Gov. Newsom Announces $80 million in Early Action Wildfire Resilience Funding
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced $80.74 million dollars in early action, emergency funding for fire fuels management and wildfire response efforts. The funding will support the hiring of 1,399 additional firefighters, including “early hiring and training of fire crews for fuels management.”
The Governor’s announcement acknowledges that current drought conditions could mean another difficult fire season in the wake of 2020’s historically catastrophic wildfire season, noting that “With much of the state experiencing persistent drought conditions, low reservoir storage and below average snowpack, California is planning for another dry year.”
The $80 million in funding is aligned with California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan, which establishes a strategy for the state to treat 500,000 acres annually by 2025, including through significant expansion in the application of prescribed fire.
CCA will work closely with the Administration to help meet the objectives outlined in the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. To read CCA’s full response to Governor Newsom’s emergency funding announcement, click here.
CDFA Releases Draft Report on Farmer- and Rancher-Led Climate Solutions
In early February, CCA reported on stakeholder meetings hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to solicit insights regarding “farmer- and rancher-led climate change solutions.”
On Tuesday, CDFA released its draft report based on those stakeholder meeting. CDFA is soliciting public comments on the draft report to better inform the agency’s understanding of farmer- and rancher-led climate change solutions. Comments are due no later than 5:00pm on April 30 and may be emailed to CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback received by CDFA will ultimately inform the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy developed by various state agencies as mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20, which also established the goal “to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030” (often referred to as the “30 by ’30” initiative).
President Biden Unveils Infrastructure Plan
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden unveiled the American Jobs Plan, kicking off the first phase of the Administration’s infrastructure agenda. The plan includes several elements that will be of relevance to ranchers living in America’s rural communities, including:
- Delivering affordable, high-speed broadband to all Americans;
- Repairing and modernizing 20,000 miles of highways and roads;
- Fixing “the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction” and repairing “the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, including bridges that provide critical connections to rural and tribal communities”;
- Investing in inland waterways and coastal ports;
- Upgrading and modernizing “America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems” and supporting “clean water infrastructure across rural America”; and
- Creating jobs and economic growth in rural America.
President Biden is proposing to pay for the American Jobs Plan with changes to the corporate tax code. Biden’s announcement is merely an opening bid that will kick off months of negotiation on Capitol Hill. CCA will continue to track the Administration’s infrastructure plans and will keep members apprised of potentially beneficial infrastructure improvements as well as any developing tax liabilities.
Wolf OR-93 Continues Unprecedented Dispersal
In March, CCA reported on a male yearling wolf, OR-93, which had traveled as far south as Mono County and then traveled into Tuolumne County. By the end of the month, OR-93 had crossed Highway 99 into Fresno County and then crossed I-5 into San Benito County. On Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued another update on OR-93’s movements, announcing that the wolf has strayed into Monterey County.
Dispersing gray wolves are known to cover vast distances as they seek out mates and prey, but never has a gray wolf traveled so far within California. CCA will continue to keep members apprised of OR-93’s movements and urges member to be vigilant to avoid wolf/livestock conflicts. Any sightings of OR-93 or other wolves should be reported to CDFW, here.
USDA Announces Resumption of CFAP Payments
In late March, 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’s Farm Service Agency will again begin accepting new and modified CFAP 2 applications beginning today. 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.
Your Participation is Needed in the Upcoming Nature-Based Solutions and 30 by 30 Virtual Regional Workshops
In October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order committing the state to the “30 by 30” goal (for more information on California’s participation in the “30 by 30” initiative—and CCA’s reaction—see the October 12, 2020 edition of Legislative Bulletin).
The California Natural Resources Agency is now planning to host regional, virtual workshops to “provide input on meeting the State’s commitment to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 and accelerate nature-based solutions to address climate change.” The upcoming workshop dates are as follows:
April 20 — Sacramento Valley Region
April 21 — San Francisco Bay Area Region
April 27 — Central Coast Region
April 28 — Sierra Nevada Region
April 29 — San Joaquin Valley Region
May 4 — North Coast Region
May 5 — Los Angeles Region
May 6 — Inland Deserts Region
May 11 — San Diego Region
See a map of the regions here to find out which workshop to attend.
All workshops will be held from 4PM to 6PM and specific details on how to attend will be provided in upcoming editions of Legislative Bulletin. In the meantime to learn more about the workshops and the Executive Order click here.
USDA APHIS Effectively Withdraws Trump-Era RFID Rule, Intends Future Action
On March 23, 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.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of any APHIS proposals regarding animal disease traceability.
Assemblyman Rivas Unveils Details of Resilient Food and Farming Bond
Last 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.
LAST CALL: 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.