Puddles, ponds, ditches, ephermerals and isolated wetlands dot the nation's farmland. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) on March 25 issued a proposed rule that would expand its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to these types od land features and waters, giving the agencies the power to dictate land-use and farming practices in or near them. The rule will make it more difficult to farm or change a garming operation to remain competitive and profitable.
In releasing the new "waters of the U.S." proposed rule, EPA (the lead agency on the rule) has said that it is clarifying the scope of the CWA. However, EPA's "clarification" is also a broad expansion of the types of waters and lands that would be subject to federal permit requirements and limits on farming practices and other land-uses.
EPA also has claimed that the rule would have minimal impact and would not affect many acres practices that woule be prohibited if EPA denies a permit for them. For example, building a fence across a ditch, applying fertilizer or pesticides, or pulling weeds could require a federal permit. The proposed rule, in effect, would give EPA veto authority over a farmer's or rancher's ability to operate. It is vital for agriculture that the proposed rule does not become final. From April through mid-November 2014, thousands of people submitted comments to EPA and the Corps of Engineers, expressing their concerns about the proposed rule.
Now we need Congress to act. The House has passed a bill to prevent the agencies from implementing the proposed rule. Please ask your senators also to rein in the agencies' attempt to expand their control over farmers' and other landowners' use of their land. Congress must require the agencies to go back to the drawing board and work with state and local governments to draft a proposal that works for landowners and preserves the federal-state balance Congress establishedwhen it passed the Clean Water Act.
You may have received a notice from the Imperial County Treasurer - Tax Collector regarding business license requirements. Currently, all businesses located within county limits are required to obtain a license. However, there are exemptions from paying the Business License fee for agricultural operations. You may claim an examption if you are registered with the Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner under one of the following categories:
- Section 14006.5 of the Food & Agricultural Code related to retricted materials permits;
- Section 6622 of Title 3 of the California of regulations relating to operator identificacion numbers;
- Section 46013.1 of the Food & Agricultural Code relating to certified organic farming.
If you have already obtained a license and have received a renewal notice, please note the Business License fee is included in total amount due. If you qualify for the exemption, simply deduct fee from the payment and provide documentation as needed. If you have any question, contact Linsey at the Farm Bureau office at (760) 352-3831.
California has become only the second state (after Connecticut) to guarantee at least some annual paid sick leave for most full and part-time employees. The bill, entitled the "Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act," (AB 1522, Gonzales, D-San Diego) passed with hefty majorities in the Assembly and Senate, and Governor Brown signed it on September 10.
- Effective Date: July 1,2015
- Requires public and private employers (no size exemption) to provide employees who work 30 or more days within a year after their hire date with sick leave "at the rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours worked."
- Employees would be entitled to use paid sick time for preventive care for themselves or family member, as well as for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of their or their family member's existing health condition. For purposes of this bill, "family member" means a (1) child, (2) parent, (3) spouse, (4) registered domestic partner, (5) grandparent or employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- Salaried, exempt employees are deemed to work a 40 hour workweek.
- Exemptions provided for employees with certain collective bargaining agreements, some constructions industry workers, home healthcare workers, and certain airline employees covered by the federal Railway Labor Act.
- Requires employers to carry over unused sick leave from year to year; employer may limit employees' total use of paid sick leave to 24 hours or three days per yer. No obligation to allow any accruals to exceed 48 hours of 6 days.
- Mandates that employer provide written notice of available sick leave on the itemized wage statement already required or in a separate notice each pay period.
- Employer is not required to provide paid sick leave in addition to existing paid leave policies of existing policies provide at least same benefits.
- Employer notice will be required with posting to be developed by the Department of Industrial Relation.
The U.S. FDA is continuing to move toward implemenation of sweeping new federal laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The latest version of the Produce Rule was puclished by FDA in Septermber, with comments due by December 15, 2014. FDA is expected to issue the final Produce Rule im October of 2015. Many of the revisions to the September 2014 version are a direct result of growers and shippers comments through Farm Bureaus, Leafy Greens Marketin Agreement (LGMA), Western Growers Association (WGA) and our own Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association (IVVGA).
Water Testing - The revised water rules issued by the FDA were much improved over the previous version. Im particular, the removal of the 7-day water testing requirement for surface waters was welcomed by most of the agricultural community. We however, believe that the newly proposed system can be improved and find that the LGMA, a leader in food safety issues, has established guidelines thst use water testing and monitoring procedures allowing producers to stay on top of water quality changes so they can be addressed in real time. Since the system is something that many producers are already using implementation.
Farm Definition - Another important area addressed in the latest version of the Produce Rule was the definition of "farm" and "harvest". Teh changes with respect to the harvest definition made it clear that some common leafy greens practices -such as field coring- are examples of "harvest" rather than of "processing", and are subject, therefore, to the Produce Rule's provisions. There is a bit of clean-up needed in the language concerning the new definition that is in the actual proposed rule which we hope to see in the next version.
Soil Amendments - We, as well as other groups are concerned about the relaxation of regulations related to the use of compost and raw manure. The original rules included use-to-harvest intervals when raw manure or compost have been utilized, but these were eliminated -at least for the time being- in the revision. It is recommended that, at the very least, the kind of harvest intervals originally includd int he rule be reinstated.
Small Farm Exemption - While many of our farms may be considered "small" we believe the exemption from federal food safety laws should be applicable to all.
In 2006, IID launched an effort to evaluate the different methods for the equitable districution of waster within its service area in times where water user demand exceeds supply. The district hired two consultants: Dr. Michael Hanemann, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and Bennett Brooks with CONCUR, Inc. to undertake an analysis that assessed and ranked different methodologies for the equitable distribution of water. On November 28, 2006, the IID Board of Directors approved the development of an equitable districution plan to apportion agricultural water users using the straight-line method for years that conditions trigger a supply/demand imbalance (SDI) declaration. On June 19, 2007 the IID general manager recommended that the board of directors declare an SDI condition in 2008 adn set in motion the process of developing a system of apportionment based on the straight-line method for future board consideration and action. The board approved this recommendation unanimoustly in order to initiate development of equitable distribution program, including implementation rules and policies.
Since the EDP was established there has been public workshops which have led to several different resolutions to the plan. The latest was on October 28, 2013 where the IID Board of Directors approved resolution No. 26-2013, whichi amends the Regulations of Equitable Distribution.
The county's Smoke Management Policy establishes procedures for notification and traffic re-routing to reduce the impact of agricultural burns on residents. To download copies of the policy in English and Spanish, click here. In addition, click here to view a quote from Acme Sign for the required signage.
We all know illegal dumping in the rural areas of Imperial County is a huge problem. To help combat this problem, the County of Imperial has developed an Illegal Dumping Task Force, which is made up of representatives of local companies and organizations, as well as County staff members. Farm Bureau participates with four representatives on the task force.
Rural residents and businesses know all too well the costs of cleaning up what other people have dumped on your property.
The focus of the Illegal Dumping Task Force is not only to clean up the dumping that has already taken place, but also to develop ways to prevent dumping in the future. These efforts will include public outreach, making proper waste collection more efficient for residents, and increased enforcement & penalties for dumping illegally.
If you have any questions about the Illegal Dumping Task Force, contact Farm Bureau or call the County's Environmental Health Department at 760-336-8530.