Senate Subcommittee Urges $573 Million in “Early Action” Wildfire Funding
On Tuesday, the Senate’s Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy approved a $573 million Wildfire Prevention & Resilience Early Action Plan. “Early Action” denotes that, if approved by the Legislature and Governor, the funds would be a supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year (FY 2020-21) budget; additional wildfire resilience funding will be included in the FY 2021-22 Budget which must be passed by June 15.
The $573 million proposal is substantially larger than the $323 million in early action funds proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom in his Proposed Budget released January 8.
The Senate’s proposal includes $266.5 million for forest health and resilient wildlands, $139 million in funding for wildfire fuel breaks and $49 million for home hardening.
CCA, as part of the Resilient Forests Coalition, has repeatedly called on the Legislature and Administration to provide early action funding for wildfire prevention and resilience so that the State can immediately undertake actions to mitigate the risk of wildfires prior to the beginning of the 2021 Fire Season.
CCA will continue to keep you informed about any appropriations for wildfire resilience efforts in the State.
Senators Fischer and Wyden Reintroduce Cattle Marketing Transparency Act
On Tuesday, Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021, a modified version of legislation initially introduced by Sen. Fischer in the 116th Congress.
As summarized by CCA’s national affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), “this legislation would direct the Secretary of Agriculture and the Office of the Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish regional mandatory minimums for negotiated trade of fed cattle. It would also direct USDA to establish a library of cattle formula contracts, amend the definition of ‘cattle committed’ to expand the delivery window from seven to 14 days, and clarify confidentiality rules for administering Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR).”
The Act would require the Secretary of Agriculture to implement the regional mandatory minimums for negotiated trade within two years and would require the Secretary to review those regional mandatory minimums at least once every two years. Additionally, the Act provides that the initial regional mandatory minimums established by USDA cannot be less than the average percentage of negotiated transactions in the region for the preceding three years.
A summary of the bill can be viewed at Sen. Fischer’s website, here. NCBA’s statement regarding the bill can be viewed here.
GO-Biz Details Next Rounds of Applications for COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program
Last week, Legislative Bulletin reported on a $7.6 billion legislative package signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom “intended to expedite economic relief to individuals, families and businesses suffering from the COVID-19 recession.” That package included $2.1 billion in funding for the California COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program, administered by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), part of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).
Now, GO-Biz has announced details for the next four rounds of funding under the Relief Grant Program.
Round 3 of funding applications kicked off last Friday and runs through this Thursday, and is available only to applicants who were waitlisted in rounds 1 and 2, which were offered in early January and February, respectively. Applicants waitlisted during rounds 1 and 2 need not reapply for round 3 funding.
Round 4, which runs March 16 through March 23, is limited to nonprofit cultural institutions. The fifth round of grant applications will be open March 25-31 and will be open to waitlisted and new applicants. A sixth round of applications—to be announced at a future date—will likewise be available to new applicants.
Eligible businesses will have their grant applications scored “based on COVID-19 impact factors incorporated into the Program’s priority criteria.” Those factors are overviewed at the Program’s website under the heading “How will grant recipients be determined?” Grant awards will be based on the small business’s annual revenue: small businesses with annual revenue between $1,000 and $100,000 will be eligible for up to $5,000 in grants, those with revenues between $100,000 and $1 million will be eligible for up to $15,000 in grants and those with incomes above $1 million but not exceeding $2.5 million are eligible for upwards of $25,000 in grant funding.
More information on the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, including links to apply for the program, is available at https://careliefgrant.com/. For questions, Lendistry (the sole intermediary for the Program) can be reached via phone at (888) 612-4370 between 7am and 7pm or contacted via email at email@example.com.
Public Lands Council Sets Legislative Conference for March 23-25
CCA affiliate the Public Lands Council (PLC) has announced that it will hold its annual Legislative Conference from March 23-25. Last year, PLC was forced to cancel its Legislative Conference due to the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic; with the pandemic still lingering, this year’s Legislative Conference will be fully virtual. One benefit of that online format is that there will be no cost to attend this year’s PLC Legislative Conference.
Legislative Conference is an excellent opportunity for public lands ranchers to engage with members of Congress and officials at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. More information regarding the 2021 PLC Legislative Conference—including a draft agenda—is available here. Those interested in attending the virtual meeting may register here.
For more information regarding PLC’s Legislative Conference, contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
Insurance Commissioner May Require Transparency for Insurers’ Wildfire Risk Scores
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has 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
In February, 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. Late last month, 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 16th gray 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).
On February 22, 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 on February 24 and will last through tomorrow, 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
In late February, 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.