Western United Dairymen Headline News

Western United Dairymen

  • Air board offers ag exempt truck deadline of Jan. 31, 2015

    Owners of agricultural trucks that qualify for an identifying AG sticker will have until Jan. 31, 2015, to register with the California Air Resources Board. Mileage limits have been streamlined and increased slightly. CARB is reopening the registration period for those farmers who have not reported and claimed their ag exemption.  Farmers who already have the exemption do not need to take any further action.
    The agricultural vehicle provisions include:
    * Delay compliance for vehicles that operate less than specified mileage thresholds and for a limited number of specialized trucks.
    * Apply to diesel trucks and buses with a manufacturer gross vehicle weight rating greater than 14,000 pounds, thus excluding pickups.
    * Include agricultural vehicles such as trucks and buses owned by log harvest operations or farming businesses and certain trucks that are not farmer owned but are dedicated to supporting agricultural operations.
    * Do not apply to truck tractors that enter ports or intermodal rail yards or transport marine cargo. These vehicles must comply with the Drayage Truck regulation.
    Additional fact sheets and information are available by contacting your local WUD field representative or online at www.arb.ca.gov/dieseltruck,   by calling (866) 6DIESEL (866-634-3735) or email 8666diesel@arb.ca.gov.

    Sept. 19, 2014 WUD Friday Update

  • State water board to hear testimony Tuesday on proposed fee hikes

    Sept. 19, 2014 - - The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday will consider a proposal to raise the Confined Animal Facilities (CAF) fees 31% for existing permits; include North Coast dairies in the fee program, and put a cap of $2,500 on the discount given to dairies that have qualified under the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP.) Western United Dairymen will testify against the proposal and urges interested members to attend and offer their comments. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Hearing Room in the EPA building, 1001 I Street in Sacramento.
    WUD is a founding member of Dairy Cares, which has submitted written comments in opposition to the proposal. The coalition requested that fees for all CAFs be set at the same level as those imposed during the 2013-14 fiscal year and requested that an immediate moratorium be placed on any further fee increases related to the CAF program until the SWRCB can take the following steps:
    * Identify and document that all cost increases proposed for the CAF program are “reasonably associated” with actual costs necessary to regulate CAFs.
    * Identify and document that, prior to establishing the 2014-15 fee schedule and since adoption of the 2013-14 fee schedule, the Board complied with the state water code section stating that the pricing mechanism of the commodity produced must be considered.
    * Conduct public workshops toward preparing and forwarding recommendation to the Governor and Legislature intended to provide a reasonable annual cap on cost increases for dairies and other businesses adversely affected by skyrocketing, out of control exponential increases in fees.
    The letter asked the Board to reject fees for North Coast dairies during 2014-15 due to “a lack of opportunity for public input into whether and how the appropriate fees should be set.” The coalition also asked the water board to reject the proposed changes in the fee discount schedule for CDQAP “because of the harm those changes will cause to the successful CDQAP program and poor public policy outcomes that would result from this decision by transferring benefits from environmentally certified dairies to non-certified dairies. “
    The letter points out that CAF fees have more than quadrupled since 2005-06 and “the unreasonable and unsustainable increases harm dairy operators’ ability to recover from severe economic losses over the past five years.”

    Sept. 19, 2014 WUD Friday Update

  • California mandates sick days for workers

    Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that will require most California employers next year to provide up to three sick days for millions of workers, a policy long-sought by labor unions and opposed by business groups. "This is the least we can do," Brown told reporters after signing the bill at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles, alluding to a growing income gap that has left many Americans struggling to make ends meet. Supporters said as many as 6.5 million workers — including temporary and part-time employees — will benefit from the law that takes effect next July. (more) Sept. 12, 2014 Sacramento Bee

  • Increased attention on I-9 discrimination

    By Anthony P. Raimondo

    Agricultural employers continue to struggle with compliance under a hopelessly broken immigration system that criminalizes employers for hiring the workers who are available and willing to work, and criminalizes immigrant employees who just want to work and try to make a better life for their families.  As Congress continues to fail to act on immigration, the pressure on both employers and employees in agriculture continues to grow. Now, a new pressure has been added.

    The U.S. Department of Justice is increasingly scrutinizing employer I-9 practices for discrimination against immigrant workers.  Conduct such as failing to provide the I-9 instructions with the form, specifying which documents are needed (i.e., “bring your drivers’ license and Social Security Card”), or requesting more documents than required (i.e. a Permanent Resident Alien Card and a Social Security Card) can lead to allegations of discrimination.  

