LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

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From Headquarters

Measure Introduced in the House Making it Easier to Remove Livestock from Public Lands
Last week, House Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced H.R. 5737, the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act.

Currently, environmental advocacy groups are permitted to purchase public lands grazing permits from ranchers but cannot retire them without congressional authorization. This bill would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service to permanently discontinue grazing on allotments where the current permittee has relinquished their grazing permit to a third party. This proposed law would allow environmental groups to buy permits from ranchers who willingly sell them and essentially retire them, ending grazing on the public lands that were once active, managed and used for grazing.

“This is a common-sense solution to provide for smarter management of our public lands to the benefit of the environment, wildlife, and ranchers,” the legislation’s author said in a statement.

The term “willing seller” can however, be a misnomer. Often more extreme environmental groups turn to coercive tactics to extort permittees into opting out of their grazing preferences. Current promoters of the bill include the Western Watersheds Project, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians among others.

A number of legislators from California are coauthoring the measure. Cosponsors from California include the following:

  • Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)
  • Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)

While those in support argue that the law is meant to target problematic allotments—such as areas with high chance of predation or where there is risk of disease transmission from grazing animals to wildlife—industry groups including CCA, PLC and NCBA believe the Act is contrary to the multiple use approach to public lands use and management mandated by federal law, and oppose any legislation restricting new permittees from accessing vacated allotments through existing agency procedures. CCA, PLC and NCBA are actively working to defeat this misguided legislation.

CCA will continue to keep you updated on this and other federal legislation impacting California ranchers.

CCA Releases Factsheet on the Nutritional Values of Ground Beef vs. Vegan Products
A factsheet highlighting the nutritional values and ingredients of ground beef compared to vegan products, including Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger, is now available on CCA’s website. Looking at the ingredient lists and nutrition labels for these products brings up the question of “Are vegan burgers healthier than real beef?”

To view the Reading Between the Burger Buns factsheet, click here.

LAST CHANCE: Comment Now on State’s Water Resilience Portfolio
This Friday is the last chance for CCA members to provide input on the State’s Water Resilience Portfolio. Early this year, the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Food and Agriculture released their draft 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio as ordered by Governor Newsom’s April 29, 2019 executive order.

The portfolio (available here) contains more than 100 goals and priorities, such as Governor Newsom’s plan for building a single tunnel underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Many of the goals in the Water Resilience Portfolio could be advantageous to California’s ranching community. For instance, the Portfolio proposes advancing the Sites Reservoir, a water-storage project long-sought by the agricultural community. The Portfolio also includes goals for increased surface storage and groundwater recharge, which could provide opportunities to promote improved regulation regarding livestock stock ponds in the state. Numerous goals and priorities relate to providing incentives for farm and rangeland improvements.

The Portfolio includes several potential threats for the ranching community, however. For instance, multiple goals point to increased water reporting requirements for agricultural users, and one goal proposes requiring water users who divert 500 or more acre-feet of water per year to measure their diversions using telemetry equipment.

The agencies are accepting public comment on the draft portfolio through February 7. Ranchers can submit comments by emailing input@waterresilience.ca.gov. For more information on how to provide comment on the draft, click here. CCA will be submitting detailed comments before Friday’s deadline.

State Beef Councils Receive Initial Win in Beef Checkoff Court Case 
On Wednesday, the lawsuit R-CALF vs. Perdue took another step forward as a magistrate judge in Montana granted summary judgment to the government and 15 qualified state beef councils (the California Beef Council is not one of the 15 state beef councils involved in the case).

NCBA Chief Executive Officer Colin Woodall responded to the ruling by saying “We are pleased with today’s opinion, which allows state beef councils to continue the important work of beef promotion and research. Although this case is far from complete, this was a crucial step toward ensuring state beef councils retain the important ability to direct their investments at the grassroots level.”

Following Wednesday’s decision, the case now moves to the federal district court for a final ruling. After the final verdict is issued from a federal district court judge, the case is subject to appeal.

