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July 19, 2021

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.

Upcoming CCA Events

CCA Virtual Workshop: Managing Wildfire Risk for Grazing Permittees on Federal Lands
Originally set for Wednesday, July 28, this virtual workshop has been postponed. When a new date for this workshop is set details will be shared in future CCA publications and at https://calcattlemen.org/events/.

Grant logos

Feeder Meeting
August 18-20, San Diego
Registration is now open! Click here to learn more, register and book your reservations at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

Midyear Meeting + Cattle PAC Fundraiser
August 25-26, Paso Robles
This year’s meeting will be held at the Paso Robles Inn and a Cattle PAC fundraiser will take place at the Mid State Fairgrounds on the evening of August 25. To learn more, see the tentative schedule and register click here.

Upcoming Industry Events

July 27 and August 19, 4-6PM, Virtual
“The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Natural Resources Agency will be hosting two upcoming Extreme Heat Workshops on July 27th and August 19th from 4-6 PM,” according to the California Natural Resources Agency’s website. “At these workshops, the state will be asking for your input and expertise to ensure California takes the actions necessary towards mitigating and building resilience to the impacts of extreme heat events across built, natural, and social systems.” To register for the first workshop click here. Learn more about the workshops here.

Sustainable management of California’s fire-prone landscapes: grazing for community resilience workshops
July 29, August 5 and 12, 10AM, Virtual
“The Range Management Advisory Committee, an advisory body to the California Natural Resources Agency under the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection is co-hosting a virtual workshop with the California Fire Science Consortium to discuss the use of prescribed livestock grazing as a tool to support sustainable fuel reduction and environmental management in multi-use landscapes,” according to the event post on the California Fire Science Consortium’s website. “This year will focus on the ins and outs of contract grazing on public and private lands in the wildland-urban interface and other at-risk communities.” See the speakers, proposed schedule and information on registering here.

Public Lands Council Annual Meeting

September 8-10, Seaside, Oregon (and virtually)
CCA affiliate the Public Lands Council (PLC) is accepting registrations for its 53rd Annual Meeting in Seaside, Oregon, to be held September 8-10. According to an announcement from PLC, it “is the only national organization dedicated solely to representing the interests and perspectives of cattle and sheep producers who utilize federal lands and grazing permits as part of their operations. Each year, the PLC Annual Meeting brings these producers together, and provides a forum for them to discuss current issues and emerging opportunities with federal agencies, industry partners, and Congressional leadership. This year’s conference combines policy priorities with fun in the sun as attendees craft policy solutions that will shape the future of the industry.”

In addition to an in-person registration, PLC is once again offering a virtual registration for its Annual Conference. Registration options and pricing are available here. An agenda, as well as information about accommodations and travel to Seaside, Oregon can be found here.

CCA in the News

Animal ag laws: Oregon initiative would ban animal slaughter, breeding AgInfo Network “‘Given the fact that CCA has members who are right on the border of Oregon and operate in both states, any measures gaining momentum in Oregon similar to Colorado’s proposal could be concerning,’ said Katie Roberti, the California Cattlemen’s Association’s communications director.” To continue reading, click here.

Industry News

‘Unrecognizable.’ Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in Los Angeles and the West, tips toward crisis Los Angeles Times “But after years of an unrelenting drought that has quickly accelerated amid record temperatures and lower snowpack melt, the lake is set to mark another, more dire turning point. Next month, the federal government expects to declare its first-ever shortage on the lake, triggering cuts to water delivered to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico on Jan. 1. If the lake, currently at 1,068 feet, drops 28 more feet by next year, the spigot of water to California will start to tighten in 2023.” To continue reading, click here.

California fires are burning faster, hotter, more intensely — and getting harder to fight Los Angeles Times “The fires have burned more than 140,000 acres, from soaring mountains along the California-Nevada border to forest north of Mt. Shasta and the gateway to Yosemite.” To continue reading, click here.

Park service requests delay in finalizing ranch plan Point Reyes Light “The National Park Service has asked to delay its final decision on the management plan amendment for the Point Reyes National Seashore by 60 days. Seashore spokeswoman Melanie Gunn said Tuesday that the park ‘continues to work through the administrative process to ensure its planning effort and decisions are responsive to public comments, the park’s resources and needs, as well as our legal obligations.’ The plan involves extending ranching leases and culling free-ranging elk—both controversial policies.” To continue reading, click here.

The fires California grieves— and needs Zócalo Public Square “Recent years have seen an uprising around prescribed fire—a movement—as we Californians explore and reclaim our role in this fire-adapted state. Community-based burn cooperatives have sprung up across the state, providing training, resources, and inspiration for landowners, volunteer fire departments, and community members. Legislators, too, are working to tackle some of the major barriers to prescribed fire, like liability.” To continue reading, click here.

Drought conditions force local ranchers to sell their cattle KSBW “With 85% of California being in an extreme drought, many cattle ranchers are facing some tough decisions — to keep or sell their cattle.” To continue reading, click here.

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