    When completing an I-9, employees are entitled to choose to present any one document from List A, or any List B document and any List C document.  An employer may not refuse to accept documents that reasonably appear genuine on their face and then request other documents from the employee.  It is very common for employers to take a Permanent Resident Alien card (List A) and also take a Social Security Card (List C).  If a List A document is provided, no further documents are necessary.

    It appears that the federal government may be taking a greater interest in document abuse and immigration discrimination cases. In April 2014, a Dallas area concrete company agreed to pay $115,000 in civil penalties, undergo training on the anti-discrimination provisions of immigration law, revise its internal policies, and be subject to government oversight for one year to resolve a federal government investigation.  The investigation started because of a referral from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), likely because of information uncovered in an I-9 audit.  The government concluded that the company subjected non-citizen new hires to unlawful demands for specific documentation, while U.S. citizens were permitted to present their choice of documentation.  The employer also selectively utilized E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of individuals they knew or believed to be non-U.S. citizens or foreign born.  
    “Employers cannot create discriminatory hurdles for work-authorized non-U.S. citizens or naturalized citizens in the employment eligibility verification process, which includes the E-Verify program,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting U.S. citizens and all work-authorized immigrants from document abuse.”

    In June, the Department of Justice negotiated a settlement with a Colorado janitorial company that resolved claims of immigration related discrimination.  Specifically, the company required more documentation from non-citizens than was required of citizens.  The settlement included payment of more than $50,000 in civil penalties and $25,000 back pay to compensate individuals who may have lost wages due to the discriminatory practices.  The government also demanded the right to monitor the business’s employment eligibility verification process for one year.

    Of greatest concern, the DOJ found in a separate investigation that a nursing home engaged in document abuse because required lawful permanent resident aliens to present a new green card after the old one expired, even though such reverification is unlawful.

    Permanent residents have permanent work authorization in the United States that does not expire when the cards expire, much like a citizen’s work authorization does not lapse when a passport expires. While a permanent resident alien card must be valid at the time of hire, the form does not needed to be updated when the card expires.  The nursing home also required permanent residents to produce proof of citizenship if they became naturalized citizens, even though this practice is prohibited by law. The case was settled for $14,500 in civil penalties, training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, establishment of a back pay fund, and two years of government oversight.

    Employers must be sure to understand how the I-9 works, what documents are required (and what are not), and should make sure that employees processing new hires are properly trained.  A great resource is the USCIS “I-9 Handbook for Employers” (Form M-274), available at www.uscis.gov   Employers must be careful not to specify what documents are needed, and must be careful not to reverify documents that do not require reverification.

    The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion. For individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation, the reader should consult with Anthony Raimondo at Raimondo & Associates in Fresno, at (559)432-3000.

  • Court affirms obligation to pay employee cell phone costs

    By Anthony P. Raimondo

    A California Court of Appeal has affirmed that that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them for the use of the cell phone.  In Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, decided August 12, 2014, the court ruled that whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills as represented by the work related calls.  

    Employers must be cautious when calling employees on their personal cell phones.  If the employer decides not to issue company phones to employees, it should have employees acknowledge a reasonable percentage of the bill as work related calls in writing and should revise the percentage as cell phone usage changes.

    Expense reimbursement cases are on the rise.  Employers should be alert to covering expenses that employees incur in the course and scope of their employment.  In agriculture, it is common for employees to move from field to field during the day.  In construction, employees may move from work site to work site during the day, or may check in at a shop or office and then go to their work site.  Employers must keep in mind that they must reimburse employees for any use of their personal vehicles that occurs after they arrive at the first place where they report to work.  The standard method of reimbursement for use of a personal vehicle is mileage at the IRS rate. Given the increase in these cases, employers should be sure to reimburse employees when they use their personal vehicles during the workday.

    Generally, employers do not have an obligation to reimburse employees for travel to and from work.  But if the employees bring tools or other equipment in their vehicles, they may be entitled to pay for their commute time and reimbursement for the use of their personal vehicle.

    The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion. For individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation, the reader should consult with Anthony Raimondo at Raimondo & Associates in Fresno, at (559)432-3000.

  • Dairy Margin Protection Program enrollment now open

    Dairy producers began enrolling in the new Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) Sept. 2. Enrollment ends on Nov. 28, 2014, for 2014 and 2015. Participating farmers must remain in the program through 2018 and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee each year if they choose to participate.

    The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

    DMPP gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year.

    Dairy operations enrolling in the new program must comply with conservation compliance provisions and cannot participate in the Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy (LGM-Dairy) insurance program. Farmers already participating in the Livestock Gross Margin program may register for the Margin Protection Program, but the new margin program will only begin once their Livestock Gross Margin coverage has ended.

