USDA FSA Offers Wildfire Recovery Assistance
As reported in last week’s Legislative Bulletin, amid the current catastrophic wildfire season USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is seeking to highlight its wildfire recovery programs for California’s ranchers and other agricultural producers.
On August 21, FSA released a press release overviewing available wildfire recovery assistance programs offered by the agency, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). The press release also details how producers should document wildfire losses. CCA recommends all members suffering wildfire impacts read the press release in its entirety.
In recent weeks, CCA has received several inquiries regarding the less-well-known FSA Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). ECP provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help repair land and structures damaged by natural disasters such as wildfire. In particular, ECP funds can be utilized for a variety of fencing projects, including “livestock cross fences, boundary fences, cattle gates, or wildlife exclusion fence on agricultural land.”
FSA recommends that anyone seeking to rebuild fencing or other structures first apply with (or at the very least, notify) their county FSA office before undertaking repair or rebuilding. You can find contact information for your County FSA office here. ECP designations are made by an FSA County Committee, but ranchers can begin the process of applying for ECP assistance even before a county ECP designation is made.
ECP funding can cover up to 75% of total repair/rebuilding costs, not to exceed $500,000, and producers may have the option of receiving an advance of up to 25% of the expected repair costs prior to beginning work.
More information about FSA disaster recovery programs, including ECP, is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster or at the CCA website at calcattlemen.org/fireresources. Additionally, USDA has released a factsheet titled “Disaster at a Glance,” designed to explain what is covered under each USDA disaster program. The factsheet is available here.
California, 20 Other States Challenge Regulations Reforming NEPA
Last month, Legislative Bulletin reported on regulatory reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) finalized by the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on July 15. The reform is the first significant revision of NEPA’s implementing regulations in 42 years and seeks to streamline NEPA analysis by putting time and page limits on environmental analyses and limiting the scope of a proposed project’s indirect impacts that an agency must consider, among other reforms.
The regulatory reforms were set to take effect on September 14. Unfortunately, a coalition of 21 states—led by California and Washington—are seeking to ensure that these needed regulatory reforms do not become operative. On Friday, the states filed a lawsuit against CEQ and its chairwoman, Mary Neumayr, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, located in San Francisco.
The lawsuit alleges that the Administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act in finalizing the NEPA revisions. The action marks California’s 100th lawsuit filed against the Trump Administration.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of developments regarding NEPA, including the lawsuit announced Friday.
USFWS Proposes New Definition of “Habitat” Under ESA
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has published a proposed rule to define the term “habitat” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the first time.
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 USFWS’ designation of critical habitat.
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. CCA is working with our partners at the Western Resources Legal Center to submit comments on the proposed definition by this Friday’s comment deadline.
USDA Extends CFAP Deadline to September 11
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it is extending the deadline for producers to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The new deadline for submitting a CFAP application is September 11 (applications were initially scheduled to close on August 28).
According to CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), there has also been a significant change regarding how USDA is disbursing producers’ CFAP payments. To ensure that available program funds were not depleted before all producers could receive payment, USDA initially remitted only 80% of producers’ calculated CFAP payment, with the other 20% to be paid at a later date. According to NCBA, USDA will now be automatically issuing the remaining 20% of the calculated payment to existing applicants, and new applicants will receive 100% of their total payment upon application approval.
Additional information on applying for CFAP is available from USDA at www.farmers.gov/cfap and from CCA here.
Register Today for the Public Lands Council Virtual Annual Meeting
Earlier this month, CCA-affiliate the Public Lands Council (PLC) announced that, due to the unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID-19, it will be holding its 2020 Annual Meeting virtually. The meeting will be held Wednesday, September 23 and Thursday, September 24.
“While we are disappointed we will not gather in-person this year, this decision was made to prioritize the health of our members and continue PLC’s long-held commitment to robust policy development processes,” said PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover.
Because this year’s meeting will be held virtually, PLC is able to offer the meeting at no cost. This is a particularly good opportunity for ranchers who have not previously attended the PLC Annual Meeting to get a sense of what the meeting is like, and CCA encourages public lands permittees to register for the event.
You can register for the 2020 PLC Annual Meeting—including General Sessions and Committee Meetings—here.
2020 CCA & CCW Convention/California Cattle Industry Tradeshow Canceled
Due to state of Nevada restrictions on conventions and tradeshows to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, CCA has had to cancel the 104th Annual CCA & CCW Convention & Tradeshow.
CCA leadership is developing a plan for moving forward with policy committee meetings and the Annual CCA Board of Directors meeting. More details on these plans will be available on the CCA website and in CCA publications in the weeks to come.
We look forward to the opportunity to connect with each of you either in person or virtually.
2020 CCA Scholarship Applications Due Oct. 1
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 email@example.com with any questions.