Next Meeting: February 13, 2014
7:00 PM, Farm Bureau Office
JUDGE SAYS WATER RIGHT FEE IS INVALID
A disputed fee charged to California water rights holders is invalid, a judge says in a proposed decision, because insufficient connection exists between the amount charged, the benefits received and the burdens imposed by those who pay the bill. In his proposed decision, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei said that the State Water Resources Control Board should not “apply or enforce” the fee, which it has imposed since the 2003-04 fiscal year.
The California Farm Bureau Federation challenged the fee as an unconstitutional tax, because those who pay the fee bear a disproportionate burden of funding the water board’s Division of Water Rights. Judge Cadei agreed, noting that “no fees are assessed against the holders of approximately 38 percent of all water rights in California,” and that the fees pay more than a minimal amount “for activities that benefit the public in general.”
As a result, the judge said, the fees “do not provide a fair, reasonable, and substantially proportionate assessment of all costs related to the regulation of the affected payors.” Further, Judge Cadei wrote, there is no evidence that the water board considered fairly apportioning the fees before they were imposed.
“Farmers and ranchers are willing to pay their fair share to support programs that benefit them, but not to shoulder the full burden of programs just because that’s a convenient way for a government agency to support itself,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “We’re encouraged by the judge’s proposed decision and will continue to seek a refund of fees that have been improperly charged to farmers and ranchers.”
The judge also ruled that the water board had erred by charging water contractors in the Central Valley Project for the full amount of the federal project’s water permit, rather than the proportion of that water actually made available under CVP contracts, and that the board had charged “arbitrary” fees to other permit holders.
Since the water right fee was first imposed, Farm Bureau has urged holders of some 13,000 water rights to pay the bills under protest, by filing a protest form with the board when paying the fee to the Board of Equalization. CFBF also challenged the fee in court, pursuing the case all the way to the state Supreme Court, which in January 2011 directed the lower court to take more evidence and hear additional arguments.
“Farm Bureau has pursued this case for many years because we believe fees should be limited to the amount necessary to provide a service, not as a substitute for taxes,” CFBF Associate Counsel Carl Borden said. “The water right fee is simply an illegal tax.”
In his proposed decision, Judge Cadei said he would schedule a hearing to address whether all those who have paid the fees should be granted refunds. The case,California Farm Bureau Federation v. California State Water Resources Control Board, was consolidated with a similar challenge filed by the Northern California Water Association and other plaintiffs.
2013 Distinguished Service Award
It isn’t very often I am bestowed the honor to write a speech or make an introduction for such an accomplished individual. Tonight it is my distinct pleasure to introduce the SCFB Distinguished Service Award winner.
This award is the highest honor a County Farm Bureau can give to anyone. Over the years SCFB has honored some very active and progressive farmers and politicians, including our friend Doug LaMalfa and past legends Bill Peters and Ray Platt. As well, some years the award was not given when no one seemed deserving of it in that year. This year however, that was not the case --This individual is very deserving and has truly earned the honor of being Siskiyou County Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award winner.
Before I call this individual up to join me, let me tell you a little about him. This individual was not born into agriculture, much like myself. He was also not able to marry into it. And, his parents are still alive, so he hasn’t inherited it. He has had to build it for himself. Now, when you see this person come up and join me, you might think something of the affect of seeing how his job in town has afforded him the opportunity to become involved in this capital intensive industry we all know as production agriculture. But, I have some things to share that I bet you don’t know.
Our recipient was born in the LA area and came to a more rural setting when he was nine years old. That is when it all began. He promptly joined 4-H and started raising pigs, his first and still a passion of his. He was so good at showing and raising pigs that by the time he was 12-14 years old, he was taking care of the neighbor’s pigs and had a small breeding project. But it didn’t stop there. In order to earn more income, he did not take the American Farmer route and finance an operation; he built it up starting small, with buying, raising, selling some eggs, and then selling the whole chicken. After he had saved up enough from his chicken and pig operation, he was finally able to buy--- you guessed it, a milk cow. Now, he began a trait that is still with him today, up early to work, work all day, and then work late at night. He milked his cow twice a day. With his earnings he saved. At Christmas time, this young man used his own money to buy presents for his family.
