This past week the Association testified before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to oppose ongoing fee increases for water quality regulations. Water Quality Fees went up across the board, including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) and Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) fees. Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom testified at the hearing and focused on the WDR fees, which had one of the largest increases at 8.5%, which follows a 65% increase in the previous 5 years. Isom stated “this is not sustainable. It must stop now! While we recognize that regulating water quality is expensive and necessary, it does not justify these fee increases. The WDR fees are so out of line, they are 10 to 15 times all other regulatory fees combined! How do you explain that?” The SWRCB has admitted their fees are high, but put the blame on the State legislature, stating the legislature made the agency 100% fee based. At the hearing the SWRCB admitted 40% of the fee went to programs that were not ag discharge related. Isom responded “the problems are twofold. Yes, the State’s General Fund should pick up the statewide portion of the costs and not put those on ag stakeholders, but the Board needs to review the staff and the efficiencies of their work. We are going to pursue every angle we can on this issue and have already initiated discussions with the legislature.“ Other commenters echoed Isom’s comments including Bruce Houdesheldt, from the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition.

EPA Resolves Longstanding Litigation to Protect Endangered Species

This week, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resolved longstanding litigation covering over 1,000 pesticide products, allowing EPA to fulfill its obligations to protect endangered species while conducting reviews and approvals of pesticides in a safe and protective manner. In 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network (Plaintiffs) filed a complaint in Federal Court in California against EPA alleging that it was violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it registered or reevaluated the registration of 382 pesticide active ingredients, which was ultimately reduced to 35 active ingredients covering over 1,000 pesticide products containing one or more of these active ingredients. This became known as the “megasuit” because of the number of pesticides it covered. The settlement entered by the Court this week resolves all outstanding claims.

“This agreement is a win-win-win to protect endangered species, ensure the availability of pesticides needed to grow food across America, and save considerable time and taxpayer expenses required to further litigate this case,” said Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. 

In 2022, EPA issued its ESA Workplan, Balancing Wildlife Protection and Responsible Pesticide Use: How EPA’s Pesticide Program Will Meet its Endangered Species Act Obligations, which describes how EPA will address the challenge of protecting ESA-listed species from pesticides. This settlement is consistent with EPA’s ongoing efforts to develop a multichemical, multispecies approach to meeting its ESA obligations under the workplan. EPA’s traditional chemical-by-chemical, species-by-species approach to meeting these obligations has been slow and costly, with ESA work on each pesticide typically taking many years to complete. As a result, EPA has completed its ESA obligations for less than 5% of its actions, creating legal vulnerabilities, the potential for adverse impacts to listed species, and uncertainty for farmers and other pesticide users that use many pesticides. Resolving the remaining claims in this lawsuit and establishing a path forward under the settlement is a significant step to overcoming these challenges.

This agreement and the prior partial settlement include obligations for EPA as follows:

  • Development of mitigation measures for listed species that are particularly vulnerable to exposures from pesticides and determine how to apply these mitigations to future pesticide actions, as well as whether this Vulnerable Species Pilot should be expanded to more species.
  • Development and implementation of an Herbicide Strategy (draft released for public comment), a Rodenticide Strategy, Insecticide Strategy, and Fungicide strategy (the latter three are still under development) which will identify mitigation measures for entire classes of pesticides to address their potential impacts to hundreds of ESA-listed species
  • Completion of the ESA work for eight organophosphates and four rodenticides;
  • Hosting of a workshop for stakeholders to explore how to offset pesticide impacts on ESA-listed species in situations where eliminating or modifying pesticide use may not be feasible, and how EPA could incorporate those offsets into its process for registering or reregistering pesticides. Offsets could include restoring wetland habitat or funding breeding programs for affected species.

We will have to see how this plays out, because “the devil is in the details.”   What are the mitigation measures and how are the pilot projects impacting farming operations are couple of questions that immediately rise to the top when reviewing EPA’s announcement.

