Last year, CCM lead a coalition of agricultural groups that successfully killed a bill on the Senate floor that would have had damaging affects to the citrus industry’s battle against the Asian citrus psyllid in the urban areas. That bill has been reintroduced by the original co-author, Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica as SB 602 and would make neonicotinoids a restricted use material thereby eliminating the product from consumer shelves. The bill furthermore will require that any plant or seed sold at retail that has been treated with a neonicotinoid to be labeled as potentially harmful to bees. In essence this bill not only limits our industry’s ability to protect itself from ACP and HLB, it would also require that every citrus tree sold at retail stores in California be affixed with a label that it “May harm bees.”
Last year, the bill failed to get the votes necessary to pass out of the Senate. CCM staff met with nearly every member of the Senate to educate them about the importance of neonics to stopping the spread of Asian citrus psyllid and protecting all citrus trees from HLB. In the end, it was the potential impact to the citrus industry and large body of evidence refuting the premise of the bill, that neonics are the cause of declining bee health, that compelled many urban democrat Senators to side with agriculture and vote against the bill.
Finally, one substantive change over last year’s bill is that SB 602 would allow enforcement of pesticide violations to be pursued under the Unfair Business Practices Act, which is a major change in policy that will likely result in increased private action litigation against retailers and businesses in California. When used properly, the Unfair Business Practices Act is an integral part of consumer protection law in California. However, the law is routinely abused by unscrupulous attorneys who, motivated by the possibility of court-ordered attorneys’ fees, file suits when there has been no harm to a consumer. The result would not be the environmental goals purportedly sought by this bill, but instead the unprecedented shakedowns by attorneys of agricultural businesses that provide thousands of jobs in the state.
Last week CCM directors met with staff for Senator Allen. It was a direct conversation in which the industry’s concerns fell on deaf ears. The Senator has verbally committed to working with industry on favorable amendments, but that has yet to happen. CCM staff have had additional meetings with other members to brief them on the issue and urge a no vote when the bill comes up for a vote. We are hopeful that science and the negative will win the day and we’ll be able to kill the bill once again.