    To sign up, go to your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. There are two forms that must be completed:
    • CCC-781 will establish a dairy farm’s production history
    • CCC-782 will document the coverage level, or how much milk you want to insure

    The DMPP final rule was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 29, 2014. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers the program, also will open a 60-day public comment period on the dairy program. The agency wants to hear from dairy operators to determine whether the current regulation accurately addresses management changes, such as adding new family members to the dairy operation or inter-generational transfers. Written comments must be submitted by Oct. 28, 2014, at www.fsa.usda.gov   or www.regulations.gov.

    Aug.29, 2014 WUD Friday Update

  • CDFA Secretary Ross: Pricing legislation will not be pursued

    CDFA Secretary Karen Ross today issued a statement that dairy pricing legislation, AB 2730, introduced last week to “modernize California’s dairy processing system will not be pursued this session.” Ross said, “While the timing was not ideal, I was compelled to see if we could get something done this year.  Since the August 13th Task Force meeting, a tremendous amount of progress has been made, but not enough.  So we will not be pursuing reform legislation this year.”  

    Here is the full text of her statement and statements from Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Assemblywoman Susan Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee:        

    Statement from CDFA Secretary Karen Ross:
    “Let me begin by thanking all of you who have spent many, many hours considering ways in which we can reform the industry in a positive and collaborative way.  I established the Dairy Future Task Force to see if we could find commonality amongst two sides that have been separated for quite some time.  Through this process, a framework came together that would have meant substantial financial relief for producers and flexibility to processors that would have benefited the whole industry.  While the timing was not ideal, I was compelled to see if we could get something done this year.  Since the August 13th Task Force meeting, a tremendous amount of progress has been made, but not enough.  So we will not be pursuing reform legislation this year.”  

    Statement from Assembly Member Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee:        
    “Over the last few months there has been significant progress in narrowing the great divide among stakeholders over how to reform California’s dairy market.  I thank the Secretary and Senator Galgiani for their leadership in this effort and urge all stakeholders to build on the good work that has been done, so we can ensure the long-term stability and success of California’s dairy industry.”

    Statement from State Senator Cathleen Calgiani, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee:
    “Thank you to all the dairy producers, processors, Secretary Ross and Assembly Member Eggman for working tirelessly to find a solution to this prolonged and highly debated pricing issue.  I am committed to remain engaged until a solution is found that will establish a fair and equitable milk pricing system in California.”

    Aug. 27, 2014 CDFA press release

  • Fish and Game Commission declines to list tri-colored blackbirds

    The California Fish and Game Commission recently considered an emergency listing of the tricolored blackbird as a threatened or endangered species in response to a statewide survey showing its population has plummeted 44% since 2011. However, at its meeting held in San Diego, the Commission took no action after listening to statements supporting and opposing the listing.
    Western United Dairymen’s Director of Environmental Services Paul Sousa told the commissioners that there was no need for an emergency listing as the harvest season is past and the birds were in no immediate danger. Under the California Endangered Species Act, the commission may list a species under an emergency petition when there is an imminent danger. If approved, the birds would be fully protected for six months, after which time the listing may be renewed for another six months.
    The commissioners felt there was no need to take action on the emergency petition at the meeting, according to Sousa. It is anticipated that there may be a future request for a listing of the blackbirds as a threatened or endangered species under a normal petition.

    Aug. 15, 2014 WUD Friday Update

  • Tillage Equipment Rental Program Boosts Profits, Soil Health in San Joaquin Valley

    By Cecilia Parsons on behalf of Sustainable Conservation

    The inaugural year of a conservation tillage equipment rental program started off in high gear.

    Dairy producers and other forage crop growers are taking advantage of a program that allows them to get their feet wet in conservation tillage and determine if the practice will fit into their operations.

    Conservation tillage is minimal disturbance of soil between harvest of one crop and planting of the next crop. The practice is much more common in the Midwest, but California growers, led by dairy producers double cropping forage crops, are rapidly adding conservation tillage acres.

    sustainable conservation ct rental program 1In order to introduce more growers to conservation tillage, Sustainable Conservation and California Ag Solutions collaborated on an equipment rental program that provides not only delivery and specialized tillage and planting tools, but agronomic support and advice. Sustainable Conservation's program representative, Ladi Asgill, said conservation tillage reduces the number of passes per field and allows growers to plant more acres in a smaller time frame using fewer implements and drivers. Earlier planting of corn silage can mean extra winter soil moisture for seedlings, Asgill said. Growers who have ground in conservation tillage for several years report the added advantages of improved soil tilth and water holding capacity.

    Strip tilling a recently harvested winter forage field in preparation for silage corn planting. Hanford, CA

    Due to the specialization of conservation tillage equipment, implements like strip tillers, finishers and precision planters are rarely available for rental. Growers who want to see how the equipment works in their operations can now sign up for the rental program and try conservation tillage before making a decision to purchase their own equipment.

