Given the rapidly changing government responses to the COVID-19 crisis, CCA is continuing to provide the most up-to-date information regarding California ranchers’ role in responding to the outbreak. This member update includes recent announcements made as of Friday, March 27 at 5 PM.
As new or more information becomes available over the weekend we will provide a full update of COVID-19 responses, as well as other regulatory work and other non-COVID-19 matters on Monday in Legislative Bulletin (if you don’t already receive our Legislative Bulletin update you may subscribe here).
All of our previous updates can be found at calcattlemen.org/COVID-19.
NCBA and CCA Urge USDA to Provide Relief to Ranchers
Prior to President Trump signing the CARES Act this afternoon, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and state affiliates including CCA had already provided guidance to USDA about how best to utilize the $9.5 billion for producer support appropriated to the agency under the Act. Specifically, NCBA and CCA today formally requested that USDA give particular consideration to impacted cattle producers, who are not eligible for traditional USDA and Small Business Administration safety net programs available to other commodity producers. Livestock groups are also asking that support payments be directed at producers with demonstrated loss and financial need attributable to the COVID-19 crisis (as opposed to a blanket payment equally apportioned among all producers).
To read the key provisions in the CARES Act for cattle producers, click here.
US Forest Service Issues Guidance for Permit Administration During COVID-19 Emergency
On Wednesday, the US Forest Service (USFS) sent a memo to all regional foresters providing guidance on how to administer grazing permits during the COVID-19 crisis as permittees prepare for turnout. The full guidance document for USFS staff can be viewed here.
To ensure social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, permittees should plan to communicate with Forest Service staff via phone or email. If you need phone or email contacts for your line officer, please contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
To help streamline permit administration, USFS staff is requesting that permittees pay their grazing bill without delay and do so online. Follow up with the line officer to inform them that the grazing bill has been paid. Additionally, because USFS staff may be unable to get out in the field as regularly, staff is asking for your help in monitoring your allotment.
USFS is committed to facilitating permit administration during this crisis but is taking every precaution to safeguard staff and permittee health. For more details contact Kirk in the CCA office. To read our full release on this announcement, click here.
EPA Announces Temporary Policy for Enforcement During COVID-19 Crisis
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a temporary discretion enforcement policy that the Agency will operate under as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. It will apply retroactively starting March 13, 2020.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is pleased with the announcement of this policy, as earlier this week the Association said they had “contacted the EPA requesting the agency provide a ‘no action’ assurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To read the EPA’s announcement of the temporary policy, click here.
FSA Announces Temporary Changes to Programs
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced yesterday, that it will be making temporary changes to the Farm Loan, Disaster and Conservation and Safety programs to make conducting business easier for customers. The temporary changes include “relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.”
Last week, 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—including the need for changes to FSA programs.
The letter stated: “Additionally, in light of the current market conditions (including cattle market volatility), America’s cattle producers need flexibility and increased access to low- and zero-interest loans in order to remain viable and ensure that grocery store shelves remained stocked. To that end, NCBA encourages USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to expand availability of these loans, in addition to increasing flexibility of terms for existing loans. Further, we request that FSA coordinate with USDA Rural Development and the Small Business Administration throughout the implementation of these accommodations.”
From FSA’s announcement, NCBA has outlined several actions that provide flexibility such as:
- Extending the deadline for applicants to complete loan applications
- Preparing loan documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches
- Extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration.
To read the full “FSA Makes Changes to Farm Loan, Disaster, Conservation and Safety Net Programs to Make it Easier for Customers to Conduct Business” news release, click here.
Department of Labor Provides Factsheet on Employee Rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law by the President.
The Act “provides for supplemental appropriations related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related tax credits during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the White House explained in the bill announcement.
To help employees better understand this new law, the U.S. Department of Labor has created a factsheet with information about employee rights—including paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave—under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
To learn more about your rights as an employee or how the provisions in the Act will impact you as an employer from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, click here.
COVID-19 FAQs for Ranchers Available on the CCA Website
CCA has created a “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for California Ranchers” page on the website to streamline topics surrounding the crisis and provide details beyond email updates. As new information becomes available, refer to the FAQs page, as well as to calcattlemen.org/COVID-19 and future email communications for the most up-to-date details.
Understanding everyone is affected by COVID-19 in a variety of ways, if there’s any information you cannot find on the website or anything CCA staff can do to help with an issue, please let us know.