Third CCA-Sponsored Wildfire Bill Introduced in State Legislature
Last Thursday, Assemblymember Megan Dahle (R-Bieber) introduced CCA-sponsored AB 1103, legislation which would provide a statewide framework for counties to adopt an “Ag Pass” program. Under an Ag Pass program, such as the one already adopted in Ventura County, ranchers and farmers trained in certain emergency response procedures and enrolled in the county Ag Pass program are permitted access to the farm or ranch during an emergency, including a wildfire.
In participating counties, ranchers with an “ag pass” card can gain access to the ranch to doctor or evacuate livestock, and ag pass holders can also assist emergency responders by identifying access roads and water sources and providing other auxiliary support.
AB 1103 is modeled after the work of University of California Cooperative Extension specialists Max Moritz and Matthew Shapero and the experiences of CCA members who have worked to implement the program in Ventura, Santa Barbara and other counties. The bill seeks to standardize certain elements of Ag Pass programs statewide—such as the educational training an Ag Pass enrollee must complete—and to simplify and facilitate a county’s process for developing an Ag Pass program.
The introduction of AB 1103 follows the earlier introduction of two other CCA-sponsored bills: AB 434 (R. Rivas, D-Hollister) and SB 332 (Dodd, D-Napa). AB 434 seeks to utilize livestock for fire-fuel suppression on state-owned lands by removing obstacles that prevent state land managers from leasing state lands for grazing purposes, and SB 332 seeks to promote prescribed fire by reforming liability laws for certified burn bosses. Altogether, CCA’s sponsored bills this year are laser-focused on addressing California’s wildfire crisis.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of developments concerning AB 1103, AB 434 and SB 332. Additionally, CCA is carefully examining all bills introduced in the Legislature this session for their potential impacts upon CCA members. More than 2,300 bills were introduced by legislators this session prior to last Friday’s bill introduction deadline.
Hours of Service Exemptions for Livestock Haulers Extended Through May 31
On March 18, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration exempting livestock haulers from compliance with the federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time. Under the Emergency Declaration, Hours of Service rest requirements remain in effect, meaning that once a driver returns to his or her “normal reporting location,” that individual must still receive a minimum of 10 hours of off-duty rest.
The Emergency Declaration has been extended on three prior occasions, most recently through February 28. Earlier this month, however, FMCSA again issued an extension of the modified Emergency Declaration, which expands the hours of service exemption through May 31.
The current Emergency Declaration applies to a limited class of freight, including livestock and livestock feed. As with previous extensions of the Emergency Declaration, only finished feed products remain exempt from the ordinary Hours of Service regulation; ingredients used in feed product are not exempt from Hours of Service rules.
In response to FMCSA’s initial March 2020 action, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order also exempting haulers engaged in intrastate or interstate transportation from California’s Hours of Service regulations. California’s exemption remains in effect as long as FMCSA’s Declaration remains in effect.
CCA will keep you informed of any further developments regarding Hours of Service regulations for hauling livestock.
State Leaders Agree on Relief for Californians Experiencing Hardship During Pandemic
Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced last Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on an immediate action package that will expedite economic relief to individuals, families and businesses suffering from the COVID-19 recession.
The agreement was part of the Governor’s state budget proposal to provide cash relief to lower-income Californians, increase aid to small businesses and provide license renewal fee waivers to businesses impacted by the pandemic. The agreement also provides tax relief for businesses, commits additional resources for critical childcare services and funds emergency financial aid for community college students.
Below are some of the key provisions of the Immediate Action Agreement:
Immediate Relief for Small Businesses
The agreement reflects a four-fold increase over the Governor’s initial budget proposal—from $500 million to more than $2 billion—for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, which provides grants up to $25,000 for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, $50 million will be allocated to cultural institutions.
The agreement also partially conforms California tax law to new federal tax treatment for loans provided through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), allowing companies to deduct up to $150,000 in expenses covered by a PPP loan. All businesses that took out loans of $150,000 or less would be able to maximize their deduction for state purposes. Larger firms that took out higher loans would still be subject to the same ceiling of $150,000 in deductibility. Records show that more than 750,000 PPP loans were taken out by California small businesses.
This tax treatment would also extend to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Fee Waivers for Most Impacted Licensees
The agreement provides for two years of fee relief, which can range from $455 to $1,235 annually, for roughly 59,000 restaurants and bars licensed through the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. More than 600,000 barbering and cosmetology individuals and businesses licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs will also receive relief.
Additional Aid for Individuals and Families
The agreement provides $24 million for financial assistance and services through Housing for the Harvest for agricultural workers who must quarantine due to COVID-19. The agreement also provides a combined $35 million for food banks and diapers.
CalFresh Student Outreach and Application Assistance
The agreement provides roughly $6 million to support outreach and application assistance to University of California, California State University and California Community College students made newly eligible for CalFresh – the state-administered federal program for supplemental food assistance. The agreement also provides $12 million in state funds to support associated county administrative workload.
The California Legislature acted on the Immediate Action Agreement earlier today with the Governor’s signature still to follow (expected as early as Tuesday). CCA will continue to keep members apprised as the above programs are implemented and will keep you informed of continuing state and federal efforts to promote COVID-19 economic relief.
CDFA Seeks Input on Farmer- and Rancher-Led Climate Change Solutions
Earlier this month, the California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted two stakeholder meetings for livestock and dairy producers intended “to solicit feedback from the public and agricultural stakeholders on farmer-and rancher-led climate solutions that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and enhance biodiversity.”
If you were unable to make the meetings, there’s still time to provide input to CDFA! The opening presentation for the stakeholder meetings is available here, and according to CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming & Innovation, “Input will be received until 14 days after the relevant meeting.” For livestock and dairy producers, then, CDFA will accept written feedback concerning “additional climate-change solutions” in the livestock and dairy sectors “that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases, and enhance biodiversity” until Friday, February 26. Comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, “In March, the report from the February meetings will be made available for a 30-day public comment period,” providing an additional opportunity for producer input and feedback.
Information gleaned from these meetings will ultimately inform the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy developed by various state agencies as mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20, which also established the goal “to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030” (often referred to as the “30 by ’30” initiative).
CDFW Updates “Known Wolves” Document to Reflect Presence of OR-93
Earlier this month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued a February update to its document titled “California’s Known Wolves – Past and Present.” While CDFW typically releases updates on a quarterly basis, the newest update comes less than one month after the prior update.
According to a CCA analysis of the January and February documents, only one significant update has been made: the document now reflects the presence of a collared wolf, designated OR-93, in Modoc and Lassen counties.
According to the CDFW document, “OR-93, a male wolf from northern Oregon, initially entered Modoc County on January 30, 2021. After briefly returning to Oregon, OR-93 reentered Modoc County on February 4. He entered Lassen County on February 10. OR-93 was collared in June 2020 and is believed to have been born in 2019. He dispersed from Oregon’s White River pack.”