Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Esmeralda Soria Tours Bug Damaged Commodities

In a year that may go down as the worst insect year across the board, Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Esmeralda Soria toured cotton fields ravaged by lygus and visited a cotton gin and almond huller to see the impacts of having less commodity to run through the plants and consequently a substantial hit on employment here in her District and throughout the Valley.  She first visited Pacific Ginning Company and toured the cotton gin.  She met with Manager Matt Toste, current Chairman of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, and discussed the impacts to this year’s crop.  As a result of the heavy rains, there was a heavy lygus presence early in the season. Due to inaction by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), the crop has been devastated by season long presence and destruction of the pest. This resulted in some fields being completely disced under or limited to one or one and a half bales of cotton production compared to the normal 3 bales to acre yields that California growers are accustomed to.  CDPR refused to register Transform, a very effective insecticide to control lygus, which is registered and used in every other cotton growing state. 

Following the gin tour, the Assemblywoman walked in a cotton field she thought had been picked due to the substantial lack of cotton bolls, but had not yet been harvested. 

Then the group headed to Superior Almond Hulling to tour the almond huller. There, after meeting with Manager Mayra Sanchez and Superintendent Richard Espinosa, she learned that their season will be more than a month shorter than normal due to the substantial navel orangeworm damage. This means their 100 plus employees will lose more than a month’s wages due to the shorter season. In a year where the state is experiencing major infestations of fruit flies, a new almond beetle, cottonseed bug, and many other invasive pests, it was important that the Assembly Ag Committee Chairwoman see firsthand the effect these state policies can have, especially as our tool box to combat these pests gets lighter and lighter.

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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.).