    Rental costs per acre are $20 for strip tilling, $10 an acre for strip finishing, $5 an acre for border maker and $18 an acre for planter.

    Two Orthman 1 tRIPr strip tillers and a John Deere 1700 planter with specialized attachments have been on the road for the past month, delivered to farmers for conservation tillage and precision planting. The strip tillers prep the ground by working eight-inch wide strips of ground prior to planting. Using a GPS system on the tractor, the planter’s precision capabilities place the seed at the correct depth and spacing in the strips.

    Demand for the equipment has been higher than expected in this first year, limiting equipment availability to the northern San Joaquin Valley. Asgill said the partnership is considering adding more equipment and technical support to expand to Tulare and Kings counties.  

    Mikel Winemiller, customer account manager for California Ag Solutions and project field leader, provides support for growers who are making their first attempt with conservation tillage.  

    “We want to get them started right. With 10 years’ experience in conservation tillage we know what they need to do to succeed. The grower supplies the horsepower and operator and we are here to take them through the process.”

    Winemiller said they expect to see about 1,000 acres strip tilled and planted this season for 12 producers. The plan isn’t to strip till all of the producers’ forage crop acres, but to show them how the process works on one of their fields.

    The grower is responsible for prepping the field – a process that begins after the summer crop is harvested in the fall.

    “The big thing is to get the check spacing right and to match the borders with the equipment,” Winemiller said.

    sustainable conservation ct rental program 2A tour last summer of conservation tillage programs drew a number of interested growers. Sponsored by Sustainable Conservation, the tour highlighted growers who successfully transitioned their forage crop ground to conservation tillage and either customized tillage tools to fit their operations or purchased the tools. Winemiller said growers on the tour who are participating in the rental program “paid attention and set up their fields right for CT to work.” Preparation plus the opportunity to learn about equipment needs and timing of field work without the initial investment in equipment gives growers the opportunity to see if conservation tillage is right for them, he added.

    Application of “pop up” fertilizer and planting of silage corn in strip-tilled rows on the same day using GPS technology. Hanford, CA.

    Variations in soil types, irrigation practices and forage varieties determine what growers need to do to be successful with conservation tillage.

    For instance, achieving a consistent stand and maximum tonnage with corn silage is easier in sandy loam than in heavier ground. Growers can make adjustments on their tool bars, adding implements to break up clods and smooth the seedbed if needed.

    Helping growers be successful with conservation tillage crops will lead to more ground conversion, Winemiller believes. Once growers see the benefits – both in labor and fuel savings – they will be more likely to invest in their own equipment.

    Probing the soil in a field being planted to corn silage, Winemiller picked up a handful of soil and noted that the long-term benefits are in his hand.

    “The organic matter, the moisture holding capacity all encourages better root growth, which means less stress on the corn plants. The crop residue on the ground shades the soil and keeps the temperatures cooler, giving the corn a better start.”

    To reserve equipment, contact Winemiller at 209-626-6440 or mike@calagsolutions.com.

  • WUD calls for extension of tax code provisions helpful to farmers

    Western United Dairymen has called on Congress to renew areas of the expired tax code dealing with bonus depreciation and immediate expensing of purchased business assets. In a letter co-signed by more than 30 national agricultural organizations, WUD called on Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp to address expired tax policies that are of importance to farmers and ranchers.

    The letter asks the committee to focus on tax code provisions such as Section 179 small business expensing and bonus depreciation. Section 179 allows farmers and ranchers to write off capital expenditures in the year that purchases are made rather than depreciate them over time. “The ability to immediately expense capital purchases also provides an incentive for farmers and ranchers to invest in their businesses and offers the benefit of reducing the record keeping burden associated with the depreciation,” according to the letter.

    Section 179 small business expensing provides agricultural producers with a way to maximize business purchases in years when they have positive cash flow. With expiration of the bonus depreciation provision, the maximum amount that a small business can immediately expense when purchasing business assets instead of depreciating them over time reverted to $25,000 adjusted for inflation.

    The letter signers wrote, “We strongly encourage you to restore the maximum amount of expensing under Section 179 to $500,000 as it was previously set in 2013. Furthermore, we strongly encourage you to reinstate the expired 50 percent bonus depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets, including agricultural equipment. We are concerned that the failure to renew these expired provisions of the tax code will place additional burdens on farm and ranch families who are asset-rich and cash-poor and already face an unpredictable tax code that encourages the breakup of multi-generational farm and ranch operations.”

    The national groups asked the committee to include Section 179 Small Business Financing and the bonus depreciation in a tax extenders package.

    April 11, 2014 WUD Friday Update

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