It has been nine years since the 30-member Agribusiness Presidents Council achieved one of the biggest political victories ever for California agriculture — repeal of agricultural tractor and diesel fuel taxes by the California Legislature.
There have been three similar victories of late that have not drawn the attention of the tax repeat, yet rank with it. They were achieved by many of the same leaders who played key roles in the tax triumph.
The three triumphs came in an even more hostile arena than the state Legislature, the Ninth Court of Appeals in San Francisco. This court has been anything but sympathetic to agriculture over the years.
Money provided from the Air Coalition Team (ACT), a group of commodity organizations, agricultural associations and seven San Joaquin Valley county farm bureaus earned the three legal successes. Each ACT member initially anted up $10,000 apiece per year to give agriculture strong legal advocacy in the courtroom and at mediation tables in lawsuits over air quality regulations. (The state farm bureau opted not to join ACT, although other state organizations did. Apparently the state farm bureau preferred to continue focus on insurance sales and truck discounts and not support important issues as did the seven San Joaquin Valley county farm bureaus.)
ACT was the initiative three years ago of several individuals, including Earl Williams and Roger Isom of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations; and Hanford, Calif., dairyman and leading agricultural lobbyist George Soares among others.
ACT’s goal has never been to foul San Joaquin Valley air. ACT’s goal is to make sure air quality is improved with reasonable solutions from state and local air quality agencies working to comply with the federal Clear Air Act.
Radical environmentalists, however, are seldom satisfied with the decisions of regulatory agencies. When they don’t like what regulators decide is best, they want to change the rules and challenge the science in lawsuits. These non-profit groups also like to sue because if they win, they get paid by your taxes and mine to continue their harassment existence.
In three cases before the Ninth Court, environmentalists were told to take a hike because ACT-funded agricultural legal representation was at the table identifying these legal actions for what they are — nuisances and without merit.
Basically the court of appeals told the nettlesome enviros:
• Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) reductions of 12 percent mandated by the Department of Pesticide Regulations are valid. Enviros, you cannot change the percentage to 20 percent by filing a frivolous lawsuit challenging the data used to set the reduction target. Farmers and agchem manufactures basically have achieved what DPR asked them to accomplish. End of case.
• The San Joaquin Valley has met the federal PM 10 dust standard with stringent rules set by the Air Resources Board. Three major dust storms in four years when PM 10 levels exceeded attainment do not change that.
• Agriculture not only achieved a reduction in PM 10 levels by the mandated 32 tons per day, but by 35 tons using valid, conservation management practices selected by each farmer. The judges told the enviros that facts speak louder than legal harassment.
If radical environmentalists had won any of these suits, the cost to agriculture could have made the gains from the tractor tax repeal seem like peanuts.
Agriculture is meeting air quality standards. The Air Coalition Team funded the legal muscle to rightfully prove it.
ACT’s scorecard: Agriculture 3, environmental wackos 0.