and proper operation and maintenance.
This class does not “certify” or authorize the participants to operate a tractor. Official training must be provided by the employer on their specific equipment and documented as such. The training provided is to educate participants on what needs to be covered in their training programs, and how to effectively train their own employees on these same issues.
Cost: $50 per participant
Pay online www.agprocessors.org and Fax form or Fax/Mail registration form and a check payable to:

Western Agricultural Processors Association
1785 N. Fine Avenue, Fresno, California 93727

Office (559) 455-9272
FAX (559) 251-4471
Check out all our locations by clicking the Registration Form below!

Tractor “Train the Trainer” Workshop Registration Form

State Water Board Proposes to Substantially Increase Fees

At a workshop in Sacramento this past week, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) proposed to increase the SWRCB portion of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) fee by 21.9%  The ILRP fees are paid by every grower  and cover the SWRCB portion of the fee each grower pays to his/her watershed coalition.  CCGGA President/CEO Roger Isom was present at the workshop and testified adamantly against the fee increase, calling it unjustified.  The final fees will be adopted later this year; meanwhile, CCGGA is opposing any fee increase and preparing information to support the opposition.

Rest Breaks Must Be Completely “Off-Duty”

 
By: Rebecca Hause-Schultz
In a decision unfavorable to employers, the California Supreme Court in Augustus v. ABM Security recently ruled that employees must be relieved of all duties and relinquish all control over employees during rest periods. At issue in the case, the defendant employer, a security company, required its security guard employees to keep pagers and radio phones turned on and with them during rest periods. The Court reasoned that on-duty or on-call rest periods require employees to essentially perform free work, meaning that the employee receives the same amount of compensation for working through the rest periods as the employee would have had the employee been permitted to take off-duty rest periods.
The Court held that even through employees were required just to keep their radio phones and pagers on, and may not necessarily be interrupted during their break, the practice compelled “employees to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices.” Thus, the Court concluded that the employees did not receive an off-duty break, in violation of the law.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
This case highlights how critical it is for employees to be relieved of all duties and not be “on-call” during rest periods. Further, employers should ensure that employees receive a total of no less than ten net minutes of rest period time for each rest break. If you have questions as to whether your company’s rest break policy is lawful, please contact the Saqui Law Group.

ARB Staff Holds Workshop on Draft 2030 Scoping Plan

Last week, ARB staff held a workshop in Sacramento to discuss the economic analysis currently being conducted on the proposed 2030 Scoping Plan.  ARB staff discussed that the economic models would be officially released along with another draft in January, however, the economic data would not fully be discussed in that workshop.  ARB’s 2030 Scoping Plan aims to achieve a 40% reduction from 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030, as well as 80% emissions reductions below 1990 levels by the year 2050.  The draft plan focuses on reducing emissions generated within the energy, transportation, waste management, and agricultural sector.  A majority of the emission reductions will occur in the energy and fuel sectors through updating technologies as well as a reduction in the allowable emissions that facilities are allowed to generate.  The agricultural working lands sector aims to achieve emissions reductions through redirecting Ag by-product material from the landfills and sending that same material to newly commissioned biomass and composting facilities.  The Association submitted comments in support of the expansion of the biomass industry, as well as a streamlined approach for facilities and operations that wish to compost.  A revised draft, along with the economic analysis for all sectors, is set to be released in January.  The Association will keep you updated.