U.S.-China Phase One Trade Deal Brings Wins for Cattlemen
Early last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced further progress in the implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, specifically agriculture related provisions.
“These steps show that China is moving in the right direction to implement the Phase One agreement,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “We will continue to work with China to ensure full implementation of its commitments and look forward to seeing further improvement and progress as we continue our ongoing bilateral discussions.”
The agreement, signed January 15, lowers several trade barriers for U.S. agriculture, providing greater access to the profitable Chinese market. This tariff reduction process is already in effect, with many importers reporting that they have begun receiving tariff relief for U.S. agricultural product purchases. In addition, China has agreed to nearly doubling its purchase of U.S. farm products. In 2019, $8.4 billion worth of beef products were exported to China.
As part of the agreement, China has notified the U.S. of proposed maximum residue levels for three hormones regularly used in U.S. beef production. This signifies the recognition and acceptance by China, that these common U.S. production methods are safe and science based.
Also beneficial to the U.S. beef industry is that for the first time since 2003, nearly all beef products will have access to the Chinese market. Per the agreement, China has expanded its list of beef products eligible for entry to its ports, such as processed meat products. Additionally, all references to age restrictions have been removed in accordance with the February 24 announcement, conditionally lifting restrictions on beef and beef products from cattle 30 months of age and older. The USDA estimates an additional $1 billion in revenue for U.S. producers resulting from the lift of these two previous prohibitions alone.
Ease of import was also a key component of the agreement. In accordance with the deal, China has enhanced and streamlined the processes by which importers are approved. Almost 500 U.S. beef plants have already been approved for export to the nation.
It is still unknown how the impacts of COVID-19 will influence China’s cash liquidity and thus, its buying power to meet additional obligations. CCA will continue to keep you informed as negotiations continue.
State Department Fast Tracks H-2A Visa Processing for Ag Labor
In response to growing fears about the shortage of farm labor approaching planting time for much of the west coast, and amid tightening restrictions due to COVID-19, last Thursday the U.S. State Department expanded the number of foreign agricultural workers whose visa applications can be processed without an in-person interview.
With almost 70% of H-2A workers entering the U.S. in the second and third quarters of the year, this waiver could not come at a more integral time for agriculture. Earlier this month, the Department suspended “non-essential” visa processing in Mexico due to coronavirus, but did say it would prioritize processing for returning H-2A visa holding temporary workers whose visas expired within the last year. Fearing a labor shortage, it soon increased waivers to include new and returning workers with visas expired in the last 24 months.
Totaling about 20% of the farm labor force, in 2019 the number of H-2A workers reached almost 260,000. Under this new waiver, the majority of this H-2A workforce should be able to enter the U.S., lending a sigh of relief to the farmers and ranchers who rely on this integral labor pool.
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross praised the announcement saying, “I want to thank USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue for elevating the importance of streamlining the process for eligible H2A applicants who have worked in the United States before or who are already here. Secretary Perdue understands the challenges that farmers across the country, and especially in California, face as the work continues to plant and harvest our crops. I have such respect for all agricultural workers who are vital to a safe, secure food supply.”
However, these measures are temporary and will end no later than December 31.
State Beef Councils Prevail in R-CALF vs. Perdue Case
On Friday, the United States District Court for the District of Montana ruled in favor of the government and the Montana Beef Council in the lawsuit R-CALF vs. Perdue, a major win for The Beef Checkoff Program and 15 qualified state beef councils (the California Beef Council was not one of the 15 state beef councils involved in the case).
Following the announcement the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) praised the outcome saying it “ends a legal battle that has spanned more than three years and interrupted beef promotion functions in Montana. The case had threatened local input and promotion efforts at the state level across the country.”
NCBA CEO Colin Woodall added, “The foundation of the Beef Checkoff has always been state beef councils that collect checkoff funds and determine how those investments are used for research, marketing and promotion efforts in individual states. Those efforts are directed by the same cattlemen and cattlewomen who pay the checkoff, so this victory goes a long way toward ensuring they continue to direct those investments.”
Woodall added that, “NCBA will continue to stand with state beef councils whose work is crucial to maintaining beef demand throughout the nation.”
To read the full court ruling, click here.
DUE WEDNESDAY: 2019 Water Diversion and Use Reports 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.
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 email@example.com 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.