CCA Addresses State Assembly on Wildfire Priorities
Last Wednesday, CCA Immediate Past President Dave Daley appeared before the Assembly Agriculture Committee for a hearing on “Wildfire Impacts on California Agriculture.”
Daley briefly reflected on his experience with this year’s Bear Fire—now part of the North Complex Fire—in which nearly 400 of his cows and their calves were killed. But rather than dwell on the impacts of this year’s fires, Daley devoted most of his remarks to outlining sensible policies that California legislators and regulators can adopt to prevent devastating wildfires in future years.
“I would really like to emphasize this is not a left and right issue at all. This is a California issue, and we need to work on it from that perspective,” Daley said. “And I think too often we get into camps. ‘Is this climate change?’ ‘Is this management?’ I don’t care. Do something.”
Daley advocated for increased utilization of prescribed fire, urging legislators to take action to provide liability protections for burn bosses and to ensure that local air districts do not unnecessarily impede prescribed burns.
Daley also urged recognition of grazing’s role in wildfire prevention. “Grazing can play a role in…fine fuel reduction. There’s been some recent research from Devii Rao with UC Cooperative Extension which shows the amount of fine fuels that are removed by grazing.” Daley suggested that Californians would be best served by policies that seek to “use grazing on state, federal, and municipal lands.” Daley’s comments were echoed by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) advisor Dan Macon, who addressed the Assembly panel regarding the value of targeted grazing.
Daley and other speakers also addressed the need for insurance policies to cover farm and ranch properties, the need for ranchers to be able to access their animals during a wildfire event and numerous other policy priorities.
The hearing came less than two weeks after a similar hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. At that hearing, Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UCANR advisor and member of CCA’s Fire Subcommittee, stressed the need for legal reforms to facilitate increased use of prescribed fire. Specifically, Quinn-Davidson suggested California adopt a gross negligence standard for burn bosses conducting controlled burns and reform how the California Environmental Quality Act is applied to such burns.
CCA staff also provided comments at both Assembly hearings reiterating CCA’s fire management policy priorities. CCA will continue to advance these priorities in the Legislature, which formally reconvenes on January 4.
Are You Able to Assist CCA Members Hard-Hit by Fires?
CCA was recently approached by a member hard-hit by the SCU Lightning Complex Fires that tore through the Bay Area in August and September. The fires burnt through the entire ranch—roughly 3,500 acres. “We have lost every bit of winter feed,” the member writes. “We are in desperate need of winter pasture for approx. 100 spring-calving cows.”
If any CCA members should have pasture availability for 100 cows, please contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
Additionally, CCA understands that many other members may be struggling to find available forage given this year’s devastating fires. Should you have pasture/forage availability or if you’re seeking pasture for your cattle, feel free to contact CCA. While we cannot guarantee forage solutions for CCA members, we are committed to doing everything in our power to accommodate the needs of California ranchers during this unprecedented fire year.
Register for CCA’s Virtual Convention Dec. 3-4
Next Thursday and Friday, CCA is hosting policy meetings, the CCA Board & Membership meeting, a CattleFax Market Update, outlook on the weather and more all via Zoom! Registration is free for all CCA members, but required.
*Tentative* Schedule for Thursday, Dec. 3:
3:00 – 4:00pm CCA Finance and Membership Meeting
4:00 – 5:00pm NCBA Price Discovery 75% Plan Update
5:00 – 5:30pm CCA Cattle Health & Well Being
5:30 – 6:00pm CCA Cattle Marketing & International Trade
6:00 – 6:30pm CCA Federal Lands
6:30 – 7:00pm CCA Property Rights & Environmental Mgmt.
7:00 – 7:30pm CCA Agriculture & Food Policy/ Tax & Credit
Schedule for Friday, Dec. 4:
8:00 – 9:00am CattleFax Market Update from Duane Lenz, General Manager of CattleFax
9:00 – 10:00am Weather Outlook from Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe and PRF Update from Aaron Tattersall of AgRisk Advisors
10:00 – 11:00am CCA Board & Membership Meeting
Access information for joining the meeting will be emailed to you after registering. You will automatically be registered for Thursday and Friday. Additionally, the same access information will be used for both days. To register, click here. For full instructions on how to join the Zoom webinar visit calcattlemen.org/events/virtualconvention.
