Association Weighs in on Proposition 65 and 1,3-D

This week, the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) submitted written comments on the proposed establishment of a safe harbor level for 1,3-Dichloropropene. (1,3-D) to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).  The Association’s comments focused on the science that shows 1,3-D is not a carcinogen and does not even warrant listing, let alone a safe harbor level.  WAPA is concerned with additional warning requirements and how that might unfairly and inappropriately impact tree nuts.  WAPA believes the science is clear and highlighted numerous areas where the science indicates the listing and subsequent safe harbor level are unnecessary and unjustified.

Association Submits Opposition to Proposed Pesticide Mill Tax Increase

In an effort to draw attention to the costly impacts to the tree nut industry, the Association submitted comments to CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld this week, highlighting the inequity of the proposed tiered mill tax increase.  This increase will more than double the mill tax for fumigants from 21 mills to 45 mills and the money will be used to hire 51 new positions.  This is an unbelievable time to levy a tax increase on agriculture, especially one as unjustified and unwarranted as this.  DPR and CalEPA claim this new tiered approach is to encourage farmers to move away from the harsher chemicals to softer alternatives.  The problem is two-fold for the tree nut industry.  First, there are no known alternatives for fumigants.  Second, many of the countries mandate that tree nuts be fumigated as part of the trade agreement, with no exceptions.  The Association is pressing the legislature, the Governor and his administration on this unbelievable tax increase.

Cal/OSHA Proposes Significant Changes to COVID-19 ETS Regulation

Cal/OSHA submitted significant proposed changes on May 7, 2021 on the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, which the Board will consider at the May 20th meeting.  Changes in the proposed revisions include:

  • Exempt vaccinated employees to the exclusion provisions for COVID cases and those who had close contact with them, as long as the vaccinated person did not have symptoms.
  • Clarifies face coverings, surgical mask, a medical procedure mask, or a voluntary worn respirator
    • Excludes: balaclavas, single layer fabric, bandanas, scarfs, ski masks, turtlenecks or collars.
  • Provisions to the return-to-work section allowing employees who have close contact to return after 10 days without symptoms
    • In addition, also provides for return after 7 days during critical staffing shortages if they receive a negative PCR test after 5 days exclusion
  • Definition of “exposed group” where a COVID case was present, covers all persons at a work location, working area or a common area at work
    • Also applies to a “distinct group” of employees that don’t overlap with other crews or shifts.
  • Exemption of telework employees, which the location is not under the control of the employer
  • “Worksite” is now defined as a building, facility, ag field, or other location where a COVID case was present during the high-risk exposure period
  • Employer provided housing and transportation, exemptions for fully vaccinated residents and those using transportation.  Housing section has updated the requirement for bed spacing from 6 feet apart to 8 feet apart.

Lastly, the revisions to the personal protective equipment to now include employers must evaluate, by July 31st, the need for N95 respirators for voluntary use.  Employers will be required to provide respirators (N95s) – for “voluntary use” for all employees working indoors who are not fully vaccinated.  In addition, encourage the use of those respirators for employees in a vehicle with at least one other person for at least 15 minutes. 
Unfortunately, the ETS is already lagging behind federal and state guidance pertaining to COVID-19.  WAPA continues to monitor.

Governor Releases May Revise Budget

The May Revise to the Governor’s proposed budget has been released and there is good news and bad news.  On the good news side, there is money for things like air quality incentives, water and environmental upgrades.  The bad news…there is not enough of it to meet this state’s own unrealistic mandates.  And there is money to fund more anti-farming activism through pesticide notification activities, something that this administration has as a priority. 

The funding for the FARMER program which funds the replacement of old Tier 0, 1, and 2 tractors could not have come at a more important time.  The deadline to achieve 11 tons per day of NOx emissions is less than two years away.  The Governor is proposing $363 million over two years.  Without this incentive money, agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley would be faced with a mandatory tractor replacement regulation much like the state’s Truck Regulation.  However, the money is still less than the California Air Resources Board’s own call for $193 million for four years to meet the mandate.  The Governor also proposed $150 million towards solving the agricultural burn elimination issue in the San Joaquin Valley, but this is much less than the estimated $290 million agriculture believes it will take to end the practice. 
On the water front, the Governor is proposing a $5.1 billion investment, over four years, to align with his July 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio. The package includes:

  • $1.3 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.
  • $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling projects.
  • $300 million for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security, water quality and water reliability.
  • $200 million for water conveyance improvements to repair major water delivery systems damaged by subsidence.
  • $500 million for multi-benefit land repurposing to provide long-term, flexible support for water users.
  • $230 million for wildlife corridor and fish passage projects to improve the ability of wildlife to migrate safely.
  • $200 million for habitat restoration to support tidal wetland, floodplain, and multi-benefit flood-risk reduction projects.
  • $91 million for critical data collection to repair and augment the state’s water data infrastructure to improve forecasting, monitoring, and assessment of hydrologic conditions.
  • $60 million for State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program grants to help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pumping.
  • $33 million for fisheries and wildlife support to protect and conserve California’s diverse ecosystems.
  • $27 million for emergency and permanent solutions to drinking water drought emergencies.

Lastly the May Revision proposes $10 million one-time General Fund to implement a statewide infrastructure network to provide access to information about local pesticide use. The Department of Pesticide Regulation will be launching a process this summer to develop and adopt the statewide regulations necessary for advanced public notification of certain pesticide applications.   Coupled with the massive increase in the pesticide mill tax, it is clear this administration is targeting pesticide use in California. 

Reminder: May 5, 2021 Bull Session

Hot Topics: Drilling Down on COVID-Related Best Practices: Dealing with Leaves of Absences, Wage and Hour Traps and Employees Gaming the System
Please join one of three Bull Session offerings at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. via Zoom as follows:

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.).