Tractor spraying Adobe stock
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

Two L-words are getting Central Valley agriculture in the weeds — legislation and litigation. Alongside water regulations, pesticide bans, bankruptcy filings, and other issues afflicting the industry, legislation and litigation are generally the root causes of concern.

Despite these challenges, there was a notable development recently as the groundwater measure that would restrict local entities from issuing a permit for a new groundwater well — AB 2079 — failed in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on June 11.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Steve Bennett, would have restricted the local control of groundwater — guaranteed by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act — by denying permits for large-diameter, high-capacity wells within a quarter mile of a domestic water well.

Under AB 2079, prohibited permits would also include applications for agricultural and industrial wells in basins that experienced more than half a foot of subsidence since 2015. The bill was opposed by various groups in agriculture, business, water districts, and local government representatives. While the coalition opposing the bill offered amendments, Bennett did not accept them, and it failed to pass.

Among the legislators who voted against the bill were Central Valley senators Shannon Grove, Melissa Hurtado, and Susan Talamantes Eggman.


The California Air Resources Control Board is considering changes to the draft regulatory text of the Zero-Emission Forklift Regulation. In order to accelerate the transition to zero-emission forklifts, CARB’s staff is developing a measure to drive greater deployment within fleets throughout California.

The regulation aims to replace internal combustion engine forklifts and applies to forklifts engaged in agricultural operations. An Agriculture Coalition composed of the Agricultural Council of California, California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, and other agricultural stakeholders submitted comments on the proposed regulation.

The coalition’s comments included calls to expand exemptions and extensions, protect data by opposing certain reporting requirements, clarify regulatory definitions affecting nurseries, and place caps on phase-out schedules for agriculture businesses.

On June 27, CARB will review the draft text at its board meeting and potentially adopt the regulation. Farmers and producers are encouraged to voice their comments on the regulation.


Several regulations on pesticides are being considered by the Legislature, including AB 1963 which would ban the use of paraquat. Introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Laura Friedman, AB 1963 passed the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and is being considered by Senate committees.

If passed, the bill would prohibit the use, manufacture, sale, delivery, holding, or offering for sale any pesticide product containing paraquat dichloride until the Department of Pesticide Regulation completes a reevaluation of the chemical. The Ag Council of California opposes this bill and urges DPR to complete its scientific review of paraquat.

Another proposed pesticide bill introduced by Friedman, AB 2552, would prohibit the use of a second-generation and a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide within 2,500 feet of a wildlife habitat area. The penalty for violations is up to $25,000 per day, per violation. AB 2552 passed the Assembly and has been ordered to the Senate.

Democratic Assemblymember Damo Conolly introduced a third pesticide bill being considered in the Senate — AB 1864 — to require a notice of intent to an ag commissioner for new categories of pesticide before it is applied within one-fourth mile of a school. The bill would expand reporting requirements near school zones with documentation on the timing, notification, and method of application.

Ag commissioners would be required to collect public notifications before an application and must document which fields are sprayed.


Two recent lawsuits being considered by California courts share a common denominator — water. Recently, the court ruled in favor of California’s largest reservoir project in decades, Sites Reservoir, against an environmental court challenge.

In the ruling, a Yolo County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the project and sided against environmentalist groups that argued Sites Reservoir would harm the Sacramento River ecosystem and threaten fish species.

According to a press release from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, the Sites Reservoir project cleared this legal hurdle as a result of Newsom’s streamlining law last year which reduced delays caused by CEQA litigation.

The infrastructure streamlining law requires courts to determine CEQA challenges within 270 days. As a result, the court’s determination occurred within 148 days.

“California needs more water storage, and we have no time to waste – projects like the Sites Reservoir will capture rain and snow runoff to supply millions of homes with clean drinking water. We’re approaching this work with urgency, everything from water storage to clean energy and transportation projects.”

Sites Reservoir is in the process of acquiring state and federal permits to start construction, expected to begin in late 2026. Public hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board have begun and will continue through October 2024.

As for pending litigation, the Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District entered a lawsuit against the City of Delano for their approval of the Niagara water bottling plant. The lawsuit alleges that the city did not appropriately consider environmental reviews under CEQA and failed to hold a public hearing before approving the plant.

According to the lawsuit, the plant would extract up to 1.6 million gallons of groundwater from the Kern County Subbasin per day and up to 1,792 acre-feet of water per year from the aquifer without replenishment plans. The Basin is critically overdrafted by an average of 324,326 acre-feet annually.

The district has petitioned that the court set aside approvals for the water bottling plant and grant a permanent injunction to prevent the plant’s operations.

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