DWR Awards $187 Million to Improve Sustainable Groundwater Use and Storage Statewide

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has awarded $187 million to 32 groundwater subbasins through the Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program. The funding will support 103 individual projects that enhance groundwater monitoring, water use efficiency, groundwater recharge, recycled water and water quality. “This water year has proved the importance of managing our groundwater to capture and store as much water as possible in our local communities to prepare for future weather extremes, while supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Deputy Director Paul Gosselin. “We look forward to working with our local partners to make the necessary investments to better manage, capture and store groundwater for future generations.” California is home to 515 groundwater basins, a critical component of the state’s water supply, and is heavily relied upon by communities, agriculture and the environment, especially during dry and drought years.  During the 2023 Water Year, DWR has determined an estimated 3.8 million acre-feet of water has been recharged; a clearer picture of the 2023 water year’s groundwater conditions will emerge after April 1, 2024, when annual reports are due from the local groundwater sustainability agencies to the State. The grant awards are distributed throughout the State, but some regions that will benefit from this funding include:

  • In Merced County, the Merced Irrigation-Urban Groundwater Sustainability Agency will receive $3.4 million to execute two multi-benefit projects that fallow more than 1,300 acres of cropland, resulting in increased groundwater recharge, habitat enhancement and reduced flood risk for nearby underrepresented communities.
  • In San Benito County, San Benito County Water District will receive $11.5 million to expand and update the water treatment plant and construct five aquifer storage and recovery wells, as well as a conveyance pipeline for water. The project will help provide a resilient water supply for nearby underrepresented communities.
  • In Stanislaus County, Oakdale Irrigation District will receive $14.3 million to expand an existing recharge facility and increase storage by 600 percent. The project will benefit underrepresented communities in the area.
  • In Sutter County, Sutter County Development Services will receive $8.5 million for improved data collection and reporting while also financing a pilot program to support farmers with irrigation system upgrades and underrepresented communities.

These awards mark the second solicitation offered through the SGM Grant Program. In 2022, the program awarded $150 million during the first solicitation to 20 agencies responsible for managing critically over drafted groundwater basins throughout the state. Demand for groundwater project funding has been high with the SGM Grant Program receiving nearly $800 million in requests.

WAPA Board of Directors Elects New Officers

The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) is pleased to announce our new Officers for the Board of Directors. Pat Andersen of Andersen & Sons has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board.1st Vice Chair is Kirk Squire of Horizon Nut. Elected as 2nd Vice Chair is Jonathan Hoff with Monte Vista Farms, and serving as the Secretary /Treasurer will be David Stanfield with Summerfield Farms. Outgoing Chair Kim Keyawa-Musselman of Keyawa Orchards will be the Immediate Past Chair. The officers will each serve a two year term in these positions.

Also serving on the Board of Directors are Jason Baldwin from Perfect Pac, Don Barton with Gold River Orchards, Michael Kelley of Central California Almond Growers Association, John Rodriguez of Mariani Nut, Jonathan Hoff of Monte Vista Farming, Mark Kazarian from Tule River Co-Op Dryer, Inc, Kevin Long of Minturn Huller Cooperative, Jim Sears with Sierra Valley Hulling, Dwight Davis of ShoEi Foods, and Ali Amin of Primex. 

The Board wishes to recognize outgoing Chairman Kim Keyawa-Musselman for her outstanding and dedicated leadership in her two (2) years as chair of the Board of Directors of the Association. Her leadership was instrumental in the continued success and growth WAPA has enjoyed so far. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the staff here at WAPA we wish to thank and recognize Kim for the tremendous effort she put forth on behalf of the WAPA Membership and the entire tree nut industry. It is sincerely and wholeheartedly appreciated!

