California Legislature Turns its Attention to “Early Action” Budgeting for Wildfire Resilience
On March 2, 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.
On Tuesday, CCA and the Resilient Forests Coalition once again wrote “to urge that the Governor, Senate and Assembly act quickly on a supplemental appropriation for Wildfire and Forest Resilience in the current fiscal year,” noting that “Early Action Needs to be Early!” and that “There are shovel-ready wildfire, community protection, and landscape resilience projects that are simply waiting for funding to implement; yet these critical projects will never get started unless the pace at the Capitol picks up.”
Fortunately, this sense of urgency seems to be gaining traction in Sacramento, with Assembly leaders announcing on Thursday that they “support early, significant investments in shovel-ready prevention programs and existing, proven wildfire prevention programs” and are prioritizing early action wildfire resilience appropriations.
CCA will continue to keep you informed of any developments in the Legislature’s wildfire prevention and resilience efforts.
USDA Designates All California Counties as Primary or Contiguous Natural Disaster Areas Due to Drought
In a March 5 letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack designated “50 California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to recent drought.” According to Secretary Vilsack, the natural disaster designation was justified by the U.S. Drought Monitor designating those counties as having Severe (D2) drought for at least eight weeks or Extreme (D3) or Exceptional (D4) drought at any time.
California’s remaining eight counties—Monterey, Orange, San Benito, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura—are immediately adjacent to counties designated as primary natural disaster areas, and thus have been designated as “contiguous natural disaster areas.” Counties in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon which are immediately adjacent to one of the 50 counties designated as primary natural disaster areas are likewise deemed contiguous natural disaster areas.
The result is that every county in California has been designated a natural disaster area due to drought. As Secretary Vilsack explained in his letter to Governor Newsom, “A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA),” including FSA emergency loans. Ranchers must apply for such emergency loans within eight months of the disaster declaration.
To apply for an emergency loan or inquire regarding other drought disaster relief resources available through FSA, ranchers should contact their county FSA office. You can find your county office’s contact information by clicking on northern California or southern California here and then clicking on your county.
GO-Biz Details Next Rounds of Applications for COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program
Late last month, 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.” 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 upcoming rounds of funding under the Relief Grant Program.
The next round of funding (Round 4) will run tomorrow through next Tuesday, but is limited to nonprofit cultural institutions. A fifth round of grant applications will be open to all eligible applicants—including new and waitlisted applicants—and will kick off next Thursday, March 25, closing on March 31. 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.
Federal Legislators Introduce Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021
On Tuesday, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021, with Congressmen Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Jason Smith (R-MO) introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“The estate tax disproportionately harms cattle producers because with few options to pay off tax liabilities, many farm and ranch families are forced to make tough choices at the time of death – and in worst case scenarios, must sell off land to meet their federal tax burden,” said Jerry Bohn, President of CCA-affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Associations (NCBA).
In a statement praising the introduction of the Act, NCBA wrote that “An estimated 2,000 acres of agricultural land is paved over, fragmented, or converted to uses that compromise agriculture each day in the United States. With more than 40 percent of farmland expected to transition in the next two decades, Congress must prioritize policies that support land transfers to the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Most farm estate values can be attributed to non-liquid assets such as the fair market value of land, livestock, and equipment.”
CCA will keep you apprised of any developments regarding the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021.
Senators Fischer and Wyden Reintroduce Cattle Marketing Transparency Act
On March 2, 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.
Registration Open for UCCE and Placer RCD Prescribed Fire on Working Landscapes Webinar and Field Days
University of California Cooperative Extension and the Placer Resource Conservation District (Placer RCD) will be hosting a multi-session webinar and field day series in late March 2021 designed to provide ranchers, forestland owners, and resource managers with hands-on experience in planning, preparing for, and implementing prescribed fire on privately owned working landscapes. The program begins with an evening webinar focused on fire planning, regulations, and permitting. The following day, two half-day site preparation field days will give participants experience with fire tools and on-the-ground considerations. The series will culminate with a prescribed burn in early April (weather permitting). The field days will be hosted by Allen and Nancy Edwards of Edwards Family Tree Farm in Colfax.
- Pre-Fire Webinar – March 30 (5:00pm – 6:30pm)
- Burn Preparation Field Day (Session 1) – March 31 (8:30am – 12:00pm) OR
- Burn Preparation Field Day (Session 2) – March 31 (12:30pm – 4:00pm)
- Prescribed Fire Field Day – April (weather permitting).
The webinar will include presentations on prescribed fire, including local fire history and current fire research, prescribed fire permitting and legal considerations, fire weather forecasting and online tools, air quality and smoke management, fire terms and fire behavior, burn plan development, burn unit preparation and fire tools and equipment, as well as models for accomplishing prescribed fire on private lands, including prescribed burn associations and CAL FIRE’s Vegetation Management Program.
The Burn Preparation Field Day sessions will include hands-on instruction in fire tool use, burn site preparation, fire weather assessment, and contingency planning. Registration is limited to 15 people per session. Participants will be invited to participate in a prescribed fire following the field days (weather permitting).
Registration by March 23 is required to participate. Please go to http://ucanr.edu/rxacademy/ to register. Registration is $30/person. After registering, you will be provided with further instructions on the workshop and the agenda of presentations. For more information contact Susie Kocher at 530-542-2571 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Macon, (530) 889-7385 email@example.com.
Public Lands Council Sets Legislative Conference for March 23-25
CCA affiliate the Public Lands Council (PLC) has announced that it will hold its annual Legislative Conference from March 23-25. Last year, PLC was forced to cancel its Legislative Conference due to the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic; with the pandemic still lingering, this year’s Legislative Conference will be fully virtual. One benefit of that online format is that there will be no cost to attend this year’s PLC Legislative Conference.
Legislative Conference is an excellent opportunity for public lands ranchers to engage with members of Congress and officials at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. More information regarding the 2021 PLC Legislative Conference—including a draft agenda—is available here. Those interested in attending the virtual meeting may register here.
For more information regarding PLC’s Legislative Conference, contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
UPDATED: CDFW Offers RFP for Cattle Grazing to Control Vegetation in Siskiyou County
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced that it is offering a Request for Proposal (RFP) to issue a Permit for Excess Vegetation Control (Grazing) on 1,907 acres of the Big Springs Ranch in Siskiyou County.
The RFP package can be accessed on the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) Cal eProcure website here and can be found by searching the Event ID 0000018907 (zeros required).
Detailed instructions on how to find CDFW bid opportunities on Cal eProcure can be found here. Questions may be directed to Sherry Leffler, a CDFW Staff Services Analyst, at (530) 225-2853 or Sherry.Leffler@wildlife.ca.gov.
Bids must be received on or before April 12 at 5:00pm. Please note this a new RFP number and disregard the information in the notice sent out in last week’s Legislative Bulletin.
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).
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.