California's Senate Agriculture Committee has unanimously approved AB 907 and the bill next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The legislation, sponsored by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), seeks to amend the Processors Law administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Market Enforcement Branch. The law protects growers from nonpayment by processors but CAWG wants to strenthen the law.
“AB 907 will better protect winegrape growers in those limited situations when wineries fail to pay for winegrapes that have been delivered, accepted and crushed,” Brad Goehring, a winegrape grower from Clements, CA and a member of CAWG’s board said in a press release.
The legislation promotes higher rates of licensure among processors of California agriculture commodities by establishing "reasonable penalties for processors" who fail to obtain the required license or fail to pay the correct license fees. AB 907 allows CDFA to collect up to three times the amount of license fees owed during the last five year period.
AB 907 would require a non-paying winery to post a surety bond equal to the amount owed to a grower. The surety bond could be required if, after an investigation and hearing, CDFA determined that a winery owed a grower for purchased winegrapes. The surety bond would be used to pay growers in the event that a winery failed to pay them.
The California Wine Institute initially opposed AB 90 -see our previous post for background - but removed its opposition after fines that had originally been proposed were taken out of the draft legislation.