pat kim

WAPA’s 2023 Annual Meeting Comes to a Successful Close

The 2023 Annual Meeting of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) was the biggest one ever. It was representative of the fact that WAPA Continues to grow. There were more attendees, more exhibitors, more golfers, and more sponsors than any year in the short 15-year history of WAPA. While it was a lot of fun, it was short, sweet and to the point. It started Wednesday evening with our Associate Member Appreciation night reception, where Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom recognized the support and contribution of our Associate members and the role they play in the success of the Association and the entire tree nut industry. The next morning the WAPA Annual Meeting Golf Tournament kicked off with a record 97 golfers, and the WAPA Exhibits opened at 4:00 pm. The evening reception began amongst the exhibitors at 5:00 pm and then rolled into Dinner.  Following Dinner, outgoing Chairwoman Kim Keyawa-Musselman passed the gavel to incoming Chair Pat Andersen, of Andersen and Sons Ranch and Andersen and Sons Shelling in Vina. The Association’s President/CEO Roger A. Isom then closed out the evening thanking Keyawa-Musselman for her service to the Association. The next day was the WAPA Business Meeting that got underway with a report from Todd Landry with the Association’s Accounting Firm of Spafford and Landry who discussed the Association’s financial condition and results of the 2022 Audit. Then Alden Parker and Rebecca Hause-Schultz of the law firm Fisher Phillips provided an update on critical labor laws affecting the tree nut industry including recent PAGA cases. Following an exhibit break, Assemblyman Heath Flora and Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua discussed the Problem Solvers Caucus and their goals with that group. The day finished with a staff update from Assistant Vice President Priscilla Rodriguez, Director of Technical Services Christopher McGlothlin and President/CEO Roger A. Isom. Overall, it was the biggest and best meeting WAPA has ever held! We would like to extend a special thank you to all of our sponsors for this year’s annual meeting. Their contributions were generous and made this meeting what it was!

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Welcome to WAPA

Governor Signs Ag Overtime Bill

Ignoring the pleas of real farmworkers and the agricultural industry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1066, the ag overtime legislation. This means that California will have the most stringent trigger of any state in the country for overtime for farmworkers, with 45 states having no overtime protection at all. The Governor signed this bill, supposedly to bring “equality to all workers”, yet taxi cab drivers, commercial fishermen, car salesmen, student nurses, computer programmers, and carnival workers all work without any overtime provisions whatsoever. The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California. California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care. These provisions will be phased in over the next few years ending with the overtime provisions to be triggered at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In the Beginning As folks transitioned out of cotton and into tree nuts, the industry recognized the need to have active and effective representation at the local, state and national levels. Having enjoyed such effective representation over the years from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, these folks yearned for the same representation in the tree nut processing industry. Issues such as air quality, food safety, labor, taxes, employee safety, and environmental concerns are at the forefront, and there is a significant need for an aggressive and dynamic Association to lead the industry into the next decade and beyond. In recognition of this, the Western Agricultural Processors Association was created in 2009. The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) shares staff and office space with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations taking advantage of a unique and opportunistic situation. WAPA is a voluntary dues organization with four shared staff and one dedicated staff person. Regulatory, legislative and legal issues fall under the purview of this new organization for the tree nut processing industry, which includes almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. From air quality permits to conditional use permits, from regulatory hearings on greenhouse gases to federal legislation on food safety, and from OSHA violations to assisting members on hazardous materials business plans, no issue is too small or too large for WAPA. WAPA has assembled one of the best and most capable staffs in the industry, and the results are already starting to show Membership The Western Agricultural Processors Association represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.Membership in the Association is classified as Regular memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships are limited to any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry. WAPA Associate members include, but are not limited to, commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers. Organization The Western Agricultural Processors Association is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by its membership.The Board consists of up to 15 members from throughout the state, and throughout the industry.The Board meets on a quarterly basis and conducts an Annual Meeting in the spring of each year.WAPA, in conjunction with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, conducts a special training school for its members focused on safety.In combination with the school, the Association holds a Labor Management Seminar for all of the managers. Consulting Services In researching and considering the concept of forming a new organization, the Boards of Directors for the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations instructed staff to perform some of the work on a consulting basis first. The point was to determine the workload from consulting and to determine if there was sufficient interest. In November of 2007, the Association began conducting services under consulting contracts for such services as air quality permits and safety plans.The effort has been so successful that demand has progressed outside the tree nut industry into other agricultural processing facilities, including vegetable dehydration facilities, tomato processing facilities, and wheat mills, as well as cotton gins in Arizona.It was determined by the new Board of Directors of WAPA, that WAPA would maintain the consulting services to provide offsetting income to help with the expenses of getting the new organization up and running.Today, WAPA provides for a long list of satisfied clients in the agricultural processing industry, by providing critical services such as air quality, safety, food safety, and environmental issues (Hazardous Materials Business Plan, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, etc.).