Governor Releases Final Water Resilience Portfolio
Governor Gavin Newsom released his 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio last Tuesday, outlining 142 water policy priorities for his administration, such as the Governor’s plan to build a single tunnel underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In early February, CCA submitted extensive comments in response to a draft of the Water Resilience Portfolio, issued by the California Natural Resource Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Fortunately, the final Water Resilience Portfolio addresses some of CCA’s initial concerns.
For instance, the draft Water Resilience Portfolio included a goal for phasing in “telemetered diversion data” for “diversions of 500 acre-feet or more per year.” Currently, under 2015’s SB 88, only diversions greater than 10,000 acre-feet per year must be measured with expensive telemetry devices. CCA and other agricultural organizations objected, noting the high cost of telemetry equipment and the effectiveness of existing measurement and reporting requirements. While the final Portfolio still suggests expanding telemetry requirements, it now directs the natural resource agencies to “analyze the costs and benefits” of telemetry in light of “existing monitoring and reporting requirements.”
Several positive priorities outlined in the draft Portfolio and highlighted by CCA remain in the final Portfolio. For instance, the Portfolio proposes to “accelerate state permitting of projects that protect and enhance fish and wildlife and water supply reliability—such as Sites” Reservoir. Of course, among the 142 priorities are also several potential threats to the agricultural community, including a number of goals that increase reporting requirements and costs for producers.
The natural resources agencies acknowledge that the Portfolio is an “aspirational document”—on its own, it has no regulatory effect. But as the agencies undertake regulatory actions to implement provisions of the Portfolio, CCA will engage to protect the interests of California’s agricultural water users.
USFWS Proposes New Definition of “Habitat” Under ESA
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a proposal to define the term “habitat” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The USFWS proposes to define “habitat” as “The physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.”
While the proposal has been met with predictable alarm from environmental organizations, it is necessitated by the United States Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Weyerhaeuser v. USFWS. Weyerhaeuser concerned critical habitat designation for the dusky gopher frog. In its designation, the USFWS included 1,544 acres of private land in Louisiana that the agency acknowledged could never be inhabited by the species without significant changes to the land, such as prescribed burning and tree repopulation. In Weyerhaeuser, the Supreme Court clarified that land must logically be habitable by a species in order to be designated critical habitat and overturned the designation.
In response to Weyerhaeuser, the USFWS is now proposing to define “habitat” as “areas with existing attributes” sufficient to support a species.
CCA, which filed a “friend of the court” brief in the Weyerhaeuser case, supports USFWS’ efforts to provide clarity over what constitutes “habitat” under the ESA, and will submit comments in support of the proposal.
California Cattle Council Shares Progress on Key Projects
In January, the California Cattle Council (the Council) selected critical projects to invest in aimed at producing effective results. The progress and results of many of those efforts—ranging from advocacy to education to research and more—are now being shared by the Council at calcattlecouncil.org/projects.
As the Council continues to work on behalf of California’s cattle industry, the organization’s leadership thanks all for their continued investments which target consumers and policy makers, not producers. To learn more about the Council’s strategic plan for effectively utilizing assessment funds, click here.
Ranchers and their Conservation Work Highlighted in New NRCS Videos
California ranchers partner with USDA’s NRCS as the caring stewards of tens of thousands of acres of working lands, providing not only healthy beef and lamb but also sustainable supplies of clean water, wildlife habitat, and iconic California vistas and recreation.
Conservation practices are the building blocks used to accomplish this stewardship.
Now, 27 of those practices can be viewed as two-minute videos featuring actual ranchers and their land, alongside local NRCS conservationists explaining how the practices work. Roughly a third of the new video series—called Conservation at Work—are primarily geared for rangeland.
The practices—like prescribed grazing management, or fencing or livestock pipeline, are often packaged together. Jointly they optimize the distribution of grazing animals across the landscape. Similarly, the videos feature one practice at a time, though they are usually combined to achieve desired goals.
Other video practices most relevant to rangeland can be viewed here: Brush Management, Forage and Biomass Plantings, Trails and Walkways, Water Well and Watering Facility.
USDA-AMS Issues Report on Market Investigations Into Aftermath of Holcomb Fire, COVID-19 Emergency
Late last month, 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.
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.”
LAST CHANCE: 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.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Releases Quarterly Wolf Update
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife late last month 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.”
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.
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.