Stay on top of issues of particular importance to the almond processing community on these pages. Look for the current status of these priority items, and where to go for more information.
Farm Bill 2014
The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year authorizing legislation that sets policy for an array of agricultural and food programs. The farm bill is renewed every five years, with some exceptions.
The current farm bill, The Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 7, 2014, and allows for continuation of key programs for specialty crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implements the many programs funded by the farm bill.
Farm bill programs of interest to the almond industry include:
- Tree Assistance Program (TAP) — Qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers who experienced losses from natural disasters that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, can sign up for TAP. TAP provides financial assistance to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) — Funding to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that conserve scarce water resources, reduce erosion on fields and other conservation efforts is available through EQIP.
- National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program — Funding is available for USDA-certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75% of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification.
California High-Speed Rail Project
The California high-speed rail project was first approved by California voters in 2008 with the passage of Proposition 1A authorizing over $9 billion in general obligation bonds to partially fund the project. In June 2012, the California legislature approved construction financing for the initial stage of the project and Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, which allowed the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in bonds and triggered an additional $3.2 billion in matching federal funds. The expected cost of the project today is $68 billion.
The 2014–2015 State budget includes $250 million from the Cap and Trade program to help finance the project. In subsequent years, a fourth of the auction money will go to the train. While pre-construction activities are currently under way, actual construction has been delayed by a multitude of lawsuits.
In November 2013, a Sacramento judge ruled that the California High-Speed Rail Authority had failed to comply with 2008’s Proposition 1A. His decision has been appealed and the appellate court is expected to rule this summer. There have been several environmental lawsuits filed, including one claiming the state is failing to comply with prohibitions on taxpayer-funded operating subsidies and requirements on the bullet train’s end-to-end travel times.
ABC will continue to monitor the progress of the high-speed rail project. The high-speed rail project is of interest to California Almond growers as routes under consideration pass through areas where almonds are grown.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, it aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. The ABC has worked with industry members to craft comments on several issues of importance to the California Almond industry. They include:
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food
- Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals
- Designation of High-Risk Foods for Tracing
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals
- Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
- Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food
An additional round of comments is anticipated in the next couple of months. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new water bond was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown on August 13 totaling $7.545 billion. The new water bond will replace the $11.1 billion water bond currently on the November ballot. It provides California voters the opportunity to vote on a comprehensive water bond in November which provides for water use efficiency and recycling, groundwater cleanup and management, and $2.7 billion for additional water storage. It invests in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and provides for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of California’s most important rivers and streams.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
State of California Weekly Drought Briefing
Governor Brown’s Drought Task Force, composed of the Governor’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board and Office of Emergency Services, publishes a “Weekly Drought Brief” that highlights current conditions, key action items from the past week, and links for more information.
Current Reservoir Conditions
Current reservoir levels in terms of capacity and percent of historical average can be found here.
Current Regional Snowpack
Check here for the most recent snowpack reports during the reporting season, Jan. 1 to May 1.
For specific water terms, be sure to visit the Water Glossary.
2015 State Water Project Allocation Announced
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced an initial allocation of 10% for state water project customers in 2015. This amount could be adjusted up or down depending on the volume of rain and snowfall received this winter.
DRW also stated that should dry conditions return, there could be further reduction in the allocation level to meet critical human health and safety needs.
Improved precipitation forecasts this week allowed DWR to set the initial allocation for 2015 at 10 percent, up from the five present allocation SWP customers got this year. The level of Lake Oroville – the keystone reservoir of the SWP system and a source of water for 25 million Californians – is rising due to recent storms, after approaching its lowest level ever last month. But the state’s major reservoirs, including Oroville, are too depleted to be filled by a typical winter storm. DWR experts estimate that it will take roughly 150 percent of average precipitation for California to recover from drought
The DWR press release can be found here.
For more information, contact email@example.com.
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