FSA Announces ECP Signups for 41 Counties Impacted by Wildfire
On Friday, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that it will soon accept Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) applications in 41 California counties affected by this year’s wildfires. The application period will run from November 30, 2020 to January 28, 2021.
ECP provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help repair land and structures damaged by natural disasters such as wildfire. For example, 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 will soon begin accepting ECP applications in Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba counties.
FSA recommends that anyone seeking to utilize the ECP first apply with county FSA office before undertaking repair or rebuilding, as “FSA’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and environmental compliance review process must be completed before any actions are taken.” You can find contact information for your County FSA office here.
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.
According to an FSA press release, “FSA County Committees will evaluate applications based on information provided and if applicable, an on-site inspection of the damaged land, taking into consideration the type and extent of the damage. Submission of an application does not guarantee that cost-share funding will be provided.”
More information about FSA disaster recovery programs, including ECP, is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster.
State Issues “Limited Stay at Home Order”
On Saturday, a limited stay at home order issued earlier in the week by the California Department of Public Health went into effect. The order will remain in effect until 5:00am on December 21, though it “may be extended or revised as needed.”
The order prohibits “non-essential work, movement and gatherings…between 10 PM and 5 AM” for residents of counties under Tier One (or the “purple tier”) of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, according to a press release issued by Governor Newsom’s office.
As with the initial shelter at home orders issued in March, agricultural employees are “essential workers” exempted from the limited stay at home order. Nevertheless, some agricultural employees may be stopped if operating between the hours of 10pm and 5am, and employers may find it prudent to provide agricultural employees ‘essential worker documentation’ to demonstrate their exemption from the order. CCA advises employers to simply reimplement the use of documentation provided to employees in March, if any.
Should you need further guidance or assistance from CCA in responding to the limited stay at home order, please contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
U.S. Forest Service Issues Revised NEPA Regulations
On Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service issued a final rule regarding the agency’s regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Of greatest significance to cattlemen, the final rule creates six new types of categorical exclusions and creates a “determination of NEPA adequacy.”
The six new categorical exclusions cover activities related to recreational special uses, administrative sites, recreation sites, restoration and resilience projects and certain road management projects. Categorical exclusions for road management projects will likely have the greatest benefit to grazing permittees. The streamlined ability to build new roads (and maintain existing roads) may improve emergency response during wildfires. Additionally, such roads would have incidental benefits for grazing permittees, who would have additional access points as a result of new road construction—particularly useful for emergency response or evacuation purposes during a wildfire incident.
Additionally, the “Determination of NEPA Adequacy” process will allow the Forest Service to utilize existing NEPA analyses to cover changes in use if the scope of the original NEPA analysis already considered the effects of the newly proposed use. This could significantly streamline NEPA analyses for certain proposed actions.
Kaitlynn Glover, Executive Director of CCA-affiliate the Public Lands Council, hailed the final rule. “Today’s announcement represents decades of work by livestock producers who have told the Forest Service and other federal agencies for years that NEPA regulations need serious improvement,” Glover said. “This rule formalizes changes that will allow USFS to be better partners to ranchers and stakeholders who depend on healthy forests and grasslands. These are common-sense changes that add clarity by streamlining NEPA processes and ensuring that agencies are not spending time on unnecessary duplicative NEPA reviews. Thank you to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and USFS for following through with this process.”
The final rule is narrower in scope than the proposed rule, released in June 2019, had been. In July of this year, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued regulations guiding government-wide implementation of NEPA. Because certain elements of the Forest Service’s initial proposed rule conflicted with CEQ’s guidance, the Forest Service’s final rule issued last week is limited to non-conflicting NEPA regulations. The agency plans to issue a second final rule that addresses the remaining provisions from the 2019 proposal (and which complies with the new CEQ regulations) at a later date.
The U.S. Forest Service will be hosting an “information sharing” webinar about the final rule on Wednesday, December 2 from 9:00-10:00am Pacific. Interested persons can join the webinar by clicking here at that time.
Wolf Updates: Another Confirmed Depredation in Lassen County; Wolf OR-85 Present in Siskiyou County
Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) posted three Livestock Loss Determination reports on its gray wolf webpage.