“The beef checkoff continues to provide important benefits for cattle producers in the form of research and promotion that returns nearly $12 for every dollar invested in the program. The Beef Checkoff is weakened, and the benefits it provides our industry are put in jeopardy, by lawsuits such as this one,” said Woodall. “We’re committed to defending state beef councils from these attacks and ensuring producers at the grassroots level continue to determine how checkoff dollars are invested in their states.”

As the case progresses, CCA will continue to provide updates in Legislative Bulletin on the status of the lawsuit.

President Trump Signs USMCA in a Historic Win for U.S. Cattle Producers
Last Wednesday, following its earlier passage by the U.S. House and Senate, President Donald Trump signed into law the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). This historic and overwhelmingly bipartisan piece of legislation has been closely monitored by beef producers across the country since being drafted in late 2018.

The agreement is of particular note to cattlemen in large part due to the strong percentage of American beef that is exported to Canada and Mexico each year. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston was in attendance at the signing.

“This is a great day for America’s cattle producers and we were once again honored to participate in another great victory for our industry. Of course, the ratification of USMCA comes on the heels of a game-changing new trade deal with China, a new bilateral agreement with our largest export partners in Japan, and much-improved access to the European Union,” Houston said.

“Add that to the new waters rule that was finalized last week, new proposed grazing regulations, and new proposed rules that would provide much-needed relief the National Environmental Policy Act, and it’s easy to see that 2020 is off to a truly historic start for U.S. beef producers. I want to thank the President and his entire team for listening to our producers’ concerns and for working with us to find real common-sense solutions.”

After being ratified by the United States, an implementation date for the USMCA will be set following Canada’s approval of the agreement. Canada’s House of Commons began its ratification process last week and is currently considering the measure. Canada is likely to issue final approval by April.

Following Canada’s ratification, all three countries must meet the obligations outlined in the agreement before it can be fully implemented. Once all requirements are met and each country is notified, the deal will take effect about 60 days later.

CCA will continue to keep you updated as USMCA develops further.

Trump Administration Finalizes WOTUS Replacement
In late January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the finalization of the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” the Trump Administration’s replacement for the Obama Administration’s expansive 2015 Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) Rule. 
 
In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized a WOTUS Rule that vastly expanded the regulatory jurisdiction of the EPA and Corps, giving the agencies unprecedented permitting authority over water features like ephemeral waters (those that contain water only in response to rainfall) and even over often-dry land features. CCA and other agricultural and business interests fought the 2015 WOTUS Rule at the agencies, in the Capitol and in the courts (going all the way to the Supreme Court).  
 
Fortunately, with President Trump’s election came a promise to repeal and replace the 2015 WOTUS Rule, a promise that has been fully kept after last month’s action by the EPA and Corps. 
 
Importantly, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule limits the scope of the EPA and Corps’ jurisdiction, specifying which categories of waters are not subject to federal control. These waters include ephemeral waters, groundwater, most farm ditches, prior converted cropland and stockponds.
 
CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hailed the announcement, with NCBA President Jennifer Houston acknowledging that “President Trump, EPA Administrator Wheeler, and Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James deserve a lot of credit for listening to cattle producers and for working with us to get us to this point.”

The 2015 WOTUS Rule was repealed in September of 2019, a move that environmental groups have challenged in the courts. Likewise, CCA expects that environmental groups will challenge the Navigable Waters Protection Rule in court in the coming weeks and months. CCA, NCBA and our allies stand ready to support the Administration’s action.

For more information on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule or WOTUS, contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.

ACT NOW: Take Lahontan Water Board’s Bacteria Water Quality Objectives Survey
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has long had the most stringent bacterial water quality objective in the state: Lahontan regulations require that water samples find no more than 20 colony-forming-units (CFUs)of fecal coliform per 100 milliliters (mL) of water. By contrast, the statewide standard set in 2018 by the State Water Resources Control Board—which measures the specific indicator bacteria E. coli rather than fecal coliform generally—is 100CFU/100mL.

