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Conveyor Currents                               April 19, 2013
Upcoming Dates

April 24-27, 2013  CGFA Annual Convention ~ The Hyatt Regency, Huntington Beach, CA
 (click for program)

May 15-16, 2013   California Animal Nutrition Conference.  Radisson Hotel in Fresno, CA
 (click here for program)


January 15-16, 2014   Grain & Feed Industry Conference, Embassy Suites, Monterey, CA

April 23-26, 2014  CGFA Annual Convention ~ The Sheraton Resort, Maui, HI 

Quick Links
 Grain & Feed Assn.
California Dept. of Food & Ag
U.S. Dept. of Food & Ag
Annual Convention Update

We are looking forward to seeing many of you next week at the CGFA Annual Convention in Huntington Beach, CA!   



In This Issue
FDA User Fees for FSMA Implementation
California Legislature Update
Senate Immigration Reform Package Unveiled
House to Mark Up Farm Bill May 15
Strongly Defended as Critical to Farmers
Farm Bill "Add-ons" Begin to Emerge
SNAP Reform Bill Hopes to Head Off House Controversy
House Energy & Commerce Committee Releases RFS White Paper
USDA to Unveil Climate Change Actions
EPA Releases Annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Your Company Wants to Make You Healthy
FDA User Fees for FSMA Implementation May Get New Look

Included in President Obama's FY2014 budget request is new authority for FDA per-facility user fees to be imposed for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) registration, and to cover the cost of inspections for both domestic and imported ingredients and products.

User fees on regulated industry make up the bulk of any increased FDA FSMA spending under the Obama plan, with FDA's budget set at $4.7 billion for 2014, an $821-million or 21% increase over this fiscal year. However, $1.5 billion of the total is targeted at food safety.  Almost 95% of the increase is pegged to new user fees for FSMA facility registration - imposed on companies annually if they register under FSMA - and new fees for domestic and new import inspections.  


The new import inspection fee would carry an exemption for small businesses and a cap for large importers. Most of the new fees would require congressional authorization, and several, including the registration fee were explicitly rejected by Congress during FSMA consideration and as part of previous administration budget requests. And while the agriculture industry staunchly opposes user fees as de facto taxes, Senate Appropriations Committee ag/FDA subcommittee chair Sen. Mark Pryor (D, AR) this week said increasingly tight federal budgets, sequestration and other economic challenges may "force" Congress to take another look at industry user fees even though they were rejected when FSMA was enacted. Adding some impetus to this new examination was an unprecedented joint Senate-House meeting this week between the members of both chambers' ag/FDA appropriations subcommittees. The meeting was designed to examine priorities and options on FDA funding.

California Legislature Update 
By: Dennis Albiani
Legislative Advocate


Minimum Wage Bill Up Next Week


A bill that would raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation will be heard in its first committee next week. AB 10 (Alejo) will be heard in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on April 24. The bill would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 on January 1, 2014 then further increase the minimum wage, on and after January 1, 2015, to not less than $8.75 per hour, and on and after January 1, 2016, to not less than $9.25 per hour. The bill also would index the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index for Inflation, creating an annual trigger for wage increases. The association is opposed. 


Governor Brown Concerned About Progress of CEQA Reform


In a news article this week, Governor Brown stated that meaningful changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) were unlikely this year.  As he toured China, viewing the many large infrastructure projects, he discussed how difficult many of the same types of projects are to build in California.  When asked by reporters about his efforts to reform the law, the Governor expressed concern that the process was stalled.


In fact, some efforts to expand CEQA are moving forward.  SB 617 (Evans) would expand the definitions of "environment" and "significant effect on the environment" and would require the lead agency to include in the Environmental Impact Report, a detailed statement on any significant effects that may result from locating development near, or attracting people to, existing or reasonably foreseeable natural hazards or adverse environmental conditions. Some are concerned that this would spur another round of litigation to establish the parameters of these expanded terms and provide additional opportunities for opponents of a project to force delay. 


Seed and Feed Bills Move Out of Committees


Two bills that would continue industry funded programs have moved out of committees this week.  SB 348 (Galgiani) that extends the authorization for funding the California Seed Law and the County Agriculture Commissioners subvention payments for enforcement moved out of Senate Appropriations Committee by a unanimous vote. 


