At the Capitol, December 2023

California to Eliminate Solar Incentives in 2024 — Apply Before Next Year’s Deadline

Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to end the Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEM-A) program, eliminating onsite netting for NEM-A arrangements and cutting export credits to the Avoided Cost Calculator value, effective February 14, 2024. If you are planning to implement a new solar system, you have less than 90 days to get your application submitted to avail your project to the existing NEM-A rules.

NEM-A allows farmers to consolidate energy use and net metering credits under one property for each of the meters on irrigation pumps. This program has been a crucial part of assisting the agricultural community to install solar projects on farms. With the elimination, growers will have to buy electricity at full retail prices even if they generate energy through their own solar panels – effectively eliminating any incentive to install solar.

For current users of the program, the compensation rates stay intact for 20 years, or for the duration of the contract, and then are shifted to the new net energy metering program.

For new users, there is still time to get applications in before the changes take effect on February 14, 2024. Projects submitted before the deadline will receive 9 years on-site netting and be grandfathered from changes for 9 years. It is recommended to get in applications before January 1, 2024, as solar prices will increase because of prevailing wage laws.

For more information on how to apply, contact your local farm solar provider and/or energy provider.
Now is the time to ACT and preserve protection on energy costs!

PG&E Prices to Increase by 10% in 2024

The California Public Utilities Commission has voted to increase energy prices by roughly 10% beginning in January 2024. The additional cost is intended to address inflation as well as transferring over a thousand miles of power lines underground as a means of wildfire prevention. However, concerns have been raised both outside and within the Commission regarding affordability, especially considering the Commission plans to increase the price of energy each year, at least until 2026.

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) Applications are Open

The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) encourages efficient water and energy practices through grants amounting to up to $200k. Projects accepted under the program must implement practices which either support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or water use. Projects that support climate smart practices are increasingly significant following the challenges that currently trending and intensive weather fluctuation has caused industry-wide, particularly with respect to saving water. In the past, funded practices have commonly included: micro-origination systems, pump retrofits or replacements, renewable energy, etc.

The application for SWEEP grants opened Monday, December 5, 2023, and will close Friday, January 26, 2024 at 5PM PST.

For more information on the application and webinars on the programs, click here.

Federal Spending Bill and Farm Bill Deadlines Extended

Congress passed their second stopgap spending bill on November 16, extending the spending bill deadline to January 19, nearly three months later than the original deadline. House Speaker Johnson has remarked that he intends to reject any additional continuing resolutions, which would ultimately lead to a government shutdown if Congress cannot compromise on the remaining five funding bills that require passage.

The continuing resolution included an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill through September 2024. Due to concerns over Congress’ ability to agree on nutrition spending, lobbyists predict that Congress will need to have a new Farm Bill ready by July 2024 if it is to be implemented by the end of the fiscal year. Congressional collaboration will be critical to pass a new spending bill and a new Farm bill by their respective new deadlines.

Turkey Raises Tariffs on U.S. Almonds

In a Presidential Decision Decree published October 16, Turkey announced its plan to increase Tariffs on U.S. almonds by 15%. Specifically, Turkey will raise the most-favored-nation (MFN) duty paid by exporters by 15% for both shelled and in-shelled almonds. Coupled with the 10% retaliatory tariff currently in place, the additional tariff results in a collective 25% cost for U.S. almond exporters. The higher tariff will create challenges for U.S. almonds to compete with alternative suppliers such as, Australia or Spain, who won’t be subjected to the increase.

Congressional efforts have been made to reduce costs for the U.S. almonds and negotiate fair trade. Several House representatives have sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai since the raise was announced, which stressed the importance of prioritizing discussions with Turkey to counteract the additional costs and alleviate the financial burden they cause for U.S. almond exporters.

House Representative Kevin McCarthy Announces Congressional Retirement

Previous House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, representing the Bakersfield area, announced on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, that he will be stepping down from Congress by the end of 2023. His announcement followed his removal from the role of House Speaker two months prior, which resulted in current House Speaker, Representative Mike Johnson, filling the position.

McCarthy’s absence narrows the GOP majority in the House, which had already grown slimmer earlier this month when Representative George Santos was removed from the House. This also means that, at present, 34 congressional positions will be seen on ballots across the country as the same number of incumbents will not seek re-election. This significant change in leadership has potential to substantially shift the federal sphere and will be closely monitored.

After McCarthy leaves Congress, Governor Gavin Newsom will have 70–90 days to call for a special election to replace Rep. McCarthy. Gov. Newsom legally can schedule the election between 126 and 140 days after McCarthy leaves Congress, or 200 days if the election is combined with a gubernatorial election. Currently, Gov. Newsom is expected to schedule the special election within 14 days after McCarthy parts from Congress.

The filing deadline to run for McCarthys seat closes Wednesday, December 12. Assembly member Vince Fong has announced his intention to run for the seat, however, it would require him to withdraw from his current reelection race which may create a hurdle for him.

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