CCM Directors and members of the Government Relations committee traveled to Sacramento this week to meet with legislators, regulatory agencies, and the administration on key policy issues impacting the industry – maintaining general fund support for the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing program, protecting crop protection materials against legislative bans, and a comprehensive solution to water supply and water quality challenges.
It is CCM’s top legislative priority this Spring to secure guaranteed, ongoing funding in the state budget for the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program. Last year, the budget included a total of $12.5 million for the program – $2.5 million in ongoing funds and $10 million in one-time funds. The Governor’s 2019-20 budget proposal includes an additional $2.5 million in ongoing funds. CCM is working with the legislature to increase the ongoing appropriation to $10 million, bringing the total amount to $12.5 million for 2019-20 and every future budget year.
A bill that would ban the use of Chlorpyrifos in California is currently working through the Senate. The bill, SB 458 (Durazo) passed out of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on Wednesday, but not without significant questioning by the Committee Chair Senator Ben Allen and Senator Henry Stern about the impact to the citrus industry with regard to controlling the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing.
CCM Director Brian Neufeld testified in Committee about the robust regulatory restrictions that currently exist around the use of Chlorpyrifos. He emphasized that due in part to these restrictions and the availability of other chemistries, there has been a dramatic decline in the use of Chlorpyrifos in recent years. However, with regard to ACP, it is vitally important to maintain every available tool. The primary concern with SB 458 is that it would set a dangerous precedent of the legislature overriding regulatory processes to ban crop protection tools. While SB 458 is specific to Chlorpyrifos, it represents a serious threat to all crop protection tools.
In Committee, Senator Allen directed the author to work with industry on potential amendments, including an emergency use provision.
Because the bill has a fiscal impact, it will now go to Senate Appropriations where it will likely be placed on the suspense file. All bills must move out of their house of origin by late May. CCM remains engaged on this issue and will continue working to kill the bill.
Safe Drinking Water
The issue of safe drinking water remains a priority issue for the Governor, who has proposed a budget trailer bill consistent with the policy framework of last year’s SB 623, which would create a water use fee and increase the fertilizer mill fee on agriculture to fund clean drinking water projects in disadvantaged communities. Agriculture fee payers who are complying with existing regulatory programs pertaining to water quality would not be subject to enforcement actions by the State Water Resources Control Board including cleanup and abatement orders.
CCM Directors had several positive meetings with legislative offices, the Governor’s office, and members of his administration on this issue. CCM supports the Governor’s proposal and is actively working with the legislature on several other related legislation, however, there remains significant opposition to the “water tax” concept. The Governor’s engagement is certainly positive and our goal is that his proposal will be passed with the budget in June.
Notwithstanding the politics around a “water tax” there is general agreement by the legislature that the drinking water quality is a significant issue that must be addressed and there is a direct nexus with surface water supply and implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management. Related to this issue is SB 559 (Hurtado), which would appropriate $400 million from the State General Fund for a grant to the Friant Water Authority to make needed repairs on the canal and restore it to full capacity in order to move water to communities and irrigation districts. The bill recently passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and is currently in Senate Appropriations. CCM supports SB 559 and will continue to work with Friant on this bill and other avenues to secure funding to address subsidence on the canal.
Regulatory issues continue to impact the citrus industry, so CCM Directors met with multiple agencies to discuss some of these impacts and logistics for implementation moving forward. Some of the topics covered included the rise of energy costs, the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability initiative (CV-SALTS), the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
One meeting to note was with Bill Lyons who holds the newly created position of Agriculture Liaison in the Office of the Governor. Mr. Lyons explained his vision for the position in the Office of the Governor and the commitment the Governor has made to the Central Valley and agriculture. CCM has enjoyed a very positive working relationship with Lyons during his tenure as CDFA Secretary and we believe he will be a great voice for agriculture in the Governor’s cabinet.
In total, the CCM Board and Government Relations Committee met with over 29 offices on Tuesday and Wednesday. A cornerstone of the annual trip is our legislative staff appreciation lunch. CCM is one of few, possibly the only, association to host an event directed to staff. We feel this is a great opportunity for our industry to engage with offices and continue fostering relationships.
Finally, our annual Legislative Reception and Dinner was very well attended. It was an evening of great conversation and celebration. CCM past president Joel Nelsen was presented a resolution from Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Minority Leader Senator Shannon Grove in recognition for his years of service to the California citrus industry. The wonderful turn out by Assembly Members and Senators from across the state is a testament to Joel and the positive relationships he has made in Sacramento on behalf of our industry.
The CCM staff would like to thank the Board and Government Relations Committee for taking time away from their operations during such a busy time to participate in this trip. The citrus industry was well represented in Sacramento this week!