California Agricultural Neighbors Interim Report Released as Webinar Series Kicks Off
In response to continued outbreaks of pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7 associated with leafy greens in the Salinas Valley, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Monterey County Farm Bureau in January convened a group of stakeholders known as the California Agricultural Neighbors (CAN), seeking to better understand and prevent the conditions that contribute to such E. coli outbreaks. Both CCA and our local affiliate the Monterey County Cattlemen’s Association are participants in the CAN effort.
Last Wednesday, CDFA published CAN’s June 2021 Interim Report (ahead of the report’s release, CDFW convened a “town hall” to discuss the topics addressed in the report; a video of the town hall meeting can be found here). The report identifies “collective themes of discussion, recommendations [f]or consideration, or noted opportunities for subject matter expertise to expand on current knowledge and understanding” identified in the CAN stakeholder process to date.
To further explore these themes, recommendations and opportunities, CDFA has announced a three-part webinar series “to learn about CAN and hear food safety recommendations from scientific experts.”
- Wednesday, June 30, 1:00-2:30pm: Reservoirs of E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli (STEC) (further details and registration available here)
- Wednesday, July 7, 9:00–10:30am: Off-farm factors that may affect STEC movement on the landscape (further details and registration available here)
- Wednesday, July 14, 9:00-11:00am: On-farm factors that may affect STEC survival and contact with produce (further details and registration available here)
UPDATE: Legislature Passes Fiscal Year 2021-22 State Budget
Legislators continue to negotiate the state’s 2021-22 Budget, even as the fiscal year begins this Thursday.
Last week, Legislative Bulletin reported that the State Legislature had met its constitutional obligation by approving a $264 billion state budget bill a day before the State Constitution’s June 15 deadline, but noted that final budget negotiations with Governor Newsom were ongoing and likely to be ironed out in subsequent ‘junior budget bills’ and budget trailer bills.
On Friday, legislators finalized a “Budget Bill Junior” which could be voted upon as early as this evening and which brings the total budget down slightly to $262.6 billion. In advance of filing that legislation, legislators released a 13-page summary of the “June 28th Package,” which the legislators say “represents nearly the final budget agreement, with just a few key issues outstanding.”
Unfortunately, some of the issues which remain outstanding are precisely those of greatest interest to California’s ranchers. While lawmakers have come to agreements on issues such as expanded funding for local health agencies and funding to expand broadband internet access, Politico notes that “major components of the resources budget will remain unresolved, including $1 billion for wildfire prevention, $3 billion on drought response and $3.7 billion over three years on ‘climate resiliency.’”
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of major developments relating to the State Budget.
CDFW Announces New Wolf Pack in Plumas County, Depredation in Siskiyou County
On Wednesday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued an update to its document titled “California’s Known Wolves – Past and Present.” Most significantly, the update confirms the presence of a new wolf pack, the Beckwourth Pack, in Plumas County. According to CDFW, “The Beckwourth Pack was confirmed in May 2021 when three wolves were photographed by trail camera at a confirmed wolf depredation site in southern Plumas County. Tracks of two wolves had been observed in the same general area in February 2021. Field efforts are ongoing, and it is not yet known whether the pack is reproductive. Preliminary DNA analysis indicates one wolf is LAS12F (from the Lassen Pack’s 2019 litter). The origins of the other two wolves remain uncertain.”
The next day, CDFW issued a Livestock Loss Determination labeling two calf depredations as “Probable Wolf” depredations likely attributable to OR-103, a male wolf which first entered Siskiyou County on May 4. Between May 31 and June 12, a producer identified four injured calves on a public lands allotment in northeastern Siskiyou County. Injuries to two calves were photographed by the rancher, allowing CDFW to label those attacks as “probable wolf” attacks (investigators wrote that because the calves themselves couldn’t be closely examined “for bite marks and scrapes, they could not be confirmed as caused by a predator”). The other two calves were not photographed or available for examination, so CDFW did not investigate these additional incidents or render a determination regarding whether those attacks were wolf depredations.
