Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Sacramento
CAWG / Lodi District Grape Growers Joint Meeting, Lodi
Winegrape Growers of America Leadership Luncheon, Sacramento
CAWG Board of Directors meeting, Sacramento
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Senate, House Overwhelmingly Pass Bipartisan Farm Bill
In a strong show of bipartisanship, congressional Republicans and Democrats this week passed the $867 billion farm bill by wide margins: 87-13 in the Senate and 386-47 in the House. The farm bill is now headed to President Trump's desk and news reports indicate he could sign it next week.
The five-year legislation delivered on many policy goals for specialty crops, including winegrapes. It provides increased funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and maintains funding at high levels for foreign market development and for programs aimed at combatting invasive pests and disease. The bill also includes language to give priority emphasis for research that addresses labor shortages through increased mechanization and automation.
Government Relations Report
STATE WATER BOARD APPROVES RIVER FLOWS PLAN
Late yesterday, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a contentious proposal to boost water flows through the Lower San Joaquin River and three tributaries, a move intended to increase habitat for salmon and one that would reduce water available for ag. >
The board's action will increase San Joaquin River flows to about 40 percent of what they would be if not for diversions. Farmers say the change would drastically curtail the water they need and devastate the economy of the Central Valley.
The hope was that voluntary agreements could be reached to reduce water uses instead of mandating increased flows. Voluntary agreements bring speed and certainty to the environmental improvements.
The board chose instead to use the hammer of a mandate, knowing it could be devastating for communities and ag. A mandate is a substantial threat to ag, sets precedence for other California rivers, and assumes without evidence that this action will accomplish its goal of restoring declining salmon populations. Consequently, there is little doubt that this is headed to court.
Board chair Felicia Marcus said there's no reason there can't be a settlement later, even if the debate ends up in court. "I encourage everyone to stay at the table," Marcus said. "Anyone that walks away was never serious about settling."
Board member Dee Dee D'Adamo of Turlock was the lone NO vote.
EVER-CHANGING WATER RULES
When dealing with water laws and regulations, growers have long supported common-sense policies that allow for routine farming activities. This week the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced its
to give growers greater flexibility to manage their lands.
This involves the provision of the federal Clean Water Act known as "waters of the United States" (WOTUS), which aims to protect "navigable" rivers and streams. The problem is that federal agencies have broadly and loosely redefined "navigable" to possibly include a drainage ditch or water puddle in a vineyard. This Obama-era regulation created confusion and spurred costly litigation. The EPA's new rules are intended to resolve that.
However, those new rules may be short-lived here in California, as lawmakers and regulators are currently trying to undo them. For example,
SB 1 (Atkins, D-San Diego)
would prevent Trump "roll backs" of environmental laws. Additionally, the State Water Resources Control Board is proposing a regulation that would create
a new permit process
for dredging and discharge.
This proposed permit process creates uncertainty, is very costly, and does nothing to protect the environment. It also overlaps with federal law and is duplicative of federal law in some places and contradictory in others. That is why CAWG has led an ag industry effort to defeat or clean up the proposal.
-- Michael Miiller / email@example.com / 916-379-8995
New AVA in California Proposed; Comments Sought
The West Sonoma Coast American viticultural area is officially in the works. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau last week issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register to establish the 141,846-acre West Sonoma Coast AVA in Sonoma County. It is located within the established Sonoma Coast and North Coast viticultural areas and contains the established Fort Ross-Seaview viticultural area. The proposal is in response to a petition filed on behalf of the
West Sonoma Coast Vintners
. There are currently 18
wine appellations in Sonoma County
; Petaluma Gap became the 18th AVA in 2018.
The link below provides the Federal Register notice, a map of the proposed area and a comments area.
Comments on this proposal must be received on or before Feb. 4, 2019.
The Crush Newsletter Goes Digital
CAWG is excited to unveil improvements to The Crush newsletter that aim to provide added value
to members. The changes -- to be implemented gradually in the coming months -- will include a full-color digital version of the newsletter and a new schedule for the printed/mailed version. CAWG board members and staff believe this mix of digital and traditional communication methods will be highly effective and will increase the usability with an online search function available for current and archived issues. Following is more information and the new schedule for the newsletter:
ENGAGING DIGITAL PUBLISHING
: The Crush will now be posted online every month with a digital publishing platform -- watch your email for the December issue! The digital version lets readers flip through the pages and access links for more information. The Crush can also be downloaded and printed if you prefer to read it as a hard copy. In time, CAWG will implement other engaging features -- such as video and audio to accompany articles -- to enhance the reader experience.
TRADITIONAL PRINT PUBLISHING:
The print version of The Crush will be reduced from monthly to quarterly and in time, the look of The Crush will be redesigned.
- January and February 2019: Members will receive a print version.
- The Crush will then be printed and mailed quarterly in March, June, September and December.
Imagine you are in the vineyard and dealing with a problem that is taking longer than anticipated. So, you send a quick text notifying folks that you are running late. That text -- and every other text -- may be subject to a surcharge under a proposal being considered by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The PUC is proposing a fee for text messaging on mobile devices to fund programs that make phone service accessible to the poor.
The San Jose Mercury News reports
that the new tax for texting would total $44.5 million annually. Additionally, because the charge could be applied retroactively for five years, this would amount to a cost of $220 million for California texters.
Needless to say, the wireless industry and business groups have been working overtime to defeat the text tax.
Beyond the absurdity of taxing texts, California's regulatory agencies have already created a climate where California is the most expensive state in the nation to run a business. Regulatory agencies routinely fail to consider the cumulative effect/costs of added regulations. A text tax would be one more cost of doing business that California growers would be asked to absorb.
The text tax is scheduled for a vote next month by the PUC.
More on WOTUS: Perdue Speaks Out
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the proposal to repeal and replace the WOTUS rule. An excerpt from his statement: "When I meet with the men and women of American agriculture, one of their chief concerns is always the overreach of federal regulations. The WOTUS rule is regularly singled out as particularly egregious, as it impedes the use of their own land and stifles productivity. Farmers and ranchers are exceptional stewards of the environment, and states have their own standards as well. This welcome action from the EPA and Army Corps will help bring clarity to Clean Water Act regulations and help farmers know where federal jurisdiction begins and ends."
>ARTICLE: Trump moves to relax Obama-era water protections (Dec. 11)
Check Out the California Weather Blog
a climate scientist at UCLA, provides a unique perspective on California weather, climate environmental change. He writes new blog posts few weeks and posts frequently on
. He shares photos, graphs, weather models and research. His Nov. 17 blog had in-depth commentary on the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire and the unfortunate factors and conditions that were at play, as well as climate change.