Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Governor signs bill to allow drought-stricken farmers to participate in Rice Commission governance

SACRAMENTO — Assembly Bill (AB) 454 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), which provides greater flexibility to the California Rice Commission to maintain district representation of all rice farmers, has been signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The California Rice Commission, established in 1999, functions as a quasi-governmental entity within the Department of Food and Agriculture, providing for the orderly production, milling, and marketing of California rice and the associated environmental benefits.

The commission’s board is made up of rice producers and handlers. Previously, each board member had to actively produce or handle rice to maintain board eligibility.

Extreme drought and water shortages have severely constrained rice production in the Sacramento Valley.

As California farmers confronted a third year of catastrophic drought impacts in 2022, less than half the state’s typical 500,000 acres of rice were planted.

Due to the massive drop in rice production, many producers and handlers were no longer eligible to serve on the Rice Commission’s board.

Likewise, because of reduced acreage in production, the allocation of commission board seats by district was poised to be dramatically impacted.

AB 454 allows the Rice Commission to annually review and evaluate state drought conditions and, if warranted, issue a drought declaration.

Under a drought declaration, a commission member who is a rice producer or handler would be allowed to continue serving on the commission and vote to issue a declaration if they historically produced or handled rice or if they participated in the Prevented Planting Program at USDA.

“Year-after-year, our rural family farms, agricultural communities, and businesses face mounting pressure from unprecedented climate events,” said Aguiar-Curry (D- Winters). “It’s imperative that we not lose the input of our farmers and handlers because of catastrophic droughts that they can’t control. I want to thank the Rice Commission for continuing to be a close partner on public policy that affects our agriculture and rice industry communities. Their leadership is incredibly valuable to our State Department of Food and Agriculture, and to me as I continue to serve my farming constituents. The governor’s support will help us maintain the rural voices that are so important to instructing decisions made by our state government.”

“We greatly appreciate Asm. Aguiar-Curry’s support of the rice industry. We are still feeling the impacts of last year’s drought and this bill will help us include growers on our board who were not able to plant last year due to the lack of water,” said Tim Johnson, president and CEO of the CA Rice Commission.

Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry represents the Fourth Assembly District, which includes all of Yolo, Napa, Colusa, Lake Counties, and parts of Sonoma County.

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