Latest Budget Bill Represents Steep Decline in FY 2021-22 Wildfire Funding
California’s 2021-22 Fiscal Year officially kicked off last Thursday, July 1 – even as state lawmakers continue to negotiate junior budget bills and budget trailer bills to finalize and implement the budget.
As negotiations continue and the budget is refined, though, one alarming development has emerged: state lawmakers are now proposing significantly less in wildfire resilience funding than had been suggested earlier in the year.
Until now, the trajectory for wildfire funding had only gone up. In his “May Revise,” Governor Newsom proposed $708 million in wildfire preparedness and resilience funding. On June 1, legislative Democrats announced a two-house budget agreement that included $1 billion in wildfire resilience funding, $292 million above Newsom’s May Revise figure. That $1 billion figure was retained in the budget initially passed by the Legislature on June 14, but importantly was “Contingent upon future legislation.”
Last Monday, however, legislators passed a “Budget Bill Junior” which revised those wildfire resilience funding figures. The budget now includes a total of only $458 million for wildfire prevention and resilience in FY 2021-22.
CCA will continue to push for additional wildfire resilience funding in FY 2021-22, including alongside our partners in the Resilient Forests Coalition. Importantly, lawmakers continue to negotiate elements of the budget, so increased funding for wildfire remains possible. Additionally, budget augmentations are possible well into the fiscal year, as occurred in April of this year, when lawmaker appropriated $536 million in wildfire resilience funds as an “early action” augmentation to the FY 2020-21 budget.
USDA to Review “Product of the USA” Label
On Thursday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is “initiating a top-to-bottom review of the ‘Product of USA’ label that will, among other things, help [USDA] to determine what that label means to consumers” and enable an upcoming rulemaking on the topic. On June 10, CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) filed a petition with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service urging the agency to eliminate the “Product of the USA” label and other broad labeling claims for beef products.
According to NCBA President Jerry Bohn, “The ‘Product of the USA’ label is not subject to source verification, is not tied to any kind of food safety standard, and is applied by packers and retailers in a manner that does not deliver value back to the cattle producer. This label not only misleads consumers, it is yet another barrier to producers gaining leverage and distinguishing their product in the marketplace.”
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, CCA early last month joined NCBA on a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees notifying the members of “challenges currently facing our industry and the overall beef supply chain.” Concerns regarding “Product of the USA” generic label were among a handful of issues highlighted in the letter.
More information regarding “Product of the USA” label and USDA’s recent announcement can be found via NCBA’s press release and USDA’s statement.
FSA Seeking Nominees for County Committee Members
Last month USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced it was starting to accept applications for county committee members. “Elections will occur in certain Local Administrative Areas (LAA) for these members who make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally,” an FSA press release states. “All nomination forms for the 2021 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Aug. 2, 2021.”
According to the release, “Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in a USDA program, and reside in the LAA that is up for election this year, may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation to FSA, even if they have not applied or received program benefits.”
To learn more about the committee elections click here and to find out if you are located in an LAA with an election happening this year contact your local FSA office; you can find contact information for your local FSA office here.
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.
On June 23, 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.” Part one of the three-part webinar series was held last Wednesday and a recording of it is available here. The remaining upcoming webinars are:
- 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)
CDFW Announces New Wolf Pack in Plumas County
On June 23, 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.”
USDA Announces $55.2 Million in Grant Funding for Meat Processing Facilities
On June 21, 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.
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.
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.