CCA Pushes for Congress to Act on Industry Concerns
Earlier today, CCA’s national affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees to notify the members of “the challenges currently facing our industry and the overall beef supply chain.” CCA is one of the 37 affiliate cattle groups signed on to the letter that outlines the following five industry concerns:
- Increasing Transparency in the Cattle Markets
- Expanding Beef Processing Capacity
- Supporting Labor Solutions to Strengthen the Cattle and Beef Supply Chain
- Supporting Industry Efforts to Reform “Product of the USA” Generic Labeling
- Ensuring Proper Oversight of Cattle Market Participants
“Cattle producers are frustrated, and with good reason. In sale barns and state meetings across the country, we’re hearing the same story of sky-high input costs and intense market volatility. Across the industry, there’s a consensus that market dynamics which consistently squash producer profitability are not sustainable for live cattle or beef producers,” said NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “As members of Congress create policy that directly impacts business conditions for our producers, it is critical that they consider the grassroots input and firsthand experiences of folks on the ground. Our letter provides that perspective and reinforces how urgently we need something to shift here to strengthen the security of the beef supply chain. NCBA has strong working relationships with members on both sides of the aisle, we have grassroots policy to back the actions we outlined today, and we hope the conversation in Washington around these critical policy areas will progress quickly.”
CCA will provide updates on any action or movement from the letter or on these issues as available.
Hours of Service Exemptions for Livestock Haulers Extended Through August 31
On March 18, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration exempting livestock haulers from compliance with the federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time. Under the Emergency Declaration, Hours of Service rest requirements remain in effect, meaning that once a driver returns to his or her “normal reporting location,” that individual must still receive a minimum of 10 hours of off-duty rest.
The Emergency Declaration has been extended on four prior occasions, most recently through May 31. Last Wednesday, however, FMCSA again issued an extension of the modified Emergency Declaration, which expands the hours of service exemption through August 31.
The current Emergency Declaration applies to a limited class of freight, including livestock and livestock feed. As with previous extensions of the Emergency Declaration, only finished feed products remain exempt from the ordinary Hours of Service regulation; ingredients used in feed product are not exempt from Hours of Service rules.
Unlike the initial Emergency Declaration and prior extensions, the latest extension includes a note that it is “FMCSA’s intention to wind down the exemptions granted under this Emergency Declaration.” To that end, FMCSA will review the emergency declaration as of July 1, and may take action to modify or terminate the Emergency Declaration prior to August 31 if warranted.
In response to FMCSA’s initial March 2020 action, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order also exempting haulers engaged in intrastate or interstate transportation from California’s Hours of Service regulations. California’s exemption remains in effect as long as FMCSA’s Declaration remains in effect.
CCA will keep you informed of any further developments regarding Hours of Service regulations for hauling livestock.
Congressmembers Push DOJ to Advance Investigation into Anticompetitive Practices
Last month, a group of Senators and Representatives sent a letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division to continue its civil investigation into whether the nation’s four biggest meatpackers have engaged in anticompetitive activity.
On May 22, 2020, DOJ’s Antitrust Division sent civil investigative demands to the nation’s largest meatpackers. In the past year, the DOJ has not released any results of the investigation and the Congressional letter notes that “there is no information to even suggest whether the investigation has concluded or is still ongoing” in the wake of leadership transitions at DOJ, including after the Presidential transition.
In a statement issued May 17, CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) welcomed the bicameral letter. “Despite strong consumer demand and reopening across much of the country, cattle producers face significant business challenges. The farmers and ranchers NCBA represents are contending with high market volatility, drought, and extreme input costs, and they can’t capture the value they deserve for the high-quality product they supply,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.
“We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for U.S. beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity. It’s in the best interests of both producers and consumers for the Department of Justice to get to the bottom of the current market dynamics, and asses why they seemingly always result in producers getting the short end of the deal. Cattle producers deserve to know whether or not the price disparity that has plagued our market is the result of anti-competitive or other inappropriate practices in the packing sector.”
CCA will continue to keep members informed of any developments in DOJ’s investigation.
Have Your Livestock Suffered from Wildfire and Smoke?
UC Davis in collaboration with Oregon State University developed a survey to gauge the impact of the 2020 wildfires on grazing livestock health and production. The objective of this survey is to gather information to better understand to what extent cattle, sheep, and goats have been impacted by direct exposure to wildfires or by indirect exposure to smoke inhalation during the fire season. Gaining this knowledge will enable us to better anticipate impacts of wildfires on livestock in the future and prepare outreach materials that help increase resilience to these disasters.
“We continue to see fires across the West each year impacting livestock grazing operations and causing direct harm and potentially more widespread impacts from smoke filled skies,” states Dr. Gaby Maier, Beef Cattle Herd Health & Production Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension, UC Davis. “Even if you do not think your livestock were impacted by wildfires in 2020, we would also like to hear from you.”
The survey should take about 3 to 5 minutes to complete. Your participation in this survey is completely voluntary, and your responses will be kept anonymous. All questions are related to the 2020 wildfire season between May and December 2020. Results will be reported through different outlets including the California Cattleman Magazine.
Earlier this year the research team asked commercial cattle producers in Butte County about the impacts from wildfires, to gauge the need for this larger survey. “In this preliminary survey we heard from ranchers about direct impacts from fire on rangelands such as cattle death loss and burns,” states Tracy Schohr, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor in Butte, Plumas and Sierra Counties, University of California Cooperative Extension. “In addition, the majority of ranchers reported wildfire smoke increased respiratory infections, reduced weight gain, and lowered conception rates.”
All livestock producers, large and small, in the Western States are encouraged to complete the quick survey. Take the survey here.
USDA Issues 90-Day Progress Report on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a 90-Day Progress Report for its Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy. USDA is undertaking the initiative in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
The report outlines seven recommendations for USDA to consider in developing a Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy. These include preparing USDA to better quantify and track the climate benefits of the Strategy; developing a Strategy that works for all farmers, ranchers and forest landowners; and supporting new and better markets for climate-smart agricultural and forestry products.
Perhaps of greatest interest to Californians in the wake of 2020’s historically catastrophic wildfire season, the Report also recommends USDA “Develop a forest and wildfire resilience strategy.” That strategy should include “Increas[ing] the rate of fuels reduction to decrease the risk of severe wildfire.” Specifically, the report suggests “that in order to significantly reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfire, USDA must increase the scale of its actions by two to four times more than is currently treated” (for reference, the agency treated 2.65 million acres in Fiscal Year 2020).
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of USDA’s efforts to develop and implement a Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy.
UC Cooperative Extension Ranch Water Quality Videos
Last fall, the University of California Cooperative Extension published a Ranch Water Quality Planning Curriculum and you can take advantage of these resources for free on YouTube. To get started with the materials, UC Cooperative Extension, Marin County recommends watching the following five preview videos:
- Science of Grazing Management and Water Quality (link)
- Public Lands Grazing and Water Quality (link)
- Nutrient Dynamics and Water Quality on California Rangelands (link)
- Fate and Transport of Sediment (link)
- Rangeland Management of Waterborne Pathogens from Livestock and Wildlife (link)
To access the complete video series, including the full versions of these educational videos, click here
to go to the series playlist.