By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
I was going to start by saying Happy New Year to 2023 but I believe that 2023 isn’t going to be close to happy! I looked back at my January 2022 article to see if I came close to predicting how 2022 was going to be and YEP, I stated that 2022 was going to be a year where regulations, water, and pesticide issues were going to continue to become more difficult to work with. I wish that I could say that 2023 is going to be a better year for agriculture, but it’s not April Fool’s Day!
Immediately in 2023, agriculture employers need to be addressing AB 2183 – known as the “card check bill”. This is the legislation that Governor Newsom held closed-door meetings with the labor unions, United Farms Workers, and the California Labor Federation, to design the follow-up amending legislation that he seeks and at the time I am writing this, there seems to be no information on amending legislation. Thus, the chartered AB 2183 goes into effect on January 1, 2023, and my recommendation is to engage as soon as possible to stay in compliance because the unions will be looking for those employers. If you need any information on this legislation, please contact the Kern County Farm Bureau office.
I mentioned in my December article about climate change bills that appeared at the end of the legislative session that the Governor signed. I am concerned that these types of legislation would somehow lead to a mandatory process in some form or fashion on how agriculture farm. It appears that the County of San Luis Obispo wasted no time in adopting a planting ordinance for Paso Robles where it is now mandated carbon sequestration while farming. I believe that this is the nation’s first regulation to mandate this, but I believe that the state will follow this instead of allowing the agricultural industry to have a choice to sequester or not. Also, it requires farmers seeking to rotate crops to set aside a 50-foot buffer zone for riparian habitats as well as caps groundwater pumping to 25-acre-feet per year for the next 22 years. What is interesting about what the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors adopted is that the Planning Commission submitted a letter to the SLO Board of Supervisors recommending that they not adopt the planting ordinance and to allow the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and the Groundwater Sustainability Plans to oversee the process of SGMA and that the ordinance actually impedes that process. Hopefully, the actions by the SLO board of supervisors don’t trigger other boards to consider “stepping” into SGMA prematurely as well as mandating carbon sequestration.
By the way, carbon sequestration and the concept of healthy soils seem to be the hot topic towards the end of 2022. My recommendation is to be cautious on these because it’s unclear whether there is enough science that it will not impede agricultural practices in the future or if it could it trigger subsidence in the future. These are areas where I am working to obtain the science and working with the oil industry as a partner to understand the science.
As I mentioned in several of my previous articles, climate change continues to be used by the Governor and legislators to move what I believe is their agenda of controlling what you buy, use, and do. The current move is to limit the purchase of fuel-engine vehicles in California, but that brings a whole new set of problems. For example, currently one can easily pull over and quickly re-fuel as needed. However, with going electric there will need to be fast-charging sites constructed. Placing those fast-charging sites will be difficult because there will need to be a way to get the electricity to the site and to have the capacity to deliver enough electricity continuously. A study just released by National Grid advised that one of those fast-charging sites could require the same amount of electricity as a sports stadium or even a small town, and depending on the location, it could be as much power as needed by a large industrial plant. Where does the electricity come from, who pays for the electricity, and by the way, how does one dispose of their electric vehicle battery pack? All these items seem to not be addressed when the Governor and legislators talk about how moving to electric vehicles will reduce the carbon footprint and not mention how agriculture will be able to comply as well. The new legislation does establish an “Expert Advisory Committee,” but the word agricultural was not included in the committee formation.
A quick note on water: the state issued the State Water Project allocation at 5%. And as I am writing this article, the state is experiencing rain and snow. Maybe, 2023’s glory will be a wet water year!
As I have mentioned before, engagement is vital, meaning if you are not at the table then you are on the menu!
2023, here we go whether we like it or not! But remember the Kern County Farm Bureau is here to assist you and will continue to keep you informed.