LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

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COVID-19 Updates From Headquarters

Note: Given the significant impacts COVID-19 has had on the beef industry in the past week, in the section below we have centralized some of the most essential updates. Full COVID-19 coverage from CCA is available here, and full coverage from CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is available hereRegulatory work and other non-COVID-19 matters continue to impact the beef industry, so you are encouraged to review the regular “From Headquarters” section, below.

Agriculture is critical infrastructure and an essential service during this emergency
CCA staff and leadership has been in constant contact with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Governor’s office to ensure that all sectors of the livestock industry and beef production are considered “essential services,” ensuring that there will not be any restrictions or unnecessary hurdles in the way of providing beef to re-stock grocers’ meat cases.

Last week, CDFA issued guidance that “The food supply makes up critical infrastructure from farm to table and includes assets, systems, networks, and functions that provide vital services to the nation. It is essential that federal government-defined critical infrastructure and supply chains are protected, and that all elements pertaining to the food supply remain operational, including a workforce that is vital to production of the food supply.” The California State Public Health Officer has released a list of essential critical infrastructure workers confirming that “those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production” and other agricultural employees are exempt from the Governor’s stay-at-home order.

CCA expects no restrictions upon the agricultural sector and food production. Should your operation confront any hurdles related to the COVID-19 outbreak, contact CCA staff immediately so that we can work with CDFA and the Governor’s office to immediately resolve any issues. 

Additionally, CCA encourages all producers to document all losses associated with the COVID-19 crisis.  Such information will be vital in ensuring that producers are ultimately compensated for losses associated with the pandemic.

CCA and NCBA work to secure the beef supply chain and provide relief for ranchers
CCA continues to work closely with our national affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to ensure that the federal government eliminates any obstacles in the food supply chain. On Tuesday, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane wrote to Vice President Pence outlining administrative actions which would protect and streamline the nation’s beef supply chain.

In response to COVID-19’s impact on the cattle markets, NCBA CEO Colin Woodall on Wednesday wrote to the North American Meat Institute asking NAMI’s members “to be aggressive in the cash market and base their bids on the increased cutout value we are seeing rather than the futures” to ensure market liquidity and transparency.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue tweeted last night that “USDA is actively monitoring all ag commodity markets & the flow of food…during the COVID 19 outbreak. We are paying special attention to the difference in prices from the farm gate to the grocery shelf.”

CCA is also working with NCBA and our allies in the nation’s capital to ensure that all producer losses directly associated with COVID-19 are addressed by Congress. The Senate is currently negotiating and drafting a nearly-$2 trillion “Phase III” stimulus bill in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and Thursday NCBA sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking that Congress “provide for an increase in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation’s (USDA – CCC) borrowing authority from $30 to $50 billion, fully fund the replenishment of CCC, and ensure that livestock producers will be eligible for assistance in this time of need.”

CCA has been in contact with the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris asking them to support the Phase III bill, particularly the extended borrowing authority for the CCC. Additionally, CCA today sent a letter to California’s Congressional Delegation outlining CCA’s priorities for legislative relief from COVID-19.

While the Phase III stimulus bill failed procedural votes yesterday and today in the Senate, Senators and the Administration will continue to negotiate. The provisions of the bill relating to the CCC are not among the controversial provisions of the bill which have delayed its passage by the Senate.

US Forest Service Region 5 goes virtual, suspends prescribed fires
On Friday, the US Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Office, covering all of California, announced that it is suspending all prescribed fire activities “until further notice.” A press release makes clear that the cessation of prescribed burns is due to the COVID-19 outbreak, stating that the move is intended to “prevent any effects from smoke that might further worsen conditions for those who are at risk in our communities, while reducing exposure for employees who might not otherwise need to travel, and creating social distancing for resources working on the fire.” The announcement comes as many, including California’s elected leaders, worry about the state’s fire readiness in the wake of COVID-19 (see “Sen. Kamala Harris ‘very concerned’ about coronavirus and wildfires” in “Industry News,” below).

The Pacific Southwest Region also announced that all forest operations would be “virtual” until further notice to ensure proper social distancing. Permittees needing to meet with Forest Service personnel before turnout will need to call their Forest Service office to arrange for annual meetings to be conducted remotely. CCA is working closely with the Public Lands Council to ensure that COVID-19 response does not impact turnout on public lands, especially at a time when the beef supply chain is so critical.

CDC Guidance on Animals and COVID-19
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a webpage of information regarding animals and COVID-19, including guidance on how to stay healthy around animals during this time.

“In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time,” CDC addresses on the site. “However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.”

For your health, CDC recommends the following guidelines:

  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
  • Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

For further information on animals and COVID-19, visit the CDC’s “Animals and the Coronavirus Disease 2019” webpage. To visit the page, click here.

All California livestock markets will remain open for business—with COVID-19 precautions
CCA has also been in close contact with the Livestock Marketing Association and has received assurances that California livestock markets will remain open for business during the COVID-19 crisis. To prevent the transmission of the virus, however, markets are making changes to the way they do business to ensure proper social distancing.

