LAST CHANCE: Take SWRCB’s ‘Statewide Grazing Guidance’ Survey
In 2015—thanks largely to the grassroots efforts of CCA members—the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) scrapped its Grazing Regulatory Action Project (GRAP), a misguided effort which sought to establish statewide grazing regulations founded on a faulty correlative assumption that water quality impairments near grazing operations were caused by those grazing operations.
When the SWRCB discontinued GRAP, it committed to examining “effective non-regulatory efforts for [Best Management Practices] implementation,” including revisiting, revising and revitalizing the 1995 Ranch Water Quality Management Plan process and water quality ‘short courses’ that had been successfully implemented by hundreds of ranchers to safeguard water quality.
On June 7, the SWRCB convened a virtual meeting of grazing water quality stakeholders to discuss development of its “California Rangeland Water Quality Guidance,” or Statewide Grazing Guidance, which will seek to update the 1995 Ranch Water Quality Management Plan.
As an initial step, the SWRCB is requesting feedback on a California Grazing Survey, which solicits information such as the water quality benefits and other impacts of grazing, types of BMPs that safeguard water quality, etc. CCA staff and leadership are working with grazing water quality experts to craft CCA’s responses to the survey, but welcomes members to participate in the survey, as well. Survey responses are due by this Wednesday, July 22.
SWRCB staff currently intends to release a draft version of the Statewide Grazing Guidance as early as September for public feedback. CCA staff will remain closely engaged in the process and will keep you informed as information develops.
For more information on the Grazing Guidance and Survey, contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
Trump Administration Finalizes NEPA Revisions
Last Wednesday, the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a final rule updating regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It is the first comprehensive update to the NEPA regulations in 42 years.
A CEQ fact sheet explains the need for NEPA reforms: “the average length of an [Environmental Impact Statement] is over 600 pages, and…the average time for Federal agencies to conduct these NEPA reviews is four and a half years. However, reviews for some projects have taken much longer. NEPA is the most litigated environmental law in the country.…The increased costs and complexity of NEPA reviews and litigation make it very challenging for businesses and communities to plan, finance, and build projects in the United States.”
The final rule seeks to speed up NEPA analyses in part by putting presumptive page and time limits on NEPA documentation. Environmental Impacts Statements are to the prepared within two years, with a one-year time limit for Environmental Assessments.
CEQ has also simplified NEPA analyses by limiting the impacts an agency must consider as part of a NEPA analysis. Under prior federal regulations, agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service were required to consider “direct, indirect, and cumulative effects” of a proposed action, resulting in all-encompassing, expansive analyses. Under the new rule, agencies need only consider those effects of a proposed action which are “reasonably foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship to the proposed action,” significantly reducing agencies’ workload and reducing the potential for legal challenges.
The rule also clarifies the definition of “major Federal action,” which will help agencies identify the level of NEPA analysis a proposed project requires. CCA has long argued that renewal of term grazing permits under the same terms and conditions, installation of basic range improvements and the routine administration of a grazing allotment are not major Federal actions; CCA will continue to advocate for streamlined NEPA analysis for such projects.
Since the outset of the Trump Administration, CCA has worked closely with our national affiliates the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council to advance NEPA reform efforts. The final rule released Wednesday is a victory for the nation’s cattlemen, and CCA and its affiliates will continue to work tirelessly to streamline NEPA to the benefit of California’s ranchers.
CCA, NCBA Lobby Congress for Additional COVID-19 Relief
Late last month, CCA and national affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)—along with 33 other livestock associations—submitted a letter to Congress regarding priorities the beef industry would like to see incorporated in possible “Phase 4” COVID-19 legislation. The Senate and House of Representatives are likely to tackle another phase of COVID-19 relief legislation upon their return from recess (they returned to session today).
