By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
As the new year approaches, several finalized actions determined by Governor Gavin Newsom will go into effect in Jan. 2024 or later relating to water, pesticides, labor, and climate change.
By Jan. 1, Assembly Bill 779 will go into effect, making procedural changes to the groundwater adjudication process. The bill introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Lori Wilson will require a given Groundwater Sustainability Agency to host a public meeting in the event of an adjudication filing.
AB 779’s passing comes on the precipice of the controversial adjudication filing in the Cuyama Valley by the following plaintiffs — Bolthouse Land Company, Diamond Farming Company, Lapis Land Company, and Ruby Land Company. The legislation will make procedural changes to the adjudication process, mainly regarding public education.
Another water bill taking effect on Jan. 1 is Senate Bill 389, introduced by Democratic Senator Ben Allen. The State Water Resources Control Board will be able to investigate water rights claims under this bill.
The California Farm Bureau successfully advocated to amend the bill’s parameters, maintaining that SWB must explain why it is requesting information along with attached evidence that has led to reasonable uncertainty of a water rights claim.
Assembly Bill 1322 by Democratic Assemblymember Laura Friedman prohibits using pesticides with diphacinone — a rodenticide — in a wildlife habitat area. The legislation places additional duties on county agricultural commissioners to enforce the law.
Another pesticide bill bans the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by January 2025 for non-agricultural purposes. Democratic Assemblymember Rebecca Baur-Kahn introduced AB 363 to prohibit a person from selling or using a pesticide containing one or more neonicotinoid pesticides for non-agricultural use.
In a press release, Ag Council President Emily Rooney explained that despite non-agricultural specifications, the bill could impact agriculture as it does not align with the Sustainable Pest Management procedures and undermines the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s science-based review of pesticides.
In the same vein, the governor signed AB 652, requiring DPR to establish an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee by Jan. 2026. The Ag Council expressed concern that the committee would disrupt and delay DPR’s scientific evaluations, halting progress in developing pest management tools.
The minimum wage in California is increasing to $16 per hour by Jan.1 for all employers — regardless of the number of employees. All employers, including agricultural employers, must also implement a paid sick leave mandate providing five days — 40 hours.
SB 616 was introduced by Democratic Senator Lena Gonzalez and was amended from the originally attempted sick leave mandate of seven days — 56 hours. The legislation is effective Jan. 1.
Climate accountability will extend to businesses with over $500 million in annual revenue under legislation introduced by Democratic Senators Henry Stern, Josh Becker, Lena Gonzalez, and Scott Wiener. SB 261 will mandate businesses to biennially prepare climate financial risk assessments on holdings and supply chain assets.
Another accountability law by Senator Wiener — SB 253 — will require businesses with over $1 billion in annual revenues to track and report direct, indirect, and supply chain emissions.