2020 Water Diversion and Use Reports DUE THURSDAY for Many Diverters
Under the Emergency Regulation for Measuring and Reporting the Diversion of Water adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in 2016, all water rights holders diverting water under a permit, license, registration or certificate must file their 2020 annual use reports by this Thursday, April 1, regardless of the size of those diversions (those filing Statements of Diversion and Use for riparian and pre-1914 rights have until July 1 to file). The reports must be made electronically using the SWRCB’s Report Management System. To submit a report, click here.
According to the SWRCB, as of March 17 only 25% of reports due by April 1 had been filed. Failure to file water use reports on time may subject diverters to fines of up to $500 per day.
In previous years, the SWRCB has tenaciously enforced the reporting requirements, sending Notices of Deficiency to thousands of water rights holders who have failed to timely report their diversion and use of water. Those notices threatened non-filers with potential fines of tens of thousands of dollars (calculated using the maximum allowable fine of $500 per day for each day after the filing deadline). While many diverters were able to avoid fines by correcting their error and filing their diversion and use reports, the Notice of Deficiency and threatened fine were an unwelcome surprise for many ranchers. To avoid notices of deficiency and threatened enforcement fines, CCA encourages water rights holders with permits, licenses, registrations or certificates to file as soon as possible, and no later than Thursday, April 1.
USDA Announces Resumption of CFAP Payments
On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will resume issuing payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) early next month. Secretary Vilsack also announced the establishment of a Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative to provide COVID-19 relief more equitably to a broader range of agricultural producers.
CFAP Payments to Resume
As previously reported by CCA, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 dictated formulas for additional relief payments to cattle producers under CFAP. CFAP payments for cattle mandated by the Act—previously referred to in CCA publications as “CFAP 3”—will instead be processed as “an increase in CFAP 1 payment rates,” according to USDA.
As a reminder, payments are made based on a producer’s highest number of cattle in inventory between April 16 and May 14, 2020. Payment rates are as follows:
|Type of Cattle
|Feeder Cattle < 600 lbs.
|Feeder Cattle > 600 lbs.
|Slaughter Cattle: Fed Cattle
|Slaughter Cattle: Mature Cattle
|All Other Cattle
Cattle producers with an approved CFAP 1 application will automatically receive these payments beginning in early April. Eligible producers do not need to submit a new CFAP 1 application or take any other action, and only producers who previously applied for CFAP 1 will be eligible to receive this additional payment.
For producers who have not yet applied for CFAP 2, USDA has announced that the Farm Service Agency will again begin accepting new and modified CFAP 2 applications beginning April 5. Applications will be accepted for at least 60 days (through June 4).
CFAP 2 provides payments of $55 per head for a producer’s highest inventory of eligible livestock owned between April 16 and August 31, 2020. Cull cattle and breeding stock are ineligible for the per-head payment. More information on CFAP 2 can be found here.
USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative
Finally, USDA has announced a new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, committing at least $6 billion to develop new programs and modify existing programs to provide additional COVID-19 assistance, including compensation for euthanized livestock and financial assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment. Formal rulemaking will be required to implement some efforts under the initiative, and USDA expects to initiate any necessary rulemaking this spring; more information about the initiative can be found here.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of any developments regarding USDA COVID-19 relief programs, including CFAP. Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
UPDATED: SWRCB Issues “Early Warning About Potential Water Shortages”
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) last week 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 sent letters to 40,000 water rights holders “urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.”
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.
Meanwhile, agricultural producers are already feeling the impacts of the state’s ongoing drought conditions. On Tuesday, California’s Department of Water Resources cut water deliveries under the State Water Project from 10 percent of contracted amounts down to five percent of contracted amounts. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, meanwhile, kept deliveries under the Central Valley Project at five percent for its lowest-priority customers but announced that water “is not available for delivery until further notice.”
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.
USDA APHIS Effectively Withdraws Trump-Era RFID Rule, Intends Future Action
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) announced that it will not move forward with a July 2020 proposal regarding Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) use in Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) as drafted by the Trump Administration. The July 2020 notice and request for comment had proposed a timeline to transition to RFID tags as “the only identification devices approved [by USDA] as an official eartag for cattle or bison.”
The Trump-era proposal was among the ongoing regulatory processes which were suspended pending agency review under the Biden Administration’s day-one “Regulatory Freeze” memorandum.
APHIS will not finalize the July 2020 proposal as noticed but is also not formally withdrawing the pending rulemaking. Rather, the agency signaled it intent to take “future action related to this proposal” and reiterated that “APHIS continues to believe that RFID tags will provide the cattle industry with the best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases and [the agency] will therefore continue to encourage the use of RFID tags while the rulemaking is pending.”
APHIS’s announcement clarifies that all current APHIS-approved methods of identification may continue to be used until further notice. Currently, APHIS-approved eartags include visual-only metal and plastic tags as well as RFID tags that bear an official identification number for individual animals. Animal disease traceability (ADT) regulations for cattle apply only to sexually intact beef animals over 18 months of age moving in interstate commerce; cattle used for exhibition, rodeo and recreational events; and all dairy cattle.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of any APHIS proposals regarding animal disease traceability.
Current Round of COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program Applications Closes Wednesday
The current round of funding for the California COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program administered by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) closes this Wednesday, March 31. Both currently waitlisted and new applicants are eligible to apply.
This is among the last opportunities for small businesses to apply for the program; a sixth and final round of applications will follow at an as-yet-unspecified date.
Eligible businesses will have their grant applications scored “based on COVID-19 impact factors incorporated into the Program’s priority criteria.” Grant awards range from $5,000 to $25,000 based on the small business’s annual revenue.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
CDI Hearings on Wildfire Risk Score Transparency Postponed
Legislative Bulletin has previously reported on two “new transparency rules to help consumers better prepare for wildfires” proposed by California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. The California Department of Insurance (CDI) had announced two “prenotice public discussions” for the proposed rules for March 30 and April 6.
Last week, however, CDI announced that those two meetings have been postponed to yet-to-be-announced dates. CCA will keep you informed of the new hearing dates once CDI announces them.
Assemblyman Rivas Unveils Details of Resilient Food and Farming Bond
Earlier this month, 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.
USDA Seeks Information on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry
On March 16, 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.
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.
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.