Association Testifies at Critical PM2.5 Workshop

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District held a workshop Monday to present their “revised Plan for the 2012 Annual PM2.5 Standard”.  The plan contains air pollution control measures and has been revised to address EPA’s concerns. Originally slated to be in attainment for the 2012 standard by 2025, the new plan proposes 2030 to achieve the standard. To date the District has made huge strides in reducing PM2.5 concentrations and only 5 monitoring stations remain in the valley showing levels about the 12 ug/m3 standard for PM2.5. Unfortunately, to be in attainment, all stations must show levels below 12 ug/m3. The proposed plan focuses on residential wood burning, open areas and mobile source control measures. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the SJVAPCD are also looking at additional measures to ensure attainment including looking at additional Conservation Management Practices (CMPs), low dust nut harvesting equipment and the FARMER program, which is the incentive program that helps farmers purchase cleaner burning tractors and harvesters. Association President/CEO Roger Isom testified at the hearing urging the district to base all regulatory decisions on science-based measurements, and to continue to fund and utilize existing incentive programs like FARMER that have provided effective proven emission reductions while assisting farmers. 

Senator Atkins Visits Walnut Processor

The Association hosted Senator Toni Atkins at Carriere Farms walnut processing operation in Glenn yesterday. The Senator learned about many of the challenges facing the tree nut industry, especially the impacts of very low prices, high energy costs, and unlevel playing fields with foreign competitors.  She also heard about innovative green energy projects, including a project in the works to turn walnut shells to energy. Association President/CEO Roger Isom was on hand for the tour and commented “The Senator has always had an interest in agriculture, and today she saw first-hand how today’s challenges are impacting our industry.  It has always been our hope to educate the state legislature in person on how Sacramento policies are impacting our operations. We applaud the Senator for taking time out of her very busy schedule to come to rural California and see for herself.”  Joining President/CEO Isom were several board members of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) including Chairman Pat Andersen of Andersen and Sons, Past Chair Kim Keyawa-Musselman of Keyawa Orchards, Dwight Davis of ShoEi Foods, and John Rodriguez of Mariani Nut. Thanks to Bill Carriere and his team for hosting the tour.

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Survey on Biocontrol and Microbial Control Options for Pest Management

The Association has been asked to survey growers to evaluate the knowledge and use of biocontrol and microbial control options for pest management in California.  The survey is anonymous and is being conducted by Dr. Surendra Dara, an extension entomologist and professor from Oregon State University.  The data will be used along with similar information from the Pacific Northwest to prepare a report to develop research and education strategies moving forward.  We encourage all growers to participate in this anonymous survey found here: 

https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2t6szOEbmryTpNs

EPA Publishes Update on Herbicide Strategy Progress

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing an update to its draft Herbicide Strategy, which is part of the Agency’s plan to improve how it meets its Endangered Species Act (ESA) obligations. The revised draft strategy is in response to comments received on the initial draft. The draft strategy, which EPA released for public comments in July 2023, describes whether, how much, and where mitigations may be needed to protect listed species from agricultural uses of conventional herbicides. The goal is for EPA to use the strategy to proactively determine mitigations for registration and registration review actions for herbicides even before EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) formally complete the lengthy ESA determination on whether an herbicide has effects on a listed species. EPA received extensive comments on the draft strategy, who identified concerns with specific aspects of the draft strategy and suggested revisions. EPA plans to make a number of improvements to the draft based on this feedback, with the primary changes falling into three categories.

  • Making the strategy easier to understand. Many commenters noted the complexity of the strategy to determine the amount of mitigation a label requires for a particular pesticide—up to nine points of mitigation. In response, EPA is simplifying its approach, such as by using four tiers—none, low, medium, high—to describe the amount of mitigation that may be needed for each herbicide. EPA also plans to create educational materials that concisely explain the four-tier mitigation approach.
  • Increasing flexibility for growers to implement the mitigation measures in the strategy. EPA expects to expand its mitigation measures, especially for specialty crops such as cherries and mint, to include new measures such as erosion barriers, reservoir tillage, and soil carbon amendments. EPA is also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other organizations to identify other measures to add to the mitigation menu that can reduce pesticide runoff and erosion.
  • Reducing the amount of mitigation that may be needed when growers have already adopted voluntary practices to reduce pesticide runoff or where runoff potential is lower due to geography. For example, in areas of the country with flat lands or minimal precipitation where runoff potential is low, growers may need less or no additional measures to use agricultural herbicides, compared to what is currently in the draft strategy. EPA is also considering whether growers could meet any necessary mitigation requirements if they participate in agricultural conservation programs or work with qualified experts to design and implement mitigation measures.

EPA is also working on other changes to the Herbicide Strategy and how it is implemented. For many listed species, the maps used in the draft strategy for determining where mitigation measures would apply are often too broad, covering areas not needed to conserve the species. EPA is working with FWS and others to develop a process for refining maps for hundreds of species. Through this work, EPA expects that the land area subject to the pesticide restrictions under the final strategy could shrink for many species.  The Agency expects to publish the final strategy in August 2024.

Bureau Increases Federal Water Allocation

This past week the Bureau of Reclamation announced an increase in Central Valley Project 2024 water supply allocations. After below average precipitation in January, Reclamation announced an initial water supply allocation for the CVP on Feb. 21. Mid to late February storms have since improved hydrological conditions particularly for Northern California, allowing for a more robust water supply allocation.   "Thanks to the improved hydrology, we are pleased to announce a bump in water supply allocations for the Central Valley Project,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Karl Stock. “While the series of storms in Northern California improved the water supply outlook, a number of factors, particularly anticipated regulatory constraints throughout the spring, continue to limit the water supply allocation for south-of-Delta agriculture.”  In recognition of recent efforts to develop a south-of-Delta drought plan, Reclamation is reserving approximately 83,000 acre-feet of water currently in San Luis Reservoir that will contribute to a drought reserve pool and is not considered as a volume of water available for this year’s water supply allocations. Additionally, approximately 185,000 acre-feet of rescheduled water from the 2023 water year, also stored in San Luis Reservoir, is not included in the 2024 water supply allocation. Based on current hydrology and forecasting, Reclamation is announcing the following increases to CVP water supply allocations: 

North-of-Delta Contractors

  • Irrigation water service and repayment contractors north-of-Delta are increased to 100% from 75% of their contract total.

South-of-Delta Contractors

  • Irrigation water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta, including Cross Valley Contractors, are increased to 35% from 15% of their contract total.
  • M&I water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta are increased to 75% of historical use or public health and safety, whichever is greater, up from 65% of historical use.

Friant Division Contractors

  • Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River and categorized by Class 1 and Class 2. The first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1; Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet. Class 1 is increased to 65% from 60%; Class 2 remains at 0%.

As the water year progresses, changes in hydrology, actions that impact operations, and opportunities to deliver additional water will influence future allocations. 

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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.).