At the Capitol, August 2023

Hurricane Hillary Resources

California saw record breaking rainfall along the coast on Sunday during Hurricane Hillary, the first tropical storm in California since 1939. Since the storm began, Blue Diamond has been in contact with growers to assess impact and provide resources. We are also coordinating with the Almond Alliance as they communicate to county, state and federal agencies on damages, losses and resources.

The Almond Alliance has put together a guide on reporting practices and resources available for growers impacted by storms. Please click here to view their Storm Damage & Resources page.

Water Rights Bill Update

Before the State Legislature went on recess, we saw two of the highly contentious water rights bills held in committee meaning they will not pass the legislature this year. The last water rights bill standing, SB 389, has been amended to be much more palatable for the industry. Now that the legislature is back from recess, there will be a mad dash to the bill deadline of September 14. Below is the summary and status of the water rights bills.

AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) – State Water Resources Control Board: water rights and usage

Status: Dead for the year.
Summary: Attempts to prevent unreasonable water diversions by giving SWRCB authority to stop water diversions to allegedly unlawful uses.

AB 1337 (Wicks) – State Water Resources Control Board: water diversion curtailment

Status: Dead for the year.
Summary: Allows SWRCB to restrict water diversions through curtailment orders regardless of one’s rights to the water.

SB 389 (Allen) – State Water Resources Control Board: investigation of water right

Status: In Committee; Amended
Summary: Allows SWRCB to order information regarding water use from any water diverter to verify their water right and determine whether water use aligns with the basis of their water right.

Rivas Inaugurated as Speaker of the Assembly

Speaker Rivas standing in front of US and California flagsOn June 30th Assemblymember Robert Rivas was inaugurated as Speaker of the Assembly. His priorities include homelessness, climate, schools, and infrastructure. Speaker Rivas has an extensive history with agriculture having come from a rural agricultural community, farming family, and serving as the Chair of the Assembly Agricultural Committee since 2018. He has appointed Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who also has a history of supporting the agricultural industry, as Speaker Pro Tempore, meaning she will oversee the floor sessions if Speaker Rivas is unable. Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria will take Speaker Rivas’s position as Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Nickels Soil Laboratory

Spearheaded by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and Senator Dahle, the State budget approved $500k for Nickels Soil Laboratory. The lab emphasizes research on soil and irrigation for various foods, but out of the over 160 acres that Nickels lab conducts research on, 110 are devoted to almonds. Since it was built, Nickels lab has proven to be a valuable source for the almond industry. The lab has not only conducted meaningful research on almond varieties and rootstocks, but its introduction of drip irrigation technology prompted 90% of the local 50,000 almond producing acres to transition to drip irrigation.

Currently, the funding for the lab is primarily through crop sales and financial support from agricultural businesses. The additional state money will contribute to NSL’s mission to provide impactful research for the agricultural community, especially for almonds. Research proposal opportunities exist for UC faculty, farm advisors, students, and USDA scientists.

Click here to learn more about Nickel’s Lab.

Farm Bill Update

As Congress is out on a monthlong recess, the Farm Bill expiration date of September 30 looms over D.C. The legislative package, that expires and is updated every five years, covers programs ranging from crop insurance to funding for sustainable farming practices to healthy food access for low-income families and more. Currently neither the house or the senate have yet to release a draft of the bill. While the House Agriculture Committee Chair, G.T. Thompson expects to have one by early September, the Senate expects October to be more realistic.
Work is being done over the recess to calm concerns over the price tag — which is set to top $1 trillion this year. Meanwhile members await scores from the Congressional Budget Office, which are used to measure the budgetary impact of proposed policy on the more contentious programs like nutrition and conservation.

The Almond Board of California welcomes new CEO

Clarice Turner headshotLate last year, the Almond Board’s CEO Richard Waycott announced his intention to retire from his position. The ABC’s search for his replacement has come to an end as ABC has officially announced Clarice Turner as the new President and CEO. Turner has an extensive background in business and global leadership, including serving in high-leadership positions for food industry icons, Starbucks and PepsiCo among them. The ABC Board of Directors is confident that her knowledge and experience will grow the industry in creative and positive ways.

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