USDA Announces $55.2 Million in Grant Funding for Meat Processing Facilities
On Monday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is making available “$55.2 million in competitive grant funding available through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program.” Grant funding under the MPIRG program is available to small and midsize meat processors and producers to “cover the costs for necessary improvements to achieve a Federal Grant of Inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.”
According to CCA’s national affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the structure of the MPIRG program “is notably similar to the RAMP UP Act, language that NCBA worked hard to get included in the” Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which provided the funding source for the program (late last year Legislative Bulletin reported on efforts to incorporate provisions of the RAMP UP Act into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021).
Grant applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern (8:59 Pacific) on Monday, August 2. Additionally information can be found in USDA’s announcement and at the MPIRG program website.
DUE THURSDAY: 2020 Water Use Reports Due July 1 for Many Diverters; Water Board Identifies Diverters Out of Compliance with Measurement and Reporting Requirements
Water rights holders required to file Statements of Diversion and Use (e.g., those with pre-1914 and riparian rights) must file their 2020 Statements no later than this Thursday, July 1 on the State Water Resources Control Board’s website. The reports must be made electronically using the Water Board’s electronic Water Rights Information Management System Report Management System (eWRIMS RMS). Failure to file water reports by the deadline may subject diverters to fines up to $500 per day.
The Water Board has developed a series of technical videos to help guide diverters through the process of reporting their annual diversion and use of water. If you experience any difficulty filing your report, you can view these informational videos here.
While pre-1914 and riparian right-holders have until Thursday to file their reports, those diverting under appropriative water rights (certificates, registrations, permits and licenses) were required to file their annual water diversion and use reports by April 1. If you have an appropriative water right and have not yet filed for 2020 (or prior years), file immediately or contact the CCA office for assistance to limit or avoid hefty fines the Water Board may impose for failure to timely file.
While the Water Board has not yet issued a list of delinquent filers for 2020 as it has in previous years, the Division of Water Rights has compiled a list of diverters subject to measurement regulations who it believes have not registered a measuring device and/or have not submitted any valid measurement datafiles. If your water right appears on this list, CCA encourages you to remedy any measurement or reporting deficiencies by contacting the Division of Water Rights at DWR-Measurement@waterboards.ca.gov.
Water Curtailments Continue as Drought Deepens
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) earlier this month took two significant actions relating to water rights curtailments in response to the state’s historic drought conditions. First, as previewed on June 14 in Legislative Bulletin, the SWRCB laid a framework for curtailing pre-1914 and riparian water rights on the Russian River Watershed to conserve water for human health and safety, state- and federally-listed fish, and storage in Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.
According to the SWRCB, approval of the emergency regulation means “approximately 2,400 water right holders could be ordered to stop diverting as early as July 5, when water availability is projected to worsen. That includes 1,600 water users in the Upper Russian River and up to 800 in the Lower Russian River.”
Second, the SWRCB issued Notices of Water Unavailability to all 4,300 water rights holders with post-1914 appropriative water rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed, requiring such right holders to cease diversion of water. According to the SWRCB, “projections indicate that water is also likely unavailable this summer for a subgroup of more senior pre-1914 appropriative and possibly riparian water right claims,” which may result in Delta Watershed curtailments similar to those approved last week for the Russian River Watershed.
Notices of Water Unavailability were previously issued for all post-1914 appropriative water rights holders on the Russian River Watershed and for approximately 158 water rights holders on the Scott River Watershed.
Importantly, the curtailment orders do not impact water already diverted to storage in stockponds and other reservoirs. During the prior drought, the SWRCB clarified that “The State Water Board’s curtailment of water rights does not limit the use of water previously stored in a pond or reservoir. Therefore, uses of previously stored water authorized by a permit, license, registration or certificate can continue.” On Friday, CCA confirmed with the Deputy Director for the SWRCB’s Division of Water Rights that diverters may continue to legally utilize water previously diverted to storage.
