Ag Burn Alternatives Pilot Demonstration Day Kicks Off

In response to the landmark ban on ag burning in the San Joaquin Valley, several equipment dealers/manufacturers displayed and operated their equipment on recently removed grape vineyards and pistachio trees in Madera this week.  Equipment included an air curtain burner, and three different kinds of chippers for handling trees including one that could handle wire embedded in the vines, and another than handled not only the trunk and branches of the tree, but the roots as well.  The event follows on the heels of the recently announced $180 million in the legislature approved state budget just for alternatives to ag burning in the San Joaquin Valley.  Representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) were also on hand to witness the operation of the equipment.   Agricultural burning is being phased out on a very fast time frame and will be completely eliminated on January 1, 2025.  Cost effective alternative solutions are sorely needed, and it is hoped some of these will fit that need.  Additional projects and equipment will be looked at in the next few months.  As for the funding, the details on how the money will be allocated and who will be eligible is yet to be determined but will be decided in the very near future as the first cut in burning is scheduled for January 1, 2022!


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Cal/OSHA Readopts Revisions to ETS

On June 17, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board readopts revisions to the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) and by executive order signed by the Governor, these revisions are effective immediately.  Some of the revisions include:

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings. Employers must document vaccination status.
  • Unvaccinated employees are to wear face coverings indoors or in vehicles.
  • Respirators (N95s) must be provided for voluntary use to unvaccinated employees who request them, at no cost and without fear of retaliation.
  • Outdoor workers are not required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status, except during outbreaks.
  • Physical distancing requirements are removed except where employer determines there is a hazard and during major outbreaks.
  • Employers must offer COVID-19 testing at no cost and during paid time
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air, increase filtration efficiency and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.
  • Employer-provided housing and transportation are exempt from the regulations where all employees are fully vaccinated.

There are requirements that remain in place from the November 2020 ETS, those are:

  • Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan;
  • Effective training with instructions on the employer’s prevention plan and employee rights under the ETS;
  • Notification of outbreaks to local public health departments;
  • Notification to employees of exposure and close contacts;
  • Procedures for responding to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks;
  • Offer testing after potential exposures;
  • Implement exclusion pay requirements; and
  • Employer-provided housing and transportation prevention requirements.

In regards to vaccination status, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.  Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.  From an EEO perspective, employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.

In addition, the employer shall develop and implement a process for screening employees and responding to employees with COVID-19 symptoms. The employer may ask employees to evaluate their own symptoms before reporting to work. If the employer conducts screening indoors at the workplace, the employer shall ensure that face coverings are used during screening by both screeners and employees who are not fully vaccinated and, if temperatures are measured, that non-contact thermometers are used.

To assist our members, we will be providing updates to the COVID-19 Prevention Plans.

Urgent Advisory – Be on the Lookout for Trespassers During Pesticide Applications

This is an urgent advisory to be on the lookout for people trespassing on to farms in the towns of Raisin City, Cantua Creek and Caruthers during or immediately after pesticide applications.  Participants of a study by the Central California Environmental Justice Network are being paid to carry backpacks with air monitoring equipment in these locations from May through August.  We are concerned these activists may attempt to enter a field or orchard during a pesticide application or immediately thereafter in order to make sure they get a “detect” on their air monitoring equipment.  This effort is led by the Central California Environmental Justice Network.  For years, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) has been conducting community air monitoring, and there been very few detections of pesticides, and none that exceeded any risk levels of actual concern.   Frustrated with the lack of evidence, the environmental justice community is resorting to using unproven and unapproved methods and equipment to attempt to demonstrate pesticides are impacting residents in these communities.  Considering these activists are getting paid to prove detections, we are concerned with just how far these activists will go to attempt to prove pesticide exposures.  Should you see anyone in or around the edge of your field or orchard, we urge you to immediately contact the County Sherriff’s office and the county ag commissioner.  We have already warned the Sherriff and the Ag Commissioner of this potential threat.   

Association Weighs in on Proposition 65 and 1,3-D

This week, the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) submitted written comments on the proposed establishment of a safe harbor level for 1,3-Dichloropropene. (1,3-D) to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).  The Association’s comments focused on the science that shows 1,3-D is not a carcinogen and does not even warrant listing, let alone a safe harbor level.  WAPA is concerned with additional warning requirements and how that might unfairly and inappropriately impact tree nuts.  WAPA believes the science is clear and highlighted numerous areas where the science indicates the listing and subsequent safe harbor level are unnecessary and unjustified.

Association Submits Opposition to Proposed Pesticide Mill Tax Increase

In an effort to draw attention to the costly impacts to the tree nut industry, the Association submitted comments to CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld this week, highlighting the inequity of the proposed tiered mill tax increase.  This increase will more than double the mill tax for fumigants from 21 mills to 45 mills and the money will be used to hire 51 new positions.  This is an unbelievable time to levy a tax increase on agriculture, especially one as unjustified and unwarranted as this.  DPR and CalEPA claim this new tiered approach is to encourage farmers to move away from the harsher chemicals to softer alternatives.  The problem is two-fold for the tree nut industry.  First, there are no known alternatives for fumigants.  Second, many of the countries mandate that tree nuts be fumigated as part of the trade agreement, with no exceptions.  The Association is pressing the legislature, the Governor and his administration on this unbelievable tax increase.

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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.).