Lawmakers Approve $536 Million in “Early Action” Wildfire Funding
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced a $536 million “early action” funding plan for wildfire resilience. Legislators are likely to approve the legislation—AB 79 and SB 85—as early as today, with Newsom’s signature to come as early as tomorrow. Early action funding augments the current fiscal year budget and is available almost immediately.
The agreement includes $198 million for funding wildfire fuel breaks, $283 million for forest health and resilient wildlands and $27 million for home and community hardening, among other funding. Altogether, the early action funding is more than $200 million greater than the amount initially proposed in Governor Newsom’s January 8 Proposed Budget.
CCA issued a statement praising the $536 million appropriation but noted that “this is only the beginning. More work needs to be completed to correct the mismanagement of our landscapes over the last 100 years.”
The move came a little more than a week after Governor Newsom announced $80.74 million in Emergency Fund spending to support early action on fire fuels management and wildfire response efforts, enabling the hiring of 1,399 additional firefighters including “fire crews for fuels management.”
More information about the wildfire funding agreement will be published in the April edition of Hot Irons and the May edition of California Cattleman.
FDA Releases Report on 2020 Central Valley Leafy Green E. coli Outbreak
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the release of a report on the investigation into a Fall 2020 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses. In its announcement, FDA states that “we identified the outbreak strain in one cattle feces composite sample taken alongside a road approximately 1.3 miles upslope from a produce farm with multiple fields linked to the outbreak through traceback. In addition, several other samples tested positive for other [Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC)] strains, including E. coli O157:H7. While no direct source or route of contamination was identified, the investigation provided insights into potential sources of contamination, including livestock activities on adjacent land.”
It is worth noting that the report does not conclusively demonstrate a causal link between cattle grazing and the illness outbreak. It is possible, for instance, that both cattle and leafy greens were contaminated with the outbreak strain of E. coli from wildlife or another source.
FDA has recommended that the agricultural community in the Central Coast continue to “work to identify where this reoccurring strain of pathogenic E. coli is persisting and the likely routes of leafy green contamination,” including through participation “in the California Longitudinal Study [(CALS)], and in the locally-led, locally-convened California Agricultural Neighbors (CAN) workgroup.” CCA is participating in both CALS and CAN, and in other California food safety initiatives outlined here.
On Tuesday, California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross issued an open letter encouraging farmers and ranchers to participate in the California Longitudinal Study; if you are interested in participating or learning more, contact Dr. Michele Jay-Russell at UC Davis or contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
Biden Administration Unveils 2022 ‘Skinny Budget’
On Friday, the Biden Administration released the President’s $1.5 trillion Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal. The so-called “Skinny Budget” does no enumerate program-specific funding requests but does overview the Administration’s funding priorities.
Among the funding priorities of greatest interest to cattle producers are the following:
- President Biden’s proposal seeks to increase funding for “tackling the climate crisis” by $14 billion above FY 2021 levels, including $815 million to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning for wildfire, floods and droughts.
- The Skinny Budget proposes $27.8 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a $3.8 billion (16%) increase over FY 2021. Of that, $1.7 billion is proposed for high-priority hazardous fuels and forest resilience projects.
- USDA investments in support of the Administrations “30 by ’30” initiative to conserve at least 30% of lands by 2030. These investments are intended to encourage voluntary conservation of forests, farms and ranchers while allowing landowners to continue productively working those lands.
- The White House proposes $17.6 billion in funding for the Department of the Interior, likewise a 16% increase over FY 2021 levels, including $340 million for hazardous fuel management and to rehabilitate burned areas.
CCA will keep you informed as Congress and the Administration continue to negotiate the 2022 federal budget.
Lawmakers Call on Governor Newsom to Declare Drought
With winter precipitation levels at about 45% of normal signaling a second consecutive dry year for California, lawmakers on Wednesday asked Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide drought emergency. The bipartisan letter was signed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) and Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), as well as nine other legislators from largely agricultural districts.
The legislators estimate that farmers and ranchers will lose upwards of $7.2 billion in revenue due to water supply cuts. In addition to declaring a drought emergency, the letter calls on Governor Newsom to provide agricultural producers financial assistance to compensate for water supply reductions and requests that the Governor meet with Central Valley lawmakers to discuss the effects of the drought on their districts.
Newsom has acknowledged that “we are experiencing drought conditions” but has signaled that a formal drought declaration is not forthcoming.
Virtual AB 589 Water Measurement and Reporting Course Scheduled for May 20
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has announced that it will offer a virtual water measurement and reporting course as authorized by CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 589 (2017) on Thursday, May 20 from 1:00-4:00pm. Those interested in attending the virtual course can pre-register and pay for the course here. There will be a limited number of seats offered for this training in 2021, so early pre-registration is encouraged.
Senate Bill 88 (2015) requires all water right holders who divert more than 10 acre-feet of water per year to annually measure and report their water diversion (detailed information on the regulatory requirements is available here). As originally written, the legislation required diverters of 100-acre feet or more annually to have a measuring device installed and certified by an engineer, contractor or other professional. AB 589 amended that require by allowing any diverter who has successfully completed a UCCE instructional course to be considered a qualified individual when installing a measurement device.
At the workshop you will: clarify reporting requirements for ranches; understand what meters are appropriate for different situations; learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy; develop an understanding of measurement weirs; and learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.
Should you have any questions about this training, please contact Larry Forero at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sara Jaimes at email@example.com, or call the Shasta UCCE office at (530) 224-4900.
PG&E Offering Ag Power Quality Workshop April 21
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has announced that it will host a workshop on Agricultural Power Quality Wednesday, April 21 from 10am-noon. PG&E customers can register for the workshop here.
According to PG&E, “This workshop for PG&E’s agricultural customers presents valuable information about our electric distribution system and how to identify and address power quality issues that can affect your operations. We will address topics such as voltage at the customer level, steps customers should take when experiencing a voltage issue, and information on choosing equipment compatible with PG&E’s infrastructure. Additionally, we will share information about ongoing efforts undertaken by PG&E to improve overall reliability and safety of our power distribution system.”
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.”
Earlier this month, 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).
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.” All workshops will be held from 4PM to 6PM. Click on a following upcoming workshop date to register and receive Zoom access information:
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. Learn more about the workshops and the Executive Order click here.
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.