Historic 2023 Water Year Boosts California’s Groundwater Supplies

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the latest Semi-Annual Groundwater Conditions report, and the data show that California achieved 4.1 million acre-feet of managed groundwater recharge during Water Year 2023. The report also details an increase in groundwater storage of 8.7 million acre-feet. This is the first year since 2019 that there has been a reported increase in groundwater storage.  A significant reduction in groundwater pumping in 2023 also led to favorable groundwater conditions, including a decrease in land subsidence, or sinking of the land. Some areas that had previously experienced subsidence actually saw a rebound (uplift) in ground surface elevation from reduced pumping in the deeper aquifers and refilling of groundwater storage. This latest report includes, for the first time, groundwater sustainability plan Annual Report data reported by local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) across 99 groundwater basins which make up over 90 percent of the groundwater use in the State. Paul Gosselin, DWR Deputy Director of Sustainable Water Management stated, “The impressive recharge numbers in 2023 are the result of hard work by the local agencies combined with dedicated efforts from the state, but we must do more to be prepared to capture and store water when the wet years come.” During the 2023 Water Year, more than 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater recharge was permitted by state agencies, more than 400,000 acre-feet of flood water was recharged using the Governor’s Executive Orders, and millions more acre-feet of managed and naturally occurring recharge was achieved.

Industry Pioneer Jack Wilkey and his Wife Pat Honored

In 2004, the Ag One Foundation formed a Stanislaus County Alumni and Friends committee to deepen the outreach between the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (JCAST) at Fresno State, graduates, and the agricultural industry. Each year a dinner is held, and the Dean of the Jordan College, students, faculty, and staff go to Stanislaus to meet with alumni and friends. Each year someone from the Stanislaus area is honored for their involvement and many contributions to the community, education, and agriculture. They are inducted into the Ag One Stanislaus County Hall of Fame.  A perpetual plaque hangs on the wall in Durrer's Barn in Modesto where the dinner was first held. This year, the committee recognized Jack and Pat Wilkey, Wilkey Industries, of Turlock. They are both champions of higher education and have deep connections to Fresno State where several of their family graduated. The proceeds from the dinner are added to the Stanislaus County Alumni and Friends endowment fund which provides scholarships to deserving students, with preference to students from Stanislaus County. To date nearly $75,000 has been added to the Stanislaus endowment and another five endowments have been created by some of the honorees. In total this event has helped raise about $200,000 in permanent funds in support of students and programs in the Jordan College. Current Ag One Foundation President Roger A. Isom (also WAPA President/CEO) was supposed to speak at the event but ended up in a car accident on Highway 99 when he was rear-ended in stop and go traffic en route to the event. Isom commented afterwards “The only thing to keep me away from being there was an accident that totaled my car.  Jack is a pioneer in the tree nut business and a staple in Stanislaus County.  This recognition of Jack and Pat is truly deserved and so appropriate for Ag One to recognize the Wilkeys’ contributions to the community. Congratulations!” 

AgOne Jack and Pat Wilkey

FDA Publishes Final Rule on Agricultural Water

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its final rule on agricultural water. The revised requirements are intended to enhance public health by improving the safety of water used in produce cultivation. The revisions are also designed to be practical across various agricultural water systems, uses, and practices, while remaining adaptable to future advancements in agricultural water quality science. The final rule replaces certain pre-harvest agricultural water requirements for covered produce (other than sprouts) in the 2015 produce safety rule with requirements for systems-based agricultural water assessments to determine and guide appropriate measures to minimize potential risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water. Specifically, this rule:

  • Establishes requirements for agricultural water assessments that evaluate a variety of factors that are key determinants of contamination risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water. This includes an evaluation of the water system, water use practices, crop characteristics, environmental conditions, potential impacts on water from adjacent and nearby land, and other relevant factors.
  • Includes testing pre-harvest agricultural water as part of an assessment in certain circumstances.
  • Requires farms to implement effective mitigation measures within specific timeframes based on findings from their assessments. Hazards related to certain activities associated with adjacent and nearby land uses are subject to expedited mitigation.
  • Adds new options for mitigation measures, providing farms with additional flexibility in responding to findings from their pre-harvest agricultural water assessments. 

Farms are required to conduct assessments of their pre-harvest agricultural water annually, and whenever a significant change occurs, to identify any conditions likely to introduce known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into or onto covered produce or food contact surfaces.  The rule also finalizes the dates for compliance with the pre-harvest agricultural water requirements for non-sprout covered produce as follows:

  • For very small farms: 2 years, 9 months after the effective date of the final rule
  • For small farms: 1 year, 9 months after the effective date of the final rule
  • For all other farms: 9 months after the effective date of the final rule

The rule does not alter existing requirements for harvest and post-harvest agricultural water activitiesFDA has stated the agency is committed to taking an “educate before and while we regulate” approach to supporting compliance. Along with the rule, the FDA also released a number of fact sheets, including one that provides an overview of agriculture water assessments and mitigation measures, and another that offers more details on factors for conducting these assessments. The FDA has also updated the Agriculture Water Assessment Builder. Additionally, the Agency is planning a webinar for all interested stakeholders. Registration information will be provided in a forthcoming announcement. 
 