AB 1132 (Eggman) that would continue the tonnage assessment for the Feed Industry Inspection Program and the SAFE feed handling program passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and is on its way to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  Both bills contain a five year sunset clause which provides an opportunity for continued industry oversight of the programs. 


Bill Mandating Reporting of Animal Abuse Gets Pulled From Committee


A bill that would ensure law enforcement is notified of documented cases of farm animal abuse within a few days, rather than months or weeks as have occurred in the past was pulled from the Assembly Ag Committee this week. The bill sponsors, California Cattlemen's Association, requested that the author put the bill on hold in the Assembly Ag Committee with the intent of strengthening the policy for future legislative efforts.  


AB 343 (Patterson) seeks to ensure the systemic and prolonged abuse revealed at Hallmark/Westland does not happen again by requiring an individual knowingly documenting abuse to provide a copy of the evidence to law enforcement within 120 hours of compiling the evidence. AB 343 also adequately protects whistleblowers from illegal retaliation or legal prosecution. AB 343 was a bill that would have prevented prolonged abuse.


Assembly Ag Committee Chair Susan Eggman, has agreed to work with a coalition of livestock associations to provide an opportunity for an informational hearing in the near future. It is intended that this hearing will provide the opportunity to address the issues contained in the bill.


Senate Immigration Reform Package Unveiled; Hearings Begin April 23

The Gang of Eight bipartisan Senators who labored for months to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will get their colleagues' votes unveiled the long-awaited product this week, and while the Gang is feeling optimistic and ag employers joined with farm workers' unions to endorse the bill, the road to President Obama's desk will be a rough one. The reaction to the bill is much as expected - praise from reform supporters and those sectors which rely upon immigrant labor, and outrage and predictions of disaster by immigration hawks.  While there is general optimism in the Senate given negotiations have put both Republicans and Democrats, general employers, ag employers and most unions in the "support" column, amendments to the Senate package that may be offered, along with conservative opposition in the House will not make enactment a simple task.  The bill is wide-ranging in its reforms, covering everything from $4.5 billion in border security enhancements to a replacement program for the much-criticized H2-A guest worker visa program under which most ag workers qualify.


'AgJobs' Provisions

At a press event this week, national agriculture employers joined with the United Farm Workers to endorse the Gang of Eight bill, but not until after tough negotiations over low-skilled worker wage rates, and the number of workers eligible for new visa status as "guest workers."  Key to ag support for the bill was a complete rewrite of the H-2A ag guest worker visa protections, with action that would not jeopardize the current low-skilled ag workforce while ensuring a constant labor force for the future. Under the bill, illegal immigrant farm workers could apply for a new "blue card," if they've worked in ag for 100 days during 2011-2012 and formally opt to remain in the U.S.  After five years, blue card workers would receive green cards if they've paid a $400 fine, paid all taxes owed and have not been convicted of a serious crime. Family status is eligible under the blue card application system. A new ag visa guest worker system would be created to grant a "portable" employment-specific visa (W-3) allowing workers to change jobs at will, with a similar contract-based visa (W-2) available to those currently under the H-2A system, which end once the new system is operational. These visas could run up to three years, with employers providing housing or a housing allowance.  Wage rate categories would be set by the new bill for crop workers, livestock workers, sorters and graders at packing houses and equipment operators. While most immigrant on-farm labor is covered under separate agriculture provisions, some ag workers, including meat plant employees, come under a rewrite of the immigration status known in the legislation as the "W visa" provisions.


General Provisions

Six months after the bill becomes law, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must submit a plan for spending $4.5 billion on a "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy" aimed at "achieving and maintaining" immigration controls at high-risk sections of the U.S.-Mexican border. About $3 billion of the total would be spent on equipment and personnel, with $1.5 billion to fund the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy."  None of the revised visa or immigration status changes in the law would go into effect until DHS begins the two security efforts. The bill would create a new category for "individuals in unlawful status" - Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) - requiring workers in the U.S. to have arrived here prior to Dec. 31, 2011, and they may not have left the country since that time.  RPI status would last for six years, but is renewable, with fines due at initial application due again at renewal.  Undocumented workers must apply for RPI status, pay a $500 fine for all adults in the household, not have been convicted of a serious crime, including voting illegally, at which time they would be assessed any unpaid taxes, application processing costs, and start down the road to permanent residency or green card status after 10 years. They also have to show a proficiency in English and "civics," just as other immigrants do when applying for residency or citizenship.