CCA and ranchers throughout the Lahontan region have long challenged the region’s onerous bacterial water quality standard. The 20CFU/100mL benchmark was initially intended to safeguard the waters of Lake Tahoe and should not be applied throughout the entirety of the region. The stringent water quality standard is impossible to meet throughout much of the region, create a regulatory nightmare for ranchers and placing them on an uneven playing field with ranchers elsewhere within the state and elsewhere within the nation.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has committed to reevaluate its bacterial water quality objectives in 2020, and is soliciting feedback from the public via a survey, available here. The 10-question survey takes only 3-5 minutes to complete, and CCA urges ranchers—both inside and outside the Lahontan region—to complete the survey.

Most importantly, CCA suggests that ranchers answer Question 6, “Given the choice, would you favor the current Lahontan Region fecal coliform objective of 20CFU/100mL or the statewide E. coli objective of 100CFU/100mL?” with the second option, “I favor the statewide E. coli objective.”

The survey will be available until Sunday, February 23 at 5.00pm.

LAST CALL: Participate in the California Cattle Council Strategic Plan Survey by Friday
The California Cattle Council (Council) is calling on all interested and willing cattle producers to participate in an online survey to assist the Council in developing a strategic plan. The strategic plan will provide a framework for the Council to fully realize its mission to support California beef and dairy producers and target the most critical issues facing the industry today. In addition, the plan will guide the allocation of funds over the coming years to ensure projects, research, campaigns and advocacy efforts are effective and can be properly measured to determine success. Grassroots input is critical to ensure the Council can accomplish this objective. This is your dollar and the Council takes its obligation to effectively and responsibly serve the California cattle industry very seriously. Survey results are anonymous, and the Council encourages your candid participation.

To learn more and take the survey, click here.

California Wool Growers and California Pork Producers Association Seek Executive Director
The California Wool Growers and California Pork Producers Association are currently looking to fill the full-time position of Executive Director. The hired candidate will manage the two associations as agreed to by both Boards of Directors, and will work out of the office headquarters in Sacramento.

Job responsibilities for this position include policy and legislative representation, financial management, communication, event planning and management, product/vaccine sales and marketing, marketing and promotions and clerical and administrative duties.

Applications are due by February 10th. To read the full job announcement click here, or contact Erica Sanko at (916) 444-8122 orat erica@woolgrowers.org.

Industry News

Sustaining the tradition of ranching in California Morning Ag Clips  “At the annual Rangeland Summit held by UC Cooperative Extension and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition in January, scientists, ranchers and conservation organizations focused on sustaining this part of the state’s agricultural tradition to ensure that the environmental benefits, the verdant beauty and the rural Western lifestyle never fade away.” To continue reading, click here.

Tim Hortons drops Beyond Meat but KFC signs on Yahoo News  “If you’re a Beyond Meat investor you better be prepared to stomach wild swings in the stock. Shares of the plant-based meat company were volatile Wednesday as one restaurant chain dropped the meat alternative from its menu and another one added it.” To continue reading, click here.

Ranchers Praise USFWS Action To Reform Migratory Bird Treaty Act Public Lands Council  “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act serves as an important conservation tool for many birds that rely on the high-quality habitat ranchers provide, but the expectations under the law are not clear. With this announcement, Interior is taking steps to ensure well-meaning ranchers are not penalized for unintended take of birds protected under the Act.”  Tocontinue reading, click here.

Young California ranchers are finding new ways to raise livestock and improve the land The Conversation  “As California contends with drought, wildfires and other impacts of climate change, a small yet passionate group of residents are attempting to lessen these effects and reduce the state’s carbon emissions. They are ranchers – but not the kind that most people picture when they hear that term.”  To continue reading, click here.

Upcoming Events

Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Tradeshow
Feb. 5-7, San Antonio, TX
For more information, click here.

CCA Steak & Eggs Legislative Breakfast
March 25, Sacramento, CA
For more information, click here.

CCA Midyear Meeting
June 16-18, Paso Robles, CA
For more information, click here.

California Cattleman

Click here to read the latest issue!

Happy February! Love is in air—at least it is for the Hereford and Beefmaster breeds in this February issue of the California Cattleman. As it has in past years, this month’s issue focusing on highlighting these breeds and well as the leaders in them. 

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