USDA-AMS Issues Report on Market Investigations Into Aftermath of Holcomb Fire, COVID-19 Emergency
Last Wednesday, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS) released its “Boxed Beef & Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report.” The report addresses the market impacts of a fire at a Tyson Meats beef processing plant in Holcomb, Kans. on August 9, 2019 and the market impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
As Legislative Bulletin reported in April, CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association requested on April 8 that President Trump direct USDA to expand its then-ongoing investigation into market activity after the Holcomb Fire to include market volatility during the COVID-19 crisis, including a request to “provide our industry with recommendations on how we can update cattle markets to ensure they are equipped to function within today’s market realities.” The USDA-AMS report is the culmination of that effort.
In addition to detailing the market impacts from the Holcomb Fire and COVID-19, the report unsurprisingly notes that the market impacts of COVID-19 are still very much being felt by the industry as the pandemic continues to grip the nation.
As requested by the cattle industry, the report does outline numerous industry recommendations, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Non-legislative changes to Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting regions to reduce instances of non-reporting resulting from confidentiality;
- Tying minimal purchase thresholds to regional reporting abilities;
- Using online platforms to encourage negotiated marketing of fed cattle;
- Risk management education tools for producers;
- Increasing enforcement authority for the Packers & Stockyards Division of AMS; and
- Updates to the Packers and Stockyards Act.
The AMS report does not address ongoing investigations by the Department of Justice regarding potential anticompetitive practices or potential violations of the Packers and Stockyard Act. That investigation is ongoing.
NCBA anticipates discussion of the AMS report and its contents during the Live Cattle Marketing Committee at its Summer Business Meeting in Denver this week. CCA will keep you apprised of any further developments stemming from this investigation.
Support Beef in USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines: Comment by August 13
On July 15, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted their 2020 scientific report to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The report will form the basis of USDA and HHS’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
USDA and HHS will be taking public comment on the scientific report until August 13. CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has established a simple online portal for submitting comments, and CCA urges all members to submit statements emphasizing the benefits of beef in Americans’ diets. With anti-meat activists already mobilizing to downplay the importance of beef and other meats to a healthy diet, it is essential that USDA and HHS hear from as many pro-beef voices as possible.
While the NCBA site provides a sample comment recommending beef as the lean meat of choice for promoting a healthy lifestyle, CCA encourages members to draft their own, unique letters in support of beef’s role in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; the agencies will be more responsive to unique comment submissions from ranchers.
“Study after study shows that beef plays an important role in a balanced, healthy diet across the lifespan,” said NCBA President Marty Smith. “NCBA has made it a priority to protect the scientific credibility of Dietary Guidelines and promote accurate information about the nutritional advantages of beef as part of a balanced diet.”
Department of Fish and Wildlife Releases Quarterly Wolf Update
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife last week released its quarterly wolf update for the quarter beginning April 1 and ending June 30. During the previous three months, two wolves have been fitted with GPS radio-collars, according to the Department: the breeding female, designated LAS01F, and a yearling male wolf, LAS03M. The radio collar of a female pup (LAS02F) collared last September failed early this year, meaning that LAS01F and LAS03M are the only two collared wolves of the Lassen Pack.
The update also reveals that the Lassen Pack produced eight pups this year. Six of the pups have been genetically identified by the Department to date, with four being males and two females. The Pack has also been revealed to have a new breeding male, a black wolf that has been regularly spotted within the Lassen Pack’s range by ranchers and other observers. It is not immediately clear what fate befell the original breeding male of the Lassen Pack.
At present, the Lassen Pack numbers at least 14, with six adult or yearling wolves in addition to the new litter of eight pups.
More information can be found in the Department’s Quarterly Wolf Update and the July 2020 edition of “California’s Known Wolves—Past and Present.”
Trump Administration Finalizes NEPA Revisions
On July 15, 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 be 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 July 15 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.
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.”
Prescribed Burn Association Resources Available on the CCA Website
As California continues to focus on finding solutions to mitigate wildfire and opportunities to reduce fire-related risks, prescribed burn associations (PBAs) are forming across the state. To help ranchers learn more about community-based burning organizations and connect with a burn group in their area, CCA has created the webpage https://calcattlemen.org/pba. The page has an interactive map of PBAs by county in California and links to more information on the calpba.org site.
The page also links to two recent updates related to prescribed burns. In one article on the page, UCCE advisors Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Jeffery Stackshouse answer questions about how community-based burning organizations are emerging and expanding in California. Additionally, the webpage links to a recent CCA Fire Subcommittee update from subcommittee member and San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association President Anthony Stornetta, on prescribed burns and the success of a recent burn on a ranch in Santa Barbara County.
As new information about prescribed burn events and resources becomes available, the page will continue to be updated.
Happening Wednesday: Working Rangelands Webinar
Join Cooperative Extension Advisors, Specialists, Researchers and Ranchers for Working Rangelands Wednesdays, where they explore topics around rangeland agriculture in California and across the West. The goal of this webinar series is to discuss challenges related to managing multiple-use rangelands through an applied, land manager-oriented lens.
The next webinar is Wednesday, July 29 at 1pm PDT and will feature a rancher and land manager panel discussing drought on targeted grazing landscapes.
- Andrée Soares, President – Star Creek Land Stewards LLC (Los Banos) and member of RMAC
- Brad Fowler, Owner – The Goat Works (Grass Valley)
- Nathan Medlar, Owner – NM Ranch Services (Auburn)
Register here to receive a zoom link the morning of the webinar. Please note, this is not a direct link to the webinar– you must register in advance. If you are not able to view the webinar live or want to watch previous WorkingRangelands Wednesdays sessions, visit the UC Rangelands YouTube channel.
Questions? Please contact Dan Macon at email@example.com.
2020 CCA Scholarship Application Available Now
Applications for the 2020 CCA Scholarships are being accepted now through October 1. In 2019, CCA awarded almost $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.