Assemblyman Rivas Unveils Details of Resilient Food and Farming Bond
On Tuesday, Assemblyman Robert Rivas held a press conference to unveil details of his Assembly Bill 125, the Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms, and Worker Protection Bond Act of 2022.
“COVID-19 has laid bare the vulnerabilities and the inequities in our food system,” Rivas said during a press conference detailing the bond’s provisions. “Farmers have gone through huge volatility, especially those that rely on restaurant and institutional markets. Many lost huge numbers of crops because of failed supply chains. Farmers and our essential food supply chain workers, many of whom live in overcrowded conditions, have been especially vulnerable to this virus, to COVID-19. We are now, finally, beginning to emerge from this crisis, but when it comes to our food system, we cannot go back to the way things were. We need to ensure that our food system stays healthy—especially healthy in a crisis.”
To ensure the resilience of our food systems, Assemblyman Rivas has introduced AB 125, “a $3 billion general obligation bond. If passed, the bond will be placed on the 2022 ballot for approval by California voters.” According to Assemblyman Rivas, the bond proposes to improve California’s food system in four key ways: (1) investing in food processing, distribution and market infrastructure; (2) protecting farm and food system workers; (3) combatting hunger and expanding healthy food access; and (4) promoting sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.
Of particular interest to cattlemen, among the allocations proposed in the bond are $10 million in grants to support prescribed grazing infrastructure to support wildfire prevention, improved livestock management and biodiversity enhancement and $60 million in grants to develop new meat processing facilities or upgrade existing facilities.
Former CCA President Dave Daley joined Assemblyman Rivas on the press conference, thanking the Assemblyman for his recognition of the “importance of our ability to use grazing as a tool to reduce fine fuels,” a reference to the bond’s inclusion of prescribed grazing infrastructure for wildfire prevention. Daley also addressed provisions in the bond allocating funds for conservation easements, noting that funding conservation easements “helps us to achieve our 30 by 30 goal, it protects open space, [and] it protects biodiversity.” Summing up his views on the bond, Daley said “I see opportunity for a cattleman or cattle producer to say ‘this is something that we think is really critical to the future of what we do and hopefully benefits all Californians.’”
Click here to view the full press conference unveiling AB 125. For more information on the bond, contact Billy Gatlin or Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
SWRCB Issues “Early Warning About Potential Water Shortages”
This afternoon, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued an early warning that ongoing drought conditions in the state could result in water shortages later in the year.
In conjunction with the early warning, the SWRCB is sending letters to 40,000 water rights holders “urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.” CCA members with water rights on file with the SWRCB can expect to receive an ‘early warning notice’ in the coming days.
Importantly, the early warning letters are not curtailment orders or notices of unavailability of water, though the warnings do forecast that such curtailments or notices of unavailability may be forthcoming in the months ahead. CCA members will recall that significant curtailment orders were issued in 2015 in response to the ongoing drought at that time, particularly for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Scott River watershed.
In issuing the early warning, the SWRCB is urging agricultural water users to “implement practical actions now to improve their drought resilience, including reducing irrigated acreage, managing herd size, using innovative irrigation and diversifying water supply portfolios.”
CCA has been in communication with the leadership of SWRCB’s Division of Water Rights regarding the early warning and has renewed concerns we raised during the 2015 curtailments. SWRCB has assured CCA staff that there will be opportunity for stakeholder input prior to any curtailment orders issuing.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of developments concerning California’s ongoing drought and the SWRCB’s responses to drought conditions. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
HAULS Act Reintroduced in U.S. Senate
On Wednesday, Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Tester (D-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Tina Smith (D-MN) reintroduced the bipartisan Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act of 2021, which would provide added flexibility for haulers of livestock. (Sen. Fischer had previously introduced the legislation late last year in the 116thCongress.)
Under existing Hours of Service rules, haulers are allowed 11 hours of drive time within 14 hours of on-duty time, after which they are required to take 10 consecutive hours of rest. For haulers of livestock, there is significant need for added flexibility in the hours-of-service rules, however, to ensure the health and welfare of the animals they are hauling.