Association Leadership Ascends Upon the Capitol

Leadership and Staff from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) and the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) spent two days in Sacramento to address critical concerns on legislation and regulations. The Associations met with Senator Toni Atkins, Assemblyman Greg Wallis, Assemblyman James Gallagher, Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, Assemblyman Heath Flora, Senator Richard Roth, Assemblywoman Jasmeet Bains, Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria, and Assemblyman Juan Alanis.  The group also met with staff from Senator Josh Becker, Senator Anna Caballero, Senator Lena Gonzalez, Senator Angelique Ashby, Assemblyman Josh Hoover, Senator Shannon Grove, Senator Roger Niello, Assemblyman Josh Lowenthal and Assemblywoman Lori Wilson. Several issues were discussed included AB 1963, the bill to ban paraquat; AB 2522, the bill to severely limit FGARs, Ag Burning, Sulfoxaflor (Transform) for lygus control on cotton, CDPR’s budget increase request, ZEV truck and forklift rules, electricity rates and infrastructure deficiencies, SWRCB fees, and FARMER funding. If those 18 meetings were not enough the second day was spent on regulatory issues meeting with the Governor’s Office, California Air Resources Board (CARB), California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture CDFA). Topics covered included pesticide bans and CDPR’s budget requests, ZEV truck and forklift regulations, electricity rates and infrastructure, and invasive pests such as cottonseed bug, carpophilus beetle, and fruit flies. The group also met with Assembly candidates David Tangipa and Ali Macedo. The Association Staff including President/CEO Roger Isom, Assistant Vice President Priscilla Rodrigues, and Director of Technical Services Christopher McGlothlin were also present and participating. 

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Association Hosts Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska

The Western Agricultural Processors Association, the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association and the American Pistachio Growers co-hosted an event for United States Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska. Senator Fischer sits on the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, as well as Nutrition and Forestry, Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Armed Services Committees. She is also a ranking member on the Rules and Administration Committee. Also attending the event were individuals from the Nisei Farmers League, California Citrus Mutual, California Blueberry Association, Olive Growers Council of California, National Cotton Council as well as several individual farmers and growers.

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Welcome to WAPA

Governor Signs Ag Overtime Bill

Ignoring the pleas of real farmworkers and the agricultural industry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 1066, the ag overtime legislation. This means that California will have the most stringent trigger of any state in the country for overtime for farmworkers, with 45 states having no overtime protection at all. The Governor signed this bill, supposedly to bring “equality to all workers”, yet taxi cab drivers, commercial fishermen, car salesmen, student nurses, computer programmers, and carnival workers all work without any overtime provisions whatsoever. The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California. California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care. These provisions will be phased in over the next few years ending with the overtime provisions to be triggered at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In the Beginning As folks transitioned out of cotton and into tree nuts, the industry recognized the need to have active and effective representation at the local, state and national levels. Having enjoyed such effective representation over the years from the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, these folks yearned for the same representation in the tree nut processing industry. Issues such as air quality, food safety, labor, taxes, employee safety, and environmental concerns are at the forefront, and there is a significant need for an aggressive and dynamic Association to lead the industry into the next decade and beyond. In recognition of this, the Western Agricultural Processors Association was created in 2009. The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) shares staff and office space with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations taking advantage of a unique and opportunistic situation. WAPA is a voluntary dues organization with four shared staff and one dedicated staff person. Regulatory, legislative and legal issues fall under the purview of this new organization for the tree nut processing industry, which includes almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. From air quality permits to conditional use permits, from regulatory hearings on greenhouse gases to federal legislation on food safety, and from OSHA violations to assisting members on hazardous materials business plans, no issue is too small or too large for WAPA. WAPA has assembled one of the best and most capable staffs in the industry, and the results are already starting to show Membership The Western Agricultural Processors Association represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.Membership in the Association is classified as Regular memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships are limited to any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry. WAPA Associate members include, but are not limited to, commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers. Organization The Western Agricultural Processors Association is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by its membership.The Board consists of up to 15 members from throughout the state, and throughout the industry.The Board meets on a quarterly basis and conducts an Annual Meeting in the spring of each year.WAPA, in conjunction with the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, conducts a special training school for its members focused on safety.In combination with the school, the Association holds a Labor Management Seminar for all of the managers. Consulting Services In researching and considering the concept of forming a new organization, the Boards of Directors for the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations instructed staff to perform some of the work on a consulting basis first. The point was to determine the workload from consulting and to determine if there was sufficient interest. In November of 2007, the Association began conducting services under consulting contracts for such services as air quality permits and safety plans.The effort has been so successful that demand has progressed outside the tree nut industry into other agricultural processing facilities, including vegetable dehydration facilities, tomato processing facilities, and wheat mills, as well as cotton gins in Arizona.It was determined by the new Board of Directors of WAPA, that WAPA would maintain the consulting services to provide offsetting income to help with the expenses of getting the new organization up and running.Today, WAPA provides for a long list of satisfied clients in the agricultural processing industry, by providing critical services such as air quality, safety, food safety, and environmental issues (Hazardous Materials Business Plan, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, etc.).