Of primary concern to many cattle ranchers, the letter encourages Congress to improve USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Currently, “Part 2” of CFAP only provides ranchers $33/head for cattle owned after the April 15. Noting the arbitrary nature of this cutoff date and the significant market impacts to America’s cattlemen, the letter asks that USDA “be provided the guidance and additional resources necessary to address” those market impacts.
Other priorities highlighted in the letter include increasing processing capacity at packing plants and making greater acreage available for emergency haying and grazing under the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program.
“The assistance provided to rural America through the CARES Act represented a critical step toward ensuring U.S. cattle producers remain operationally viable in the short-term during the height of COVID-19,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. “However, as our nation collectively works to rebound from this pandemic, we have a clearer understanding of the challenges that remain for our industry, as well as the long-term solutions needed to facilitate a robust recovery. While CFAP was a good start, these cattle assistance payments can be improved upon and tailored to provide additional support to those in our industry who have been especially affected by market disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, further measures such as emergency haying and grazing under the Conservation Reserve Program, a fed-cattle set aside pilot program, and the waiving of overtime fees for Federal Meat Inspectors can be utilized by Congress to ensure the beef supply chain is stronger moving forward.”
CDFW Releases Policy for Mountain Lion Take Outside Central Coast, Southern California
On July 10, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) released its policy for issuing mountain lion depredation take permits outside of the Central Coast and Southern California (where the species is currently listed as a candidate for threatened species protections under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). While the “Statewide Mountain Lion Depredation Approach” has not been posted on CDFW’s public website, it is available on the CCA website here.
The take policy for mountain lions outside the CESA candidacy zone is the same as the policy outlined by CCA in May’s Hot Irons and various editions of Legislative Bulletin: in short, CDFW will only issue non-lethal take permits upon a first mountain lion depredation, and may issue a lethal take permit upon a second or subsequent depredations. Importantly, the Departmental Memo now formalizes the policy shared with CCA in May.
The memo does clarify some elements of the take policy. For instance, the memo directs that the Regional Manager has final authority over whether a lethal take permit issues, and outlines that in making that determination the Regional Manager can consider “regional or local research and lion population dynamics, local sentiments, media attention, or other unique circumstances before rendering the final decision.”
The memo also reiterates that any rancher who catches a mountain lion in the act of pursuing, injuring or killing livestock may lethally take the mountain lion so long as that take is reported to CDFW.
For mountain lions in the Central Coast and Southern California, take permits will be issued pursuant to CDFW’s “three-strike” policy as expanded throughout that region on February 13, though CDFW has clarified to CCA that ‘pursuit-only’ permits are unlikely to issue, and that permits issued in response to a first depredation will likely include additional non-lethal take measures beyond mere pursuit (for instance, the authorized use of non-lethal ammunition such as rubber bullets or bean-bag rounds). Again, mountain lions caught-in-the-act may be immediately lethally taken so long as that take is reported to CDFW.
2020 CCA Scholarship Application Available Now
Applications for the 2020 CCA Scholarships are being accepted now through October 1. In 2019, CCA awarded over $50,000 in scholarships to students studying agriculture, although scholarship amounts and quantities vary year to year.
Current CCA members (producer, feeder or YCC) that are currently enrolled (or accepted for fall 2020) at a university or college are eligible to apply. Past recipients of the CCA scholarship program may also apply again this year. For a complete list of awards and to download the application visit calcattlemen.org/scholarship. Contact Katie in the CCA office at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Cattlemen’s Beef Board Now Accepting Producer Nominations
Interested in helping shape the beef checkoff? Now is your chance to get involved! The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking nominees for the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board now through August 12, with a seat opening for the Southwest Unit (California and Nevada).
The Board is authorized by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 and is made up of 101 members representing 34 separate states, four units of geographically grouped states and one importer unit.
Any beef producer who owns cattle may be nominated. Producers must be nominated by a USDA certified producer organization (including CCA) and submit a completed application. USDA will select appointees from the nominated producers.
Interested California producers should express their interest in serving to Morgan in the CCA office at email@example.com without delay. To learn more about the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and being nominated, click here.