Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Pombo Seeks a Comeback: Nobody Wants Him

January 7, 2010

Richard Pombo: apparently not wanted by Republicans, either.

Like an invasive weed that simply won’t go away, former Republican California representative Richard Pombo has announced he is running again for a seat in Congress, only this time he’s going after a seat in a different district. The former Congressman lost his seat to Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney in 2007, after representing California’s 11th Congressional district for 14 years.

Pombo is probably best known for his efforts to gut the Endangered Species Act, his ties to Jack Abramoff, and his penchant for nepotism. Beside the fact that few people in his old district seem to want him back, there’s already opposition to him in the district he’s targeted: the 19th congressional district presently held by Rep. George Radanovich who is retiring to spend time more time with his ailing wife. Hounded by ethics problems already, Pombo doesn’t even have the support of the incumbent, who has thrown his endorsement to state Sen. Jeff Denham.

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California’s Prop 2 to get facelift

June 24, 2009

Opponents of Prop 2 see a chance for clarification on confinement standards

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Egg producers who export their product to California from other states may find themselves having to meet the same animal housing standards as their California competition.

California Assembly Bill 1437 would require that laying hens in other states be treated to the same conditions as those in California if farmers want to sell their product in the Golden State. It passed the Assembly last week and is now under review in the Senate.

Last year, California voters approved Proposition 2 which forbids confining many farm animals in ways that inhibit their ability to engage in natural behaviors. Breeding pigs and veal calves, for example, are frequently held in pens that don’t allow them to even turn around. The proposal’s guidelines on chicken cages, in particular, drew a great deal of attention and voters passed the proposition by more than 63 percent.

Prop 2 called for the elimination of cages that prevent chickens from standing up, lying down, turning around, or being able to fully extend their wings by 2015. What Prop 2 didn’t offer were the new standards by which farmers are to operate. Assembly Bill 1437, introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) may offer a chance to finally delineate those standards.

“We need an enforceable legal standard,” Dennis Albiani, a lobbyist for the Association of California Egg Farmers, told Capital Press last week. “This is a criminal statute that puts the farmer and their employees at significant risk of fines and jail time.” Huffman’s AB 1437 is the means for establishing that legal standard, he said.

Indeed, legislative analysis of the bill noted “Opponents feel that AB 1437 should specify enclosure size per hen, how many hens per enclosure, and if current housing systems can be used or modified to comply with AB 1437 and Prop. 2.”

The bill moves on next to the Senate Health Committee where it will be read July 1.

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Ban on non-therapeutic antiobiotic use fails

June 12, 2009

A bill that would have gradually phased out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals died in the California Senate last week. Its author, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.

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California Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)

“The reason the bill didn’t get passed in the Senate is that Big Ag can still flex its muscles,” said Florez in an interview Tuesday. Florez is also a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010.

Senate Bill 416, had it passed, would have begun phasing out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics (NTAs) in animals raised for food. Beginning with an outright ban in public schools on meat from animals treated with NTAs in 2012, the bill would have ended the use of the NTAs in food animals throughout the state by 2015. The bill that was finally put before the Senate for vote, however, was notably different than the version Florez introduced. By the time it hit the Senate floor for its third and final reading, it said “This bill allows a school district to make every effort to purchase poultry and meat products that have not been treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics” with no mention of the 2015 ban.

Support and opposition

Support for, and opposition to, the bill fell along the usual lines. Organizations such as Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, and Union of Concerned Scientists supported the proposed legislation, while agricultural and veterinary groups such as California Pork Producers Council, California Farm Bureau Federation, and California Veterinary Medical Association opposed the bill. Two labor organizations, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council also opposed SB 416.

In an April letter to Florez, California Veterinary Medical Association lobbyist Michael Dillon stated his organization’s opposition to the bill, comparing it to earlier similar legislation that had been defeated in the past.

“Not unlike SB 416, those measures made declarations that the food animal industry and veterinarians were somehow responsible for antibiotic resistance in humans,” Dillon wrote, “yet there was little effort to examine if there is a nexus with the over-prescription of antibiotics for humans, by physicians.”

Food & Water Watch cited European efforts to end the use of NTAs. Citing a ban on NTAs by Sweden in 1985, the organization said that “Over the next decade, the total amount antibiotics given to animals for any purpose dropped by 50 percent.” Improved hygiene in barns, reduced animal stress, and new animal husbandry practices helped diminish farm animals’ vulnerability to disease, they added.

Although the bill went down 20-15 in the Senate vote, it was approved for reconsideration, and may be introduced in the next session.

Given the size of the livestock industry in California, said Florez, “we’re going to have to be in the forefront.”

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Marler shouts out

June 4, 2009
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California Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)

Food safety attorney Bill Marler sent a shout out to California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) for two pieces of legislation he’s proposed. One would phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics on food animals beginning with meat destined for school lunches. The other would require producers to report positive tests “for any food-borne illness to the California Department of Public Health and maintain records of all testing for two years”. In addition, the CDPH would be given the authority to issue mandatory recalls.

Chickens win over gay rights

November 5, 2008

In one of the more odd moments in what has been nothing shy of an earth-shaking election, California’s chickens have come out on top in a race that has left gay and lesbian Californian’s feeling like second class citizens.

Voters in California have approved Proposition 2, or “Standards for Confining Farm Animals”. Prop 2 would require “that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely”.

Proposition 8 would require an amendment to California’s constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. As of this writing, Prop 2 had support from about 70 percent of voters (or a ratio of 3-2, according to the San Francisco Chronicle). Prop 8 also appears to have won, 52 to 48 percent.

The results of Prop 2 won’t be fully implemented for more than six years. The lawsuits stemming from Prop 8 should begin just about any moment now.