Viewpoint

Legislative package aids farmers, truckers

May 13, 2013 

As a local farmer, I have to make tough decisions every day about what is best for my business, employees, customers and community. Like all Californians, I expect my elected officials to operate according to those same principles. Too often, we are disappointed, as partisan bickering takes precedence over solving serious problems in a constructive, common-sense way.

That’s why it is heartening to witness the current effort in Sacramento aimed at providing a way for farmers, truckers and other businesses to comply with the sweeping AB 32 regulations intended to clean California’s air and reduce global warming.

While the environmental goals are laudable, a lot of farmers and other business owners, including me, have had grave concerns about the onerous threat these regulations pose to our livelihoods.

The cost of state-of-theart, clean-energy tractors, trucks and other equipment is astronomical. The price tag for the state’s truckers and farmers alone exceeds a billion dollars. Frankly, without relief or assistance, many businesses will shrink or close their doors altogether.

That’s why I am encouraged to see the strong bipartisan support behind SB 11 and AB 8. These legislative measures will go a long way toward providing the relief necessary for us to comply with the new mandates.

For one, they will reauthorize funding for such things as the Carl Moyer Program. I am one of many farmers who have received past funding under the Moyer Program, which has been a godsend because it helped offset the extremely expensive cost of new tractors I was required to purchase once I was mandated to destroy my old ones. The Moyer Program is the ultimate partnership in which everyone wins.

The bill package, currently moving through the Legislature, tackles a wide range of issues and is supported not just by farmers and businesses, but the American Lung Association and other public health advocates, environmental groups, school districts, local and state government agencies.

Our state representative, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, deserves recognition for rising above the fray to support this critical bill package.

It’s refreshing to see a politician back up his campaign promises with concrete action to find ways to reduce regulatory burdens and protect jobs without jeopardizing the environment.

Of particular importance to California agriculture, SB 11 and AB 8 are critical programs that will cap state fees and provide grants to farmers and truckers to help pay for new equipment and the retrofitting necessary for complying with the more stringent requirements.

This bill package contains numerous other provisions that will provide California with a wide range of other benefits. It will:

• Cap current fees for the next seven years.

• Provide financial incentives for mom-and-pop service stations to invest in hydrogen-based equipment and help ensure there eventually will be a consumer market for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

• Create more certainty for farmers, automakers and small businesses of all kinds.

• Preserve California’s tire recycling program for the next eight years.

• Prepare the next generation for jobs in the newfuel economy by funding workforce-training partnerships.

The extreme fringes of both political parties have placed ideology over pragmatism and are opposing the measure. Fortunately, the groundswell of support and common sense appears to be transcending politics-as-usual on this critical issue.

Many of us would have preferred to see the defeat of AB 32, but that battle is over.

It’s time for everyone to make the new regulations work in the most effective and least disruptive way possible. SB 11 and AB 8 provide hope that our Legislature can do more than create problems ... but fix them.

Jon Cagliero is a farmer in Paso Robles.

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