SWRCB to Consider Curtailments for Scott and Shasta River Watersheds with Exceptions for Livestock Watering
On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued a notice signaling its intent to consider a drought emergency regulation for the Scott River and Shasta River watersheds.
The emergency regulation would allow the SWRCB to issue curtailment orders to water rights holders to ensure minimum flows to protect certain salmon species. Importantly, the draft emergency regulation would allow rightholders who receive a curtailment order to continue diverting minimum quantities of water necessary for livestock watering.
Under the proposed emergency regulation, the minimum amount of water deemed “reasonably necessary” for range cattle would be 15 gallons per day. A provision in the draft emergency regulations would allow rightholders to temporarily increase diversions for livestock by “up to twice the amount” in regulation (30 gallons per day for range cattle) if an excessive heat warning is declared for the area by the National Weather Service. To be eligible for the exemption, water diverted for livestock would be required to be “conveyed without seepage,” including diversions through “pipes, wells, or lined ditches.”
If adopted as presently drafted, the emergency regulation would require all diverters issued a curtailment order to certify their compliance with the order. All continued diversions, such as those for livestock watering, are contingent upon filing required self-certifications. Instructions for certifying one’s compliance with a curtailment order and/or justification for continued diversion will be outlined in the curtailment order.
While rightsholders will be mailed any curtailments issued under the emergency regulation, diverters within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds are also encouraged to subscribe to the SWRCB’s “Scott-Shasta Drought” mailing list for updates (after filling out your “Signup Details” at the top of the page, click “Water Rights,” select “Scott-Shasta Drought” in the right hand column and click the blue “Subscribe” button under “Signup Details”).
It should be noted that curtailment orders do not implicate water already diverted to storage in stockponds and other reservoirs. The SWRCB has clarified that “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.”
The SWRCB will accept public comment on the draft emergency regulation at a hearing to be held tomorrow at 3:00pm. The Board is also accepting written comments through 5:00pm Friday; comments can be submitted via email to ScottShastaDrought@waterboards.ca.gov.
Senator Booker Reintroduces Farm System Reform Act
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Farm System Reform Act of 2021. Bay Area Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA17) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Act, which Booker alleges is an attempt “to transition to a more sustainable and humane system,” would restore mandatory county-of-origin labeling and would significantly curtail the operation of large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), among other provisions.
The bill is identical to legislation that Booker previously introduced on December 16, 2019. Legislative Bulletin noted at that time that “It is unlikely that Congress will take any significant action on Senator Booker’s proposal: many provisions of the Act are opposed by Republicans and Democrats alike, and were largely ignored during Congressional debate on the Farm Bill.” Indeed, the bill never received a hearing in the Senate.
CCA affiliate the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) released a blistering statement in response to the newly-reintroduced legislation, calling it “the kind of broad, jumbled mess you get when you’re more focused on Twitter and talking points than the sound legislating rural Americans need.” NCBA’s statement further noted that “95 percent of cattle raised in the United States visit a feedyard. Feeding operations aren’t antithetical to small, family-owned farms and ranches — they’re part and parcel of the same, symbiotic supply chain that produces the most nutritious, sustainable beef in the world.”
CCA is tracking the Farm System Reform Act of 2021 and will keep you informed on developments (if any) regarding Sen. Booker’s legislation.
USDA Soliciting Public Input on Meat Processing Infrastructure
Last week, Legislative Bulletin detailed President Joe Biden’s July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and a subsequent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) press release announcing the agency’s intention “to make significant investments to expand processing capacity and increase competition in meat and poultry processing to make agricultural markets more accessible, fair, competitive, and resilient for American farmers and ranchers.” USDA’s announcement included a commitment of “$500 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.”
Now, USDA is soliciting public feedback on how it should invest those $500 million in funds. On Friday, the agency filed a request for public comment in the Federal Register “seeking input from the public on how to invest an estimated $500 million of American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure, increase capacity, and hasten diversification across the processing industry.”
The request for public feedback poses several specific questions within six broad categories: (1) general considerations, (2) fair treatment of farmers & workers and ownership considerations, (3) loans and other financing considerations, (4) grant considerations, (5) technical assistance considerations and (6) partnerships and combined funding considerations.
Comments are due to USDA no later than August 30, and can be submitted here by clicking “Comment” in the upper left hand section of the page.
Finally, USDA will be scheduling a series of stakeholder meetings on this topic; CCA will keep members apprised of those meeting times as information becomes available.
California Agricultural Neighbors Concludes Webinar Series
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, CCA has in recent months been participating in the California Agricultural Neighbors (CAN) initiative, an effort coordinated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Monterey County Farm Bureau (MCFB) to better understand and prevent outbreaks of pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7 associated with leafy greens in the Salinas Valley.
On June 23, CDFA published CAN’s June 2021 Interim Report after convening 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.
Following the report’s release, CDFA and MCFB hosted a trio of webinars “to learn about CAN and hear food safety recommendations from scientific experts.” That webinar series concluded last Wednesday, but recordings of the series are available on CDFA’s YouTube channel by clicking on the webinar titles and links below:
CCA will continue to engage CDFA and other stakeholders in the CAN process and will keep members apprised of significant developments arising from the effort.
Governor Newsom Expands Drought Emergency, Urges Water Conservation
Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month issued a proclamation extending a drought state of emergency to nine additional counties: Inyo, Marin, Mono, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. The declaration comes after similar proclamations on April 21 and May 10, which established a drought state of emergency in 41 other counties. In total, 50 counties are currently covered by drought declarations, with only Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, and Ventura counties not presently covered by a state of emergency designated by the Governor.
As with the prior two proclamations the latest state of emergency declaration enables the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to modify reservoir releases “to conserve water upstream later in the year in order to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead” and to improve water quality, and directs the SWRCB to “consider emergency regulations to curtail water diversions when water is not available at water right holders’ priority of right or to protect releases of stored water.” Already this year the SWRCB has issued curtailments for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta watershed and the Russian River watershed, with others likely to follow later this summer.
In addition to the drought emergency proclamation, Newsom issued an executive order calling on “all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent from their 2020 levels.” In conjunction with that Order, the Administration unveiled a “Save Our Water” website with suggestions for conserving water.
CCA will continue to keep you apprised of any state and federal actions taken in response to California’s ongoing drought conditions.
THIS WEEK: Deadline 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 this Friday, 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.
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.