To that end, the HAULS Act seeks to add a 150 air-mile exemption to Hours of Service regulations on the back end of hauls for transporters of livestock and agricultural commodities. The 150 air-mile backend exemption would be in addition to the current 150 air-mile exclusion that applies to the front end of hauls. Both the existing front-end exemption and the proposed back-end exemption are intended to give farmers and ranchers additional time to safely navigate rural roads and seek to ensure animal welfare when livestock are being hauled.
The HAULS Act would also apply the agricultural exemption to the Hours of Service regulations year-round and nationwide. Currently, each state is responsible for determining when the agricultural exemption is applicable based on state-defined planting and harvesting periods. While California has adopted a year-round planting and harvesting period, there is significant variation among planting and harvesting periods nationwide.
Finally, the HAULS Act expands the definition of an “agricultural commodity” eligible for the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service rules. While livestock falls under the existing definition, the HAULS Act would expand the definition of “agricultural commodity” to include animal feed and the ingredients used in animal feed, among other products.
The HAULS Act is the latest in the livestock industry’s ongoing efforts to providing Hours of Service flexibility for livestock haulers. On March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Emergency Declaration which provides an exemption from the hours-of-service rules for livestock haulers. As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, the Emergency Declaration has been extended on four occasions, most recently through May 31. Additionally, Congress has routinely extended the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) delay for livestock haulers, which is currently effective through September 1.
CCA will keep you informed on any developments concerning federal Hours of Service rules, including the HAULS Act of 2021.
Public Lands Council Hosts Legislative Conference This Week
CCA affiliate the Public Lands Council (PLC) will hold its annual Legislative Conference from Tuesday to Thursday this week, beginning daily at 7:00am. 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.
USDA Seeks Information on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry
On Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public input on the agency’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy. USDA’s Strategy is in furtherance of President Biden’s January 27 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
The notice requests information on how USDA can “encourage voluntary adoption of agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure resiliency to climate change” and “utilize programs, funding…and other authorities to decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change,” among other issues.
In the wake of California’s worst wildfire season on record, there is much that the US Forest Service—an agency within USDA—can do to reduce wildfire risk on the 28.8 million acres of land the agency manages within the state. The agency must substantially increase its application of prescribed fire, remove deadfall accumulated during prior fire seasons and complete NEPA on vacant grazing allotments to ensure that livestock can remove fine fuels which would otherwise provide tinder for wildfires.
CCA and its national affiliate the Public Lands Council will draft detailed responses to USDA’s request for comment over the coming weeks. Interested CCA members can provide comments to USDA by clicking “Submit a Formal Comment” here. Comments are due no later than 8:59pm on April 29.
CDFW Updates Known Wolves Document
On Friday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) once again issued an update to its “Known Wolves” document. CDFW previously updated the document on February 12 to reflect the presence of wolf OR-93 in Modoc and Lassen counties, and on February 25 issued a press release noting that OR-93 had moved as far south as Alpine and Mono counties—further south than any other modern wolf in California.
Friday’s notice once again provides an update on OR-93’s movements, noting that the dispersing wolf has now moved into western Tuolumne County. The wolf’s travels have been extensive, taking it through Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, Mono and now Tuolumne County.
The update to the “Known Wolves” document also notes that CDFW has designated the pair of wolves in Siskiyou County (a male wolf designated OR-85 and an uncollared female) the “Whaleback Pair,” named for the Whaleback Mountain north of Mount Shasta.
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 current round of funding (Round 4) runs through tomorrow, but is limited to nonprofit cultural institutions. A fifth round of grant applications, which is open to all new and waitlisted applicants, kicks off Thursday and closes 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
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has 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.
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 $30/person. After registering, you will be provided with further instructions on the workshop and the agenda of presentations. For more information contact Susie Kocher at 530-542-2571 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Macon, (530) 889-7385 email@example.com.
UPDATED: CDFW Offers RFP for Cattle Grazing to Control Vegetation in Siskiyou County
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced that it is offering a Request for Proposal (RFP) to issue a Permit for Excess Vegetation Control (Grazing) on 1,907 acres of the Big Springs Ranch in Siskiyou County.
The RFP package can be accessed on the Financial Information System for California (FI$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).
Applications Due This Friday for the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program
The next application deadline for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is this Friday, 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.