At the time of this writing, the 2022-2023 two-year legislative session has been called to order in Sacramento. This represents a changing of the guard from one formal legislative season to another and, this year, a sea of change in the number of new legislators who are coming to California’s capitol. In fact, approximately a quarter of the legislature is now made up of new faces. This is both exciting and challenging for those of us who advocate at the Capitol. It’s truly enjoyable to meet the new members and learn about their previous life experiences in addition to their specific policy goals.
We have many issues to cover with Sacramento’s new arrivals. WG’s advocates meet with the new offices to walk through the basics of growing, harvesting and bringing a crop to market. We touch on just about everything: tax policy, land use, water supply and quality, and the list goes on. We do this to educate the Sacramento Capitol community about the uniqueness of California agriculture. This educational process is dynamic and happens throughout the entire legislative process. Legislative bills and agency rulemakings are constantly moving, so we must move quickly to discuss with officials whether the proposed policy will either have a positive or negative impact on the industry. It’s one of the most important aspects of our role and requires that WG staff stay up to speed on how our growers are operating and what they see as future opportunities as well as barriers for their business operations.
WG’s advocacy is important. Case in point, only two of the new assemblymembers who posted introductory videos on their official websites mentioned water as one of their three policy goals. This is perhaps unsurprising given that great attention has been given lately to education, healthcare, climate and social justice. However, a stable water supply is a key ingredient of the agricultural economy and is an essential component of the success or failure of the greater California economy. WG staff will certainly be focused on educating members about the water problems and opportunities facing our growers.
We will also be providing insight about California’s unique process of regulating the sale and use of crop protection tools. California is the only state with a department (CA Department of Pesticide Regulation) that regulates the sale and use requirements of crop protection products. These regulations are above and beyond the federal regulations that have previously deemed these products to be safe and effective for use per the label requirements.
Every legislative session has its own unique themes that drive policy goals and the eventual outcome of which bills are passed and ultimately signed into law. The 2023-2024 legislative session will not be an exception. A severe state budget deficit of at least $24 billion is expected for the coming fiscal year. This is a conservative estimate that doesn’t factor in the impact on the state budget should we enter a recession. Less revenues coming into the state’s coffers means that the usual fighting over the uses of those monies will be even more contentious and complicated. WG staff will be on the lookout for attempts to create new or raise existing fees in order to offset revenue losses.
The year ahead will clearly have its challenges. WG staff look forward to those conversations as we fiercely advocate for an amazing industry.