Feds and California provide temporary Hours of Service exemptions for livestock haulers
In response to the COVID-19 emergency, last week the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration exempting livestock haulers from compliance with the federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time. The declaration provides an Hours of Service exemption for all haulers “providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, including” food “for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores” and “immediate precursor raw materials” necessary for the production of such food and groceries. The Office of the Secretary of Transportation interprets all livestock hauling to fit this exemption.

Hours of Service rest requirements remain in effect under the declaration, meaning that once a driver returns to his or her “normal reporting location,” that individual must still receive a minimum of 10 hours of off-duty rest.

Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the exemption by issuing an Executive Order likewise exempting haulers engaged in intrastate or interstate transportation from California’s Hours of Service regulations. While Governor Newsom’s order does not explicitly reference livestock (or “precursor raw materials”), the order makes clear that it is intended to be consistent with FMCSA’s order and apply to all hauling “in support of emergency relief efforts,” including “food for emergency restocking of stores.”

The FMCSA exemption is in effect until April 12 (or until the COVID-19 national emergency is terminated, if it is terminated prior to April 12). The California exemption is in effect as long as the FMCSA exemption remains effective.

Though not required, CCA recommends that livestock haulers operating under these exemptions print out the FMCSA Expanded Emergency Declaration, available here, and Governor Newsom’s Executive Order, available here, and keep these documents in their cab.

Sacramento Lawmakers Continue to Respond to COVID-19 Crisis
Last week, Legislative Bulletin detailed unusual steps that lawmakers in Sacramento had taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Cancelling Senate and Assembly hearings, agencies cancelling regulatory hearings (or moving those hearings online) and at least one regulator—California Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla—testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

In the past week, state lawmakers have taken even more drastic measures to respond to COVID-19. On Monday night, legislators unanimously voted to adjourn early for Spring Recess; legislators are currently expected to return to the Capitol on April 13, the day after Easter (the recess was originally planned for April 2-13). The move is intended to safeguard public safety: the busy Capitol risks easy transmission of the virus, and many legislators and staffer are over 65 years old and thus in the ‘high-risk’ category for serious complications from COVID-19.

The recess came after a day of work to address COVID-19, during which the legislature approved emergency legislation establishing a $1.1 billion relief package for hospitals, businesses, local governments and schools.

Both houses of the legislature have altered their rules so that legislators and staff can continue their work in the face of COVID-19: both the Assembly and Senate will allow staff to work-from-home with approval of the legislator for whom they work, and the Senate will permit members to remotely attend hearings and floor sessions.

Bill hearings scheduled for the coming weeks have been postponed, and it is possible that legislators will need to act later this year to delay legislative deadlines in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

CCA will continue to keep you updated on the impacts of COVID-19 in the State Capitol.

From Headquarters

Emergency Assistance Available for Designated Areas in California
Late last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue designated six California counties and primary natural disaster areas. Producers suffering losses from recent natural disasters may be eligible for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans.

This important designation as a natural disaster allows FSA to extend emergency credit to producers recovering from the disasters. These loans may be used to meet various needs such as replacement of essential equipment or livestock or debt refinancing.

Excessive Rain:
Residents of Tulare, San Joaquin, Sacramento and Kings counties suffering losses due to the excessive rain that occurred between May 15, 2019 and May 30, 2019, may be eligible for emergency loans. Producers in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Monterey, Placer, San Luis Obispo, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter and Yolo are also eligible.

Excessive Rain and Hail: 
Fresno County producers suffering losses due to the excessive rain and hail that occurred May 15, 2019 to May 30, 2019 may be eligible for emergency loans. Producers in Inyo, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Tulare, San Benito and Mono may also be eligible to apply for such loans.

Drought:
Producers in San Bernardino, Inyo, Kern Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties who suffered losses due to recent drought may be eligible for emergency loans.

For more information or to apply, click here. The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is November 7.

The USDA also offers other relief programs that do not require a disaster declaration including the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and Tree Assistance Program (TAP). For information on these and other programs, click here.

2019 Water Reports Due April 1 for Many Diverters
Under the Emergency Regulation for Measuring and Reporting the Diversion of Water adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in 2016, all water rights holders diverting water under a permit, license, registration or certificate must file their 2019 annual use reports by April 1, regardless of the size of those diversions (those filing Statements of Diversion and Use for riparian and pre-1914 rights have until July 1 to file). The reports must be made electronically using the SWRCB’s Water Right Form and Survey Submittal Portal. To submit a report, click here.

Failure to file water use reports by April 1 may subject diverters to fines of up to $500 per day.