Those eligible under the DREAM Act - children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. who attend college or the military, would get green cards in five years, and would be eligible for citizenship as soon as the green card is issued.  Any immigrant granted RPI status is ruled ineligible for any federal means-tested public benefits, which normally include food stamps, housing, medical and other assistance.  There are also provisions to make it easier to recruit and retain so-called STEM immigrants, those with expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a group which currently enters the country under the old H-1B temporary visa system.  All U.S. employers would be required to use the federal E-Verify system that alerts employers to applicants without legal status after a five-year phase-in period, with employers with more than 5,000 employees required to begin use of the system during a two-year phase-in period; 500 or more employees qualify for a three-year phase in, and all employers, including agricultural employers, will be phased in within four years. 

House to Mark Up Farm Bill May 15; Senate Action Likely to Follow

Rep. Frank Lucas (R, OK), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, said this week his panel will move to mark up its version of a comprehensive five-year Farm Bill on May 15, despite pressure from House leadership to go slowly enough to develop a politically palatable bill. Lucas said he met with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA), who continues to worry about a conservative defection on the floor if any Farm Bill doesn't carry deep food stamp cuts. He told Cantor he'd hold listening sessions with non-ag committee members of the House to get their input, and would stay on schedule, a commitment he's made to his ranking member, Rep. Collin Peterson (D, MN). 


Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D, MI), chair of the Senate ag panel, says she hopes to begin her committee's markup this month, but comments by other committee members about Senate's priorities and the status of behind-the-scenes Farm Bill discussions, indicate she may wind up on the same rough timetable as Lucas with a markup set for May. Stabenow is dealing with a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on her 2012 bill that shaved the estimated $23-billion savings to about $14 billion based on new USDA spending data, but has said her committee's bill will reach the $23-billion savings mark. She also faces a new challenge from the new ranking ag panel member, Sen. Thad Cochran (R, MS), a former ag committee chair.  Cochran will likely try to force rewrite of the commodity title to reflect retention of some formula including, target prices, marketing loans and deficiency payments, similar to the option taken by the House Agriculture Committee in its 2012 bill.  Cochran, for his part, is reported to be eyeing some version of a target price program as "more affordable."

Strongly Defended as Critical to Farmers, Crop Insurance Cuts Get Spotlight Again

The federal crop insurance program has undergone about $13 billion in cuts over the last few years through various budget negotiations and spending reinvention, but champions of the program, including some of the most senior members of the Senate vow no more cuts and protection of the program. Sen. Pat Roberts (R, KS) this week reminded listeners to an ag radio program that no matter where you go or to whom you speak in agriculture the priority you hear is protection of crop insurance.  He talked about a bill he introduced last week to strengthen the program through reauthorization of the current program, but adding an expanded coverage option for producers.  The new coverage is what Roberts calls "supplemental coverage option" or SCO, coverage based on producers' yield and loss. The crop insurance law is amended to make available separate "enterprise units" for irrigated and non-irrigated acres, and the bill looks at the declining production history by increasing the county transitional yield. Sen. Charles Grassley (R, IA) also waded into the crop insurance fray, declaring the cuts suffered by the crop insurance program so far are enough; any deeper reductions seriously risk killing the program.


Farm Bill "Add-ons" Begin to Emerge


With May the likely month for serious Farm Bill movement in both House and Senate Agriculture Committees, proposals for inclusion are emerging quickly.  This week, Rep. Kristi Noem (R, SD) introduced a bill that would provide a "reasonable safety net" for livestock owners in the form of enhanced and extended livestock disaster assistance. Noem's bill would extend the current Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) for another five years, with retroactive coverage for 2012 and 2013.


