To read the full version each week, please subscribe below.

March 1, 2021

From Headquarters

Governor Newsom Signs Economic Relief Package into Law
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a $7.6 billion legislative package intended to expedite economic relief to individuals, families and businesses suffering from the COVID-19 recession.

Of particular interest to small business owners, the package infuses the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program with $2.1 billion—a four-fold increase over the amount initially included in the Governor’s Proposed Budget. The program provides grants up to $25,000 for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Legislative Bulletin has previously reported on two rounds of grant funding through the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. While the program’s website acknowledges the infusion of new funds, it is not clear whether or when additional rounds of applications will be accepted; the program states only that “We will continue to update our website with the latest information.”

The legislation also waives licensing fees for many small businesses forced to close or curtail operations because of the ongoing pandemic. The legislative package 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.

The relief package also provides $24 million for financial assistance and services through Housing for the Harvest for agricultural workers who must quarantine due to COVID-19.

One economic relief measure reported on in last week’s Legislative Bulletin has not yet been acted upon by the Legislature: a tax cut which would conform California tax law to new federal tax treatment for COVID-19 relief loans provided through the Small Business Administration, such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The proposal would allow companies to deduct up to $150,000 in expenses covered by a 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.

The Legislature is expected to take up those provisions this week.

Insurance Commissioner May Require Transparency for Insurers’ Wildfire Risk Scores
On Tuesday, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara proposed two “new transparency rules to help consumers better prepare for wildfires”—and to improve the affordability of insurance.

According to a press release, the first of the proposed rules “would require insurance companies to provide a consumer with their property’s wildfire risk score, which must recognize a consumer’s mitigation actions that could improve their rating, such as creating defensible space and fire-hardening, and allow time for the consumer to reduce their score.”

The second proposed rule would “make clear that homeowners insurance companies are required to submit the complete information they use to determine which properties to underwrite or renew” when submitting rate filings.

The Insurance Commissioner will be holding “prenotice public discussions” for the proposed rules. The meeting for the wildfire risk scores rule will be held Tuesday, March 30 at 1:00pm (register here; additional information here) and the meeting about rate application requirements will be held Tuesday, April 6 at 1:00pm (register here; additional information here).

Gray Wolf OR-93 Travels as Far South as Mono County
Last month, Legislative Bulletin reported on OR-93, a dispersing gray wolf which had entered Modoc County from Oregon on February 4 and had moved into Lassen County by the following week.

Dispersing gray wolves are known to cover vast distances as they seek out mates and prey. On Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued a press release announcing that OR-93 has now traveled further south in California than any other modern gray wolf, having traveled through Alpine County and into Mono County. (OR-93 is fitted with a radio collar that transmits location data to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which shares that data with CDFW when collared wolves are inside California.)

OR-93 is the 16thgray wolf known to have traveled into northern California through southern Oregon, but it is the first to hail from Oregon’s White River Pack—leaving wolf advocates excited at the possible infusion of genetic diversity.

CCA will continue to keep you informed about any developments regarding OR-93 and other gray wolves currently residing within the state.

Biden Administration Issues Updates to Paycheck Protection Program
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, signed into law by then-President Trump on December 27, 2020, appropriated $284 billion for a ‘second round’ of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Last Monday, President Biden announced changes to PPP administration intended “to further promote equitable access to relief.” Most significantly, President Biden announced that for two weeks, SBA will limit PPP applications to those businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The limitation went into effect last Wednesday and will last through Tuesday, March 9. The move is intended to “allow lenders to focus on serving these smallest businesses” which “often struggle more than larger businesses to collect the necessary paperwork and secure relief from a lender.”

The Administration announced that it will also require the SBA to “revise the loan calculation formula for” sole proprietors, independent contractors and other self-employed individuals to ensure that those individuals are eligible for greater financial relief.

More information about the PPP—including tools for finding a lender and information regarding loan forgiveness—is available at the SBA’s PPP webpage.

CFAP Application Deadline Extended
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will extend the application deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The application period was scheduled to close on Friday, February 26 after being initiated on January 19 in the wake of further authorizations under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. While a new application deadline has not yet been announced, USDA has stated that “Interested applicants will have at least an additional 30 days to sign up” for CFAP after the Biden Administration has completed its review of the program.

Payment processing under CFAP was one of many Trump-era regulations halted under President Biden’s day-one “regulatory freeze” memorandum.

There has been a great deal of confusion regarding the availability of additional CFAP relief for cattle producers as authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. To be clear, the Act does mandate additional relief payments to livestock producers, as previously detailed in Legislative Bulletin.