In previous years, the SWRCB has tenaciously enforced the reporting requirements, sending Notices of Deficiency to thousands of water rights holders who have failed to timely report their diversion and use of water. Those notices threatened non-filers with potential fines of tens of thousands of dollars (calculated using the maximum allowable fine of $500 per day for each day after the filing deadline). While many diverters were able to avoid fines by correcting their error and filing their diversion and use reports, the Notice of Deficiency and threatened fine were an unwelcome surprise for many ranchers. To avoid notices of deficiency and threatened enforcement fines, CCA encourages water rights holders with permits, licenses, registrations or certificates to file as soon as possible, and no later than April 1.

POSTPONED: Lahontan Water Board Workshops on Bacteria Water Quality Objectives 
In previous editions of Legislative Bulletin, CCA urged members to attend workshops to be held by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board between March 24 and 30 aimed at discussing the region’s bacteria water quality objectives.

On Tuesday, the Lahontan Water Board announced that it has postponed those hearings.

A notice issued by the Lahontan Water Board reads: “Due to the unprecedented public health emergency created by the COVID-19 Coronavirus, the Lahontan Water Board has taken the difficult decision to postpone the upcoming public workshops for the Bacteria Water Quality Objectives Evaluation Project. The Water Board is committed to protecting the health of the public and members of staff, and the uncertainty surrounding transmission of the novel COVID-19 virus and the known effects on vulnerable populations in our community warrants exercising extreme caution. Staff are investigating alternative methods of meeting for these workshops. Information about future workshops will be shared via email and distributed via the ‘Basin Planning – Regionwide’ email list. To sign up for email notifications, click here.

Get Involved: Help Shape Mountain Lion Policy in Southern California and the Central Coast
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, on April 15 the California Fish and Game Commission will consider whether listing mountain lions in Southern California and the Central Coast as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) “may be warranted,” a proposal that CCA is actively opposing on policy and legal grounds.

Additionally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has instituted a ‘three-strikes’ policy for obtaining take permits for mountain lions confirmed to perpetrate depredations of livestock. Under this policy, the Department will only authorize “non-lethal take”—such as hazing and pursuit—the first two times a mountain lion kills or injures livestock, and will not issue a lethal take permit unless one is specifically requested after a third depredation event.

CCA is strenuously opposing these policies, but will be more successful with the assistance of our impacted members.

To help CCA fight the CESA listing petition, CCA staff asks that members write to the Commission and tell them that mountain lions should not be protected under California’s Endangered Species Act. The most successful comments will be those that address mountain lion impacts to your ranch and likely impacts that mountain lion protections would have upon your operation. Any information you may have about mountain lion population abundance in Southern California or the Central Coast may also be valuable. CCA encourages you to send your letters to CCA’s Kirk Wilbur at kirk@calcattlemen.org or by mail to the CCA office. Letters should be addressed to Eric Sklar, President; California Fish and Game Commission; 1416 9th Street, Room 1320; Sacramento, CA 95814.

To help CCA oppose the ‘three-strikes policy,’ CCA asks that members: (1) request a depredation permit when mountain lions injure or kill livestock; (2) document your communications with the Department (e.g. whether they deny the permit outright, limit the permit to non-lethal take, delay in issuing the permit, etc.); and (3) communicate those interactions to CCA staff.

For any comments or questions concerning mountain lion policy, contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.

CCA in the News

Cattle ranchers cope with dry pastures Morning Ag Clips “California’s bone-dry February didn’t leave a lot of forage for Todd Swickard’s cattle — though mid-March rains should provide some help.” To continue reading, click here.

Industry News

U.S. under pressure to keep slaughterhouses open during virus  Reuters “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking to reassure meat producers it will keep slaughterhouses staffed with federal inspectors as fears about potential shutdowns due to the new coronavirus hammer livestock prices and fuel concerns about food supplies, meat industry groups said on Monday.” To continue reading, click here.

Sen. Kamala Harris ‘very concerned’ about coronavirus and wildfires San Francisco Chronicle “Sen. Kamala Harris is concerned that the federal government is not yet ready for the likely scenario of a natural disaster such as a catastrophic wildfire coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic.” To continue reading, click here.

Canada Passes USMCA and USDA on ASF Prevention AgInfo “If you hadn’t heard, amid the din of COVID-19 stories, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement has now been given final approval by the Canadian Parliament.” To continue reading, click here.

How the Coronavirus Crisis May Hinder Efforts to Fight Wildfires NY Times  “In San Jose, Calif., just under 10 percent of the city’s firefighters, some of whom also help battle the state’s wildfires, this week found themselves either infected with the coronavirus or in quarantine.” To continue reading, click here.

Upcoming Events

CCA Feeder Meeting
May 20-22, San Diego, CA
For more information, click here.

CCA Midyear Meeting & Cattle PAC Auction
June 17-19, Paso Robles, CA
For more information, click here.

California Cattlemen Cover March 2020

California Cattleman

Click here to read the latest issue!

The Angus breed, in addition to SimAngus, Simmental and Brangus are the focus of this year’s March issue. Perspectives from each of these respective breed associations is found in this month’s editorial.

Additionally, this issue includes recaps of both the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale and the 2020 California Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show.

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