All diverters receiving notices of unavailability – even those allowed to continue using water diverted to storage – should complete the Water Unavailability Certification Form as directed in the notice of unavailability and should cease any further diversions of water.
Further curtailment orders are likely to issue this year. While CCA will seek to keep members informed about the SWRCB’s regulatory responses to the drought emergency, developments are likely to emerge quickly; for the most up-to-date information, visit the SWRCB’s Drought Information and Updates webpage, here.
$4 Billion Available Through USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Round II
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the resumption of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments in March, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that that program and others would be administered through the newly-establishment Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which aims to provide COVID-19 relief more equitably to a broader range of agricultural producers.
In the months that have followed, USDA has provided nearly $6.8 billion in assistance to producers through the initiative – with CFAP accounting for most of those funds.
On June 15, USDA announced a second round of assistance programs which will be rolled out through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative in the next 60 days. Of greatest interest to livestock producers, USDA will propose financial assistance for “Livestock…producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic.”
More information on Round II of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative is available here. CCA will strive to keep members informed as individual programs under the initiative are announced.
USDA Announces Deadlines for CRP Signups
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) through July 23. Applications for USDA’s CRP Grasslands program will be open from July 12 through August 20.
According to USDA, the agency has “updated both signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increase [CRP’s] conservation benefits, including reducing the impacts of climate change.”
CRP and CRP Grasslands are competitive application processes which provide awarded landowners annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes. According to USDA, “Through CRP, producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland.”
Producers can learn more about the CRP General Signup here, or about CRP Grasslands here. To enroll, producers should contact their local county FSA office; you can find contact information for your local FSA office here.
UCCE Piloting New Drought Decision Support Tool for Ranchers
Most ranchers in the West are well aware that we’re in the second year of another significant drought. As of June 15, nearly 89 percent of the West is in moderate to exceptional drought. California ranchers are coming off one of the driest rainy seasons in memory. But while many producers have already started implementing drought plans, others are still considering their options. Based on lessons learned during the 2012-2016 drought here on the West Coast, these decisions are difficult but critical to the long-term viability of our ranches.
To this end, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) livestock and natural resources advisors Grace Woodmansee (Siskiyou County, CA) and Dan Macon (Placer, Nevada, Sutter and Yuba Counties, CA) have created a Drought Strategies Decision Support Tool that will help producers walk through specific strategies to deal with on-the-ground conditions. This tool will guide ranchers through developing their forage outlook for the next 12 months. It will also help producers relate their reactive strategies (like weaning lambs early or selling breeding-age females) with ranch goals and proactive drought strategies. In addition, the tool is intended to help ranchers establish a critical date by which they will take action. The tool is linked to a series of simple spreadsheets (available here) to help producers analyze the costs and benefits of several key strategies (like feeding hay, weaning early, or selling livestock).
Woodmansee says the tool was developed based on her research into rancher strategies during the 2012-2016 drought. “We realized in talking producers who managed through that drought that reactive strategies (like supplemental feeding) are related to proactive strategies (like resting pastures to conserve forage). We hope ranchers will use this tool and provide us feedback on how we can make it even more useful!”
For more information, or to provide comments and feedback, contact Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Macon at email@example.com.
NRCS California Offering $22 Million Through Conservation Incentive Contracts Pilot Program
The California state office of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that it is offering $22,774,000 in funding through Conservation Inventive Contracts, a new option available through the agency’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
According to NRCS, “California is one of only four states in the nation to pilot this important program to help agricultural producers, including Tribes, alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands.” Practices eligible for funding under these five-year contracts include “forest management plans, tree/shrub establishment, brush management, prescribed grazing, pasture and hay planting, wildlife habitat, livestock watering systems, and cover crops.’
NRCS will accept applications for this targeted funding through July 12. You can apply for Conservation Incentive Contracts through your local NRCS office (which you can find here) or you can download an application here.