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May 11, 2018

Update on 2018 Regulatory Issues

The 2018 California legislative year is proving to be very active for Western Growers staff on a wide variety of topics including the perennial issues of labor, water, and the environment. As we continue our engagement on these issues at the Capitol, WG staff is also focused on safeguarding the best possible outcomes for our members within the regulatory arena. It is interesting to note that Governor Brown is in his last year as the state’s chief executive. While his administration has pursued an aggressive schedule of regulatory proposals, it has also embraced pragmatism in addressing the specifics of many (but by no means all) of the regulations themselves. Some of the important regulatory items which we are currently working on include proposed regulations on the prevention of heat illness in indoor places of employment, the update of Wage Order 14 pursuant to the recently enacted statute on agricultural overtime, and implementation of the Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) program at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).  There are numerous other regulations that we could highlight but the list above represents those that have direct impact upon your agricultural operations. A brief synopsis of each of these topics follows below.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is undergoing development of an indoor heat illness prevention standard that would apply to all indoor work areas where the temperature equals or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The development of this standard is required by SB 1167 which was signed into law in 2016. Protecting employees from heat illness, whether indoor or outdoor, is important to ensuring a safe, effective, and efficient workplace. WG is working closely with other industry partners and the greater business community to ensure that compliance costs are minimized as much as possible and that any specific regulatory directives are actually feasible. WG also played a significant role in advocating that any new standard on indoor heat illness be separate and apart from the outdoor heat illness prevention standard in order to avoid confusion for employers and employees alike. Our industry already has well understood training and implementation policies for complying with the current outdoor heat illness prevention standard.

WG staff continues to explore and work with the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) regarding the statutorily required update to Wage Order 14. SB 1066 (the bill extending agricultural overtime in California) mandated that the wage order be updated to reflect the new overtime requirements for agricultural employers. WG continues to advocate that the long-standing exemptions that are currently delineated within Wage Order 14 (irrigator exemption and others) be maintained in the updated order. These exemptions were previously vetted by the Industrial Welfare Commission and found to be necessary and applicable to the agricultural industry. WG is also supporting the establishment of the FARMER program at CARB. This program will allocate $135 million from the Air Quality Improvement Fund, Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to incentivize farmers to purchase cleaner trucks and equipment that will reduce atmospheric emissions. The majority of this funding will be allocated to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District since this is where the most significant air quality challenges currently exist. However, other air districts will also be receiving a portion of the funding based on their inventory of agricultural equipment. This program will help farmers reduce emissions from the agricultural sector in a very cost effective and efficient manner.

If you have any questions about these issues, please contact WG staff for more information.