Part of the confusion arises from the fact that on January 15, USDA issued additional CFAP guidance in light of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for commodities such as “swine, broilers, laying hens, chicken eggs and turkeys” and “pullets and turfgrass sod.” But in a toolkit issued for producers of those commodities, USDA clarified that “Cattle will be addressed under the formulas included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act in the weeks ahead.” Unfortunately, issuance of that guidance was stalled by the regulatory freeze.

To be clear, however: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 did mandate additional relief payments for cattle producers, and those payments will be forthcoming. CCA will keep members apprised of any CFAP developments in future editions of Legislative Bulletin.

Application Deadline Approaching for the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program
The next application deadline for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is March 26. CSP is a program that helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners expand stewardship activities and receive payments for both their existing conservation work and new enhancements they undertake. Enhancements are available to help improve soil health and pollinator habitat, address changing weather patterns and improve the quality and quantity of rangeland forage.

“We are making excellent strides to improve the applicability and benefits of CSP across all farm, ranch and forestry operations,” says Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for NRCS California. “We have many options for conservation on small, urban and large-scale farm operations.”

Examples of ranching projects which might be funded include control of invasive plants, including yellow star thistle, patch burning, improving wildlife habitat, advanced grazing management and protection of riparian areas and other sensitive habitat.

“This is a program especially well-suited to California where many agricultural industries and supporters promote and reward advanced levels of stewardship,” says RaeAnn Dubay, assistant state conservationist for Farm Bill Programs. “CSP can help with those additional goals. It can also help producers meet regulatory requirements or further work they have been doing to promote organic production, forest health and rangeland management.”

Unlike in prior years, CSP can now also be utilized to fund stewardship efforts on public lands. Further details about the lands eligible in CSP and full details on the program can be found on the NRCS California website, here.

While conservation applications are accepted throughout the year, producers wanting to ensure they are considered for 2021 funding should apply by the March 26 deadline to be included in the upcoming batch of applications that will be reviewed. For additional information about applying for CSP, reach out to your local USDA Service Center (which you can find here), or contact RaeAnn Dubay at (530) 792-5653 or RaeAnn.Dubay@usda.gov.

CCA in the News

New gray wolf found in Central Sierra The Mercury News “In California, wolves continue to be listed as endangered under California’s Endangered Species Act. In 2019, the courts upheld protection for gray wolves, rejecting a challenge from the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation.” To continue reading, click here.

Gray wolf makes rare visit to Tuolumne County, areas farther south Union Democrat “Wildlife advocates may be thrilled to have gray wolves returning to California, but the California Cattlemen’s Association takes a dimmer view of returning wolves. The association is a nonprofit trade organization that represents the state’s ranchers and beef producers in legislative and regulatory affairs, with 38 county cattlemen’s association affiliates.” To continue reading, click here.

Industry News

Burning California to save it: Why one solution to raging wildfires can’t gain traction The Sacramento Bee “On a crisp, breezy February morning near Lake Tahoe, a crew of five firefighters descended on a snow-covered, heavily-forested park straddling the California-Nevada border.” To continue reading, click here.

Diverse Group of Organic Farmers Zoom into D.C. to Talk Organic Natural Products Global “Darrell Wood is a sixth-generation California cattleman who raises certified organic, grass-fed cattle on his 40,000-acre ranch in Northern California. Wood founded Panorama Meats in 2002 with a group of family ranchers and rangeland conservationists, with the goal to produce a product that is healthy for consumers, humane for the cattle, easy on the environment and that protects the legacy of ranchers for future generations. It’s now comprised of more than 50 family ranches in nine states, and is the largest grass-fed organic beef company in the country. Wood is a nationally recognized conservationist, receiving several awards for his conservation efforts. His ranch uses an integral approach to manage its land, and follows a restoration plan to increase habitat for several threatened plants and animals, including species at risk.” To continue reading, click here.

Vilsack confirmed for 2nd stint as US agriculture secretary Associated Press “The Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, his second run at the Cabinet post. The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same Department of Agriculture for former President Barack Obama’s entire administration. He was confirmed Tuesday on a 92-7 vote.” To continue reading, click here.

California air board OKs crackdown on agricultural burning in San Joaquin Valley The Sacramento Bee “After a six-hour meeting, the California Air Resources Control Board unanimously approved a plan to begin phasing out almost all agricultural burning in the Valley by 2025, a move that may eventually lead to increased fines for farmers caught breaking the rules.” To continue reading, click here.

Sign up to receive Legislative Bulletin in your inbox every Monday