CPB partners with Dan Haley for Government Relations and Issues Management
The California Prune Board was actively engaged on a variety of legislative and regulatory issues in Washington, D.C., maintaining regular contact with key members of Congress, staff and appointed officials in the most relevant agencies, communicating our concerns and support on key issues to the industry.
It was unclear whether Congress would successfully complete a Farm Bill that had been in the works for the previous two years. Vitally important
programs to specialty crop agriculture and prunes specifically hung in the balance. These included the Market Access Program (MAP), Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC), Emerging Markets Program (EMP), block grants and specialty crop research to mention a few.
Fortunately, in December 2018, various political factions came together to craft a comprehensive Farm Bill that was signed by President Trump. The CPB received $2.91 million in Market Access Funds in 2018/19 to support our export market strategies.
The biggest trade challenges of the past year undoubtedly had to do with tariffs and the uncertainty of trade negotiations, especially with China. While California Prunes fared better than some, two increases in the trade dispute with China caused tariffs on our prunes to skyrocket to 65%, crippling a market that was undergoing recovery from the previous years. Those tariffs have reverberating trade effects in Hong Kong and Vietnam as well, exacerbating a global oversupply of smaller-sized prunes. In response to the impacts to agriculture created by the trade disputes, the Trump administration announced the Trade Mitigation Program (TMP) to help temper the adverse effects of lost markets. The CPB worked to make a comprehensive case for support, ultimately receiving two separate rounds of Agricultural Trade Promotion funding to offset the impacts to China, totaling $2.47 million. Additionally, as a result of the impact on sales and subsequent building inventory, 1,062 tons of California Prunes were purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service for distribution to food banks, schools and other recipients as part of the TMP, with an additional purchase announced and pending at the time of this report. Also, a separate deal with Japan was secured, bringing zero tariffs on prunes and juice exports to our largest single market, great news for California Prune growers.
Congress continued to work on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), a bipartisan effort that has both supporters and detractors in Congress and the ag sector. While the bill attempts to address components of agriculture labor reform, it improves the
current system in some respects and falls short in many others. On the positive side, it adequately addresses the existing workforce by proposing a path to earned legal status and also streamlines the current H2A program. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation has many provisions that raise significant concerns, including the preservation of the Adverse Effect Wages Rate (AEWR), expanded housing requirements, an enhanced private right of action, caps on new visas when the program should be based on need and the imposition of E-Verify before the new program is proven workable. The CPB is working alongside many others to make the necessary improvements as the legislation moves through the process.
With myriad issues to address and opportunities to seize, the CPB partners with organizations that are strategically equipped to track and make an impact on matters of vital importance. In some cases, CPB serves in leadership positions as board members or officers. The organizations add political, technical, creative and financial horsepower to our efforts at the state, federal and international levels and offer access to high-level influencers across government, academia and industry.
The organizations include:
• The California Specialty Crops Council
CPB leadership position: board
• U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council
CPB leadership position: board
• Agricultural Research Institute
CPB leadership positions: chair
• California Dried Fruit Coalition
CPB leadership position: co-chair
• CDFA Marketing Executives Committee
CPB leadership position: executive committee
• Buy California Marketing Agreement – CA Grown
CPB leadership position: chair
• Cal Poly, SLO, College of Ag, Food & Environmental Sciences
CPB leadership position: Dean’s Council
• Agricultural Export Coalition
• Minor Crop Farmer Alliance
• European Federation of the Trade
• International Prune Association
• The International Nut & Dried Fruit Council