AB-865: Final Results
As many of you will recall the Commission has been tracking Assembly Bill-865 (formerly AB-710) since it was introduced in 2021. AB-865: Sale of agricultural products: requirements for sale is proposed legislation that would require listed produce sold in California to be produced in accordance with California’s standards and policies in areas like pesticide use, wages and child labor laws. If enacted, AB-865 would require a “distributor that sells one of those agricultural products to a retailer with more than one retail location to provide to the retailer the self-attestation form received from a grower or producer.” In summary, producers from other states and countries would be required to provide a self-attestation form indicating the production was done in accordance with California’s laws.
As you’ll see below, AB-865 died in the Appropriations Committee on January 31, 2024, due to a lack of support for passage.
Additional information, if of interest:
Supporters: California Date Commission, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Fresh Fruit Association, Hadley Date Gardens, INC., Riverside County Farm Bureau, Twenty-nine Palms Band of Mission Indians
Opposition: California Grocers Association and California Retailers Association
The Assembly Committee on Appropriation’s analysis provides the following:
- FISCAL EFFECT: CDFA estimates costs ranging from $20 million to $25 million in the first year followed by ongoing annual costs ranging from $10 million to $15 million to fulfill the requirements of this bill (General Fund)
- Writing in support, this bill levels the playing field by creating a pilot program for ensuring agricultural products sold in California, whether they were grown in-state or imported from another state or country, were produced in compliance with California’s health, environmental protection, food safety, and labor laws. The Riverside County Farm Bureau states:
- California agriculture is responsible for more than half of all U.S. domestic fruit and vegetable production and has maintained its position as a national and world leader when it comes to protection of consumers and agricultural fieldworkers by ensuring the use of safe chemicals and providing economic freedom by assuring the right to a living wage. Unfortunately, other states and countries are not required to meet California’s high standards and protections and can import agricultural products into our state at lower costs and with none of the world-leading consumer and farmworker protections that California AB 865 growers provide and that California consumers have become accustomed to it.
- Writing in opposition, the California Grocers Association argues that requiring imported fruits and vegetables to comply with California standards will result in retailers not offering these items in their stores:
- Grocery stores, across California, source as much fresh produce as they can from California farmers when that produce is in season. However, California does not grow the necessary amounts to feed the entire state. Produce suppliers must import produce from other states and countries to ensure all Californian’s have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The minimum wage compliance provision alone will stop the importation of the produce mentioned in the bill. California has the third highest minimum wage in the country. Additionally, minimum wages in other countries are calculated in a different currency, which is constantly fluctuating.
The Committee on Agriculture’s analysis lists eleven similar pieces of legislation that have been introduced since 1999. Only AB-822 became law, and provides a 5% price differential for state purchases of California grown produce.