Two of the suspected depredation events occurred in the same Lassen County pasture in the last two days of October; in both instances, a cow and its calf died during calving. The first depredation investigation occurred on October 30 after “a producer found the carcasses of an adult cow and an unborn calf and suspected they may have been killed by wolves during calving.” While wolves had fed on the cow and calf carcasses (the radio collar of the Lassen Pack’s breeding female places her at the site at 2:00am that morning), CDFW has not confirmed the event as a wolf depredation, and has instead classified it as “unknown.” While the report notes that “the wolves may have killed the cow,” it also notes that the unborn calf’s swollen head indicated calving complications, and that “the cow may have died while calving and then been scavenged by wolves.”
The October 31 depredation investigation, on the other hand, resulted in a confirmation of wolf depredation. In that instance, investigators for CDFW and USDA Wildlife Services spotted clear evidence of premortem bite marks on the cow carcass, and GPS data showed that the Lassen Pack had been present at the site at 6:00am that morning.
The Halloween-day depredation event brings the total of confirmed depredations by the Lassen Pack in just the past three months to seven.
A third livestock loss investigation was conducted a week later, on November 7. In that instance, no evidence of predation was found, and investigators concluded that the calf was likely stillborn.
Last week CDFW also issued a November 2020 update to its “California’s Known Wolves” publication. According to CDFW, a dispersing wolf from Oregon, designated OR-85, entered California through Modoc County on November 3 and has been traveling throughout Siskiyou County since November 6.
For more information on gray wolves in California, visit CDFW’s gray wolf webpage, here.
Purchase Tickets Now for the LMRF Raffle
‘Tis the season: CCA’s Livestock Memorial Research Fund (LMRF) is now selling tickets for its annual trailer raffle with all proceeds going to the LMRF scholarship fund. This year’s grand prize trailer is a 2021 18’ Swift Built Steel Gooseneck Livestock Trailer and the reserve prize is a utility/ATV trailer. The prizes for this year’s raffle have once again been generously donated by American Ag Credit, CoBank and Farm Credit West.
Raffle tickets are $100 per ticket or $250 for three tickets and can be purchased by calling the CCA office at (916) 444-0845. A virtual drawing to select the winners will take place on Dec. 29. Tickets must be received at the CCA office by Dec. 22 to be eligible to be entered. Best of luck to all who purchase tickets and thank you for supporting the upcoming leaders of California’s cattle industry.
Free Webinar: Cattle, Carbon & Compost
The Yolo County RCD is sponsoring a free CDFA Healthy Soils Program webinar next Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 9-11AM about research efforts seeking to improve forage and increase rangeland soil carbon storage.
The workshop will highlight current research results from two years of compost application treatments on Yolo Land & Cattle Co in Esparto, Calif. and include a Q&A on rangeland compost. Speakers for the event include: Corey Shake (Point Blue Conservation Science), Chris Potter (CASA Systems 2100), Jeffrey Creque (Carbon Cycle Institute) and Stephanie Larson (UCANR).
To register for the free Zoom event, click here. For more information on the webinar contact Joanne Heraty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt Reins in GAO Act with Secretarial Order
In August, the Great American Outdoors (GAO) Act was signed into law over the objections of livestock groups like CCA and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. As we wrote in Legislative Bulletin then, “Livestock groups had opposed the GAO Act for two primary reasons: first, it facilitates significant federal acquisition of land without Congressional oversight of such acquisitions, and second, it is likely to exacerbate maintenance backlogs which already plague federal lands.”
Prior to the GAO Act’s implementation, Congress would annually evaluate proposed federal land acquisitions for funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and would determine the appropriate level of funding for acquisitions during the appropriations process. Under the GAO Act, however, the federal government automatically receives $360 million in mandatory annual funding for the purchase of lands throughout the country.
Fortunately, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt early this month issued a Secretarial Order that could minimize the negative repercussions of the GAO Act. The Order requires that “A written expression of support by both the affected Governor and local county…is required for the acquisition of land, water, or an interest in land or water” under the LWCF. The Order also requires that “All acquisitions…must occur with voluntary, willing sellers.”
CCA’s national affiliates were quick to praise Secretary Bernhardt’s move. “States and local stakeholders know best what their communities need and should be directly involved in these decisions,” said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “Ranchers appreciate Secretary Bernhardt’s work to make certain LWCF cannot be used as a tool for rampant, unchecked acquisitions that would compromise the health of Western landscapes and federal agencies’ ability to manage the lands and waters already under their purview.”