Noem's was joined by Sens. Mark Udall (D, CO) and Mike Enzi (R, WY) who called on the Senate Agriculture Committee to ensure that "permanent livestock disaster assistance" is part of the 2013 Farm Bill crafted by the panel.  Sens. Dan Coats (R, IN) and Joe Donnelly (D, IN) introduced a bill that would make a 2008 specialty crop pilot program permanent, allowing fruit, vegetable and rice producers who plant on program base acres to voluntarily walk away from subsidy payments and acreage programs and grow for market demand. The 2008 pilot, set to expire at the end of September, is operating in seven states, and the new bill would expand the program to all 50 states and make it permanent. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY), Senate Ag Committee member, introduced a bill that would recognize farmed shellfish as a specialty crop and make it eligible for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

SNAP Reform Bill Hopes to Head Off House Controversy during Farm Bill Debate

A bill to cut $30 billion over 10 years out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - federal food stamp assistance - was introduced in the House and Senate this week, part of a move to at least partially remove from House and Senate farm bill negotiations the burden of how deep to cut food stamps.  Sen. John Thune (R, SD) and Rep. Marling Stutzman (R, IN) say their bill will cut the $30 billion by closing loopholes and eliminating fraud, waste and abuse of the SNAP program. During 2012, the Senate-passed Farm Bill cut SNAP by $4 billion over 10 years, while the House Agriculture Committee bill would have cut food stamps by more than $16 billion over the same period. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA) has told ag committee leaders he fears taking a Farm Bill to the floor that doesn't cut such entitlement programs enough to satisfy budget hawks.  


Under the Thune/Stutzman bill, individuals meeting the income and asset eligibility requirements of the current SNAP program would continue to receive their benefits, but the new bill would limit automatic SNAP eligibility simply because a person qualifies for other federal low-income assistance. The bill would also stop states from sending energy assistance checks to SNAP participants in order to increase their benefits, and would eliminate duplicative training programs and state performance bonuses, improve quality control to ensure states are penalized for improper payments and reform nutrition education and obesity programs.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Releases RFS White Paper


In the latest of a series of white papers on federal energy policy challenges, the House Energy & Commerce Committee this week released its take on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the mandate that oil refiners blend set amounts of biofuel with gasoline to cut back on overall petroleum consumption. The committee said it's been more than five years since the RFS was last revised, and new information and a "wealth of experience" with the program suggest "implementation challenges" have emerged that were not considered at the time of enactment.  When enacted, the committee said, the RFS was seen as a way to strengthen rural economies since nearly all the alternative fuels are derived from farm products, and while the committee did not question the economic benefits to corn and soybean producers from ethanol and biodiesel, it pointed out that about 40% of the corn crop goes to ethanol production, pushing prices higher and reduced available supplies. The committee points out that economic benefits overall have come at a price, describing livestock producer opposition to the RFS and their demand the benefits of the RFS to biofuel production must be weighed against the impact on farm income and consumer food prices.  The committee includes in the white paper nine questions it would like further information on.  The white paper can be found at

USDA to Unveil Climate Change Actions

During his appearance this week before the ag/FDA subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said his department will roll out over the next several weeks actions designed to give USDA a better handle on the impacts of climate change on production agriculture and rural communities.  Part of President Obama's move to get the country adjusted to shifting climate patterns, Vilsack said the department takes drought and extreme weather conditions very seriously, and said the department plans to boost climate research and may set up regional hubs to study geographic impacts.  USDA will ramp up its weather forecasting and take a closer look at the use of cover crops to mitigate climate change impact among other actions being contemplated.

EPA Releases Annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory


The 18th annual report on overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) shows a 1.6% drop in 2012 over 2011, according to EPA this week.  GHG levels in 2011 were nearly 7% less than those reported in 2005.  The agency said the decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficient vehicles and few miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in weather.  You can find the full EPA annual report of GHG emissions att
Your Company Wants to Make You Healthy

by: Jen Wieczner

Employer wellness programs used to mean just having a gym in the office or posters on the wall encouraging people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Now more companies are using real money, and sometimes penalties, as incentives for workers to get in better shape.