As this hard working young man grew up, he attended UC Davis, becoming an official Aggie, and planned on becoming a veterinarian, as he had worked in a vet’s office during high school and enjoyed large animals. He majored in genetics and took some pre-med classes. However, this must be where the change happened. Somewhere in the genetics class, there must have been some shark DNA that he crossed with a pit bull, because he became infected. Our distinguished service award winner had now made a change for the dark side – he entered Mc George School of Law instead of medical school.
After Darrin became an attorney and moved to Siskiyou County, he wasted little time in becoming involved with local agriculture. The Mercier family moved here shortly before the 1996 Siskiyou Golden Fair, and Darrin with a few month old daughter, Kristen, was in attendance and involved. He has stayed involved with agriculture and continued to serve the community since. I have the distinct pleasure in serving on the Siskiyou Golden Fair Board with Darrin, and I know he is also involved in other parts of the community including, but not limited to, the Junior Livestock Auction Committee, and being a long standing and respected member of the Fairchild Medical board, too. Most of you probably know why we have chosen to honor Mr. Mercier tonight, in addition to his passion for agriculture; he is the successful victor of SCFB’s most prolific feat for its members ever, the winning of the water rights case in Superior Court. We know the big shots in Sacramento did not think our little country bumpkin would be any challenge for the likes of them. How wrong they were. With the help from our members, community, some of you here tonight, and many Farm Bureaus throughout the state and the California Farm Bureau Federation, this little country attorney kicked the big shots from Sacramento right out of Siskiyou County and out of your water!
In addition to being our hired counsel in the case, Darrin also was very generous to Farm Bureau. Since his own ranch’s water was at stake and his passion for agriculture, he donated more than $40,000 worth of legal fees to SCFB as well as provided his office staff, at his expense, to work all of the Friday shift serving beer at the Siskiyou Golden Fair in the Farm Bureau beef booth two years in a row—and we expect him to continue this year.
I was informed recently of Darrin’s love of agriculture, that he loves his tractor more than his cell phone. Apparently Darrin is quite accomplished in placing his new smart device on top of the tractor tire, and then as we all have done, driven the tractor, firmly showing just how not farmer proof many modern electronic devices can be. See, he is one of us. He fits right in.
I have probably rambled enough now, but for those of you that know me you would expect none less when they hand me an open ended microphone. Let me introduce my friend, a friend to everyone in this room, a friend of Farm Bureau, Darrin Mercier.
- Brandon Fawaz, 2nd Vice President
What We Do
With 587+ members in Siskiyou County; 89,000 statewide, and over 5.7 million members nationwide, Farm Bureau is one of the largest grassroots agriculture organizations working on behalf of farmers and ranchers.
Farm Bureau will assist in the effort to improve ethics in government, hold elected representatives to the highest standards of public service and protect the constitutional rights of landowners, farmers and ranchers
Encourage responsible land use and accommodate new residents with needed housing and a safe, affordable, reliable food supply, Farm Bureau supports more efficient use of existing developed land and protection from inappropriate use of eminent domain.
As demands expand on growing rural areas, Farm Bureau will work to promote understanding of the farming way of life and support public investment programs to reduce crime and improve safety in rural communities.
Farm Bureau strives to protect and improve the ability of farmers and ranchers engaged in production agriculture to provide a reliable supply of food and fiber through responsible stewardship of resources.
2012 Small County of the Year
Jeff Fowle (SCFB President), Brandon Fawaz (SCFB 2nd Vice President), Jamie Johansson (CFBF 2nd Vice President)
County Supporters in CDFG Lawsuit
Jim Wilson (SOSS), Clifford Munson (SCC), Mark Baird (POW), Gayle Jenner (SCCW), Rex Houghton (SCFB), Mario Burch (SCFB)
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809 Fourth St., Yreka, CA 96097
Phone: (530) 842-2364
Fax: (530) 842-2364
President: Jeff Fowle, Etna
First Vice: Jim Morris, Etna
Second Vice/Treasurer: Brandon Fawaz, Etna
Secretary: Ryan Walker, Montague
Mario Burch, Shasta Valley
Dennis Fitzgerald, Butte Valley
Leonard Gorden, Shasta Valley
Grant Hanna, Scott Valley
Rex Houghton, Shasta Valley
Connor Martin, Scott Valley
Scott Murphy, Scott Valley
Carolyn Pimentel, Scott Valley
District Director: Brandon Fawaz, Etna
CFBF Field Representative: Ned Coe, Alturas
California Farm Bureau Federation