California Department of Fish and Wildlife to Consider Listing Four Species of Bumblebees as Endangered

In response to a petition by the Xerces Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety, the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) list four (4) species of bumblebees as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has prepared an evaluation report (Petition Evaluation) for the Petition.  The Commission referred the petition to CDFW.  The four species include Crotch bumble bee, Franklin bumble bee, Western bumble bee, and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee.  After reviewing the Petition and other relevant information, the Department found that “the Petition provides sufficient scientific information to indicate the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, the Department recommends the Commission accept the Petition for further consideration under CESA.”
The report cites several factors or threats affecting the ability of all the petitioned species to survive and reproduce and they fall into four main categories: 1) present or threatened modification or destruction of their habitat; 2) competition; 3) disease; and 4) other natural and human-related factors, including pesticide use, genetic factors, and climate change.  Within these categories, agriculture is highlighted many times as posing a threat.  Under habitat destruction, agricultural conversion of lands is cited as a contributor to loss of habitat.  Within the category of competition, the report highlights threats from other species of bees, “particularly of other bee species imported and managed to pollinate crops or produce honey” as a direct threat by reducing pollen and nectar resources.  Under “other factors” the report specifically highlights the use of herbicides and pesticides as having “several negative impacts on native bumble bees, including degrading habitat and removing floral resources, causing direct mortality and sublethal effects, reducing population success and survival rates, and increasing disease risk.
What does all this mean?  The Department now has 12 months to produce a peer-reviewed report based upon the best scientific information available that advises the Commission whether the petitioned action is warranted.  Finally, the Commission, based on that report and other information in the administrative record, then determines whether or not the petitioned action to list the species as threatened or endangered is warranted.  If listed, this will put even more pressure on the use of pesticides and herbicides in agricultural settings.  This will have to be closely monitored over the next several months.

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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.).