There has been much legislative activity in Washington that is relevant to the California Almond industry. First, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the comprehensive immigration reform bill in late May. The bill provides a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S. after certain criteria and increased border security goals are met. The legislation also makes E-Verify mandatory for employers across the country. The bill was taken up by the full Senate during the last few weeks of June and now awaits House action.
Second, the Senate passed 2013 farm bill legislation by a bipartisan vote of 66-27. The bill provides $4 billion in savings over the next 10 years, but will continue to fund the Market Access Program and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program, both of which help keep export markets open. Funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Block Grants will continue as well. The House, however, defeated 2013 farm bill legislation by a vote of 195-234. This is the first time in more than 40 years that farm bill legislation has been defeated. There are several options available for moving forward with the 2013 farm bill in order to adopt new legislation prior to current legislation, which expires on September 30, 2013. Those options include bringing the Senate version to the House for a vote, extending current legislation again, moving to conference without a House bill as they did with the highway bill or rewriting the House bill.
On the state front, the California State Assembly passed several bills regarding safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities. Two of the bills create a funding source to provide a long-term, safe drinking water infrastructure, as well as short-term solutions for communities impacted by nitrates. The third bill transfers responsibility for safe drinking water away from the California Department of Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board. Each of these bills was submitted following a report from UC Davis on nitrate in groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley. The bills have been sent to the state Senate for consideration.
The Almond Board will continue to monitor these bills as they move through the legislative process.
Stay current on state and federal legislative activities affecting the California Almond Industry with the Almond Legislative Report.