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August 16, 2021

Governor Declares Wildfire Emergency in Shasta, Tehama and Trinity Counties
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency in Trinity County due to the McFarland and Monument fires; in Tehama County due to the McFarland and Dixie fires; and in Shasta County due to the McFarland Fire.

According to a press release issued by the Governor’s office, the state of emergency is necessary because “The fires collectively have burned nearly 100,000 acres” within those three counties, and have “destroyed homes and caused the evacuation of thousands of residents.” The emergency declaration provides impacted counties with greater access to state resources to combat the blazes.

On Friday – three days after the proclamation was issued – the Dixie Fire expanded into Shasta County near Lassen National Park. That fire – now the second-largest in state history with more than a half-million acres burned – is now burning in Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama Counties. As of press time, the fire was only 31% contained.

This is the fourth time this summer that Governor Newsom has issued emergency proclamations resulting from wildfires. On August 5, Newsom proclaimed an emergency in Nevada, Placer and Siskiyou counties resulting from the River and Antelope fires. On July 23, he issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency in Alpine, Butte, Lassen and Plumas counties due to the Tamarack, Dixie and Fly fires. And on July 16, Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for Lassen, Plumas and Siskiyou counties due to the Beckwourth Complex and Lava fires.

CCA will continue to keep membership informed about state and federal responses to wildfires within the state. Additional information about these and other wildfire incidents can be found via Cal Fire and InciWeb.

Senate Advances $1.2 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on a bipartisan vote of 69-30. The bill will now move to the U.S. House of Representatives, which reconvenes next Monday.

In addition to $110 billion for road and bridge repairs nationwide, some of the bill’s highlights for California’s cattle producers include the following:

  • $5 billion to bury powerlines in an effort to prevent electricity infrastructure from sparking wildfires;
  • $3.3 billion to reduce the risk of wildfires, including via hazardous fuel reduction projects and controlled burns;
  • $696 million for US Forest Service wildfire management which will be used to shift approximately 1,000 federal firefighting positions from seasonal to permanent and provide pay increases for federal firefighters;
  • $500 billion for dam safety, a portion of which is earmarked for seismic repairs to the B.F. Sisk Dam which impounds San Luis Reservoir;
  • $1.15 billion for water storage projects, $1 billion for water recycling projects and $250 million for desalination projects intended to improve drought resiliency;
  • Inclusion of a 150 air-mile exemption to Hours of Service regulations, intended to give farmers and ranchers additional time to safely navigate rural roads and seek to ensure animal welfare when livestock are being hauled; and
  • $65 billion for broadband internet infrastructure.

The Senate on Wednesday also passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution containing numerous Democratic priorities. That resolution advanced on a party-line vote of 50-49. CCA will continue to keep members apprised of development in federal infrastructure policy as the House of Representatives next takes up the issue.

UPDATE: USFS Shifts Firefighting Strategy as Feds Promise Greater Resources
On August 2, US Forest Service Chief Randy Moore – until recently the Regional Forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region, which covers virtually all of California – issued a memo to agency personnel temporarily halting the agency’s ‘let burn’ policy in favor of a more aggressive suppression strategy. “At this time…managing fires for resource benefit is a strategy we will not use,” Moore wrote. “We are in a ‘triage mode’ where our primary focus must be on fires that threaten communities and infrastructure.”

The shift in strategy came after the agency’s ‘let burn’ strategy drew the ire of Californians including Governor Gavin Newsom and Rep. Tom McClintock (D, CA-4), in particular after the agency’s policy enabled the rapid spread of the Tamarack Fire weeks after the Forest Service declined to suppress the then-quarter-acre fire because the agency felt it posed “no threat to the public, infrastructure or resource values.”

At a July 30 Western governors meeting with President Biden regarding wildfires, Governor Newsom told the President “There’s a culture that, too often, is, ‘Wait and see.’ We can’t afford that any longer. This was a federal fire. They waited. And what we saw is the fire took off because we didn’t put enough initial assets.”

While Chief Moore’s shift in strategy is welcome news for California ranchers suffering the impacts of another historically catastrophic wildfire season, the head of the Forest Service indicated that the focus on aggressive suppression may not extend beyond 2021. “When western fire activity abates, we will resume using all the tools in our toolbox, including wildfire,” his memo reads. In the past week, Chief Moore has also come under pressure from a quartet of former federal fire professionals and a group of dozens of “fire and forest scientists urging that “a federal policy of total fire suppression…should not be permanent.”

UPDATED: SWRCB Considers Curtailing All Rights in the Scott River and Shasta River Watersheds
In July, 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 proposed emergency regulation is to be heard tomorrow during the SWRCB meeting. For more information on the hearing, please refer to Item 4 of the agenda, which includes a copy of the proposed regulation, which has been updated from the version released on July 16 to address comments.

The emergency regulation would allow the SWRCB to issue curtailment orders to water rightsholders to ensure minimum flows to protect certain salmon species. Importantly, the draft emergency regulation provides a pathway for rightsholders who receive a curtailment order to continue diverting minimum quantities of water necessary for livestock watering – approximately 15 gallons per day, or 30 gallons per day during an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.

Diverters within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds are 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 stock ponds 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.”

UPDATED: SWRCB Orders Additional Curtailments for the Russian River Watershed
Two weeks ago, Legislative Bulletin reported on the SWRCB’s announcement that it was issuing curtailment orders to all 861 water rightsholders in the Upper Russian River watershed.

Last Tuesday, the SWRCB announced that it would be issuing curtailment orders to 307 rightsholders in the Lower Russian River watershed. This is an expansion from the SWRCB’s previous estimate that approximately 222 rightsholders would need to be curtailed in the Lower Russian River watershed to meet demands.

Rightsholders are required to submit an Online Curtailment Certification Form within seven days of the issuance of the orders (that is, tomorrow). Rightsholders’ login and password information will appear atop the curtailment order issued by the SWRCB; the Curtailment Certification Form can be completed here.

Penalties for not complying with the regulation are up to $1000 per day for a violation and up to $2500 for each acre-foot diverted or used in excess of a valid water right. At that point the SWRCB may issue a cease-and-desist order and violation of that order can result in a fine of up to $10,000 per day.

CCA will continue to keep members apprised of drought developments, including curtailment orders on the Russian River and elsewhere.

UPDATED: USDA to Begin Publishing Two New Reports to Provide Greater Transparency in Cattle Markets
On August 5 the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS) announced that it will begin publishing two new cattle reports under Livestock Mandatory Reporting. Beginning last Monday, USDA-AMS began producing a National Daily Direct Formula Base Cattle report that is meant to provide greater information about the foundational prices used in cattle market formulas, grids and contracts. Last Tuesday the USDA-AMS also began publishing a National Weekly Cattle Net Price Distribution report, which shows the volume of cattle purchased at each different level of pricing within those formulas, grids and contracts.

The formula includes all transactions which do not fit the definition of either a negotiated cash, negotiated grid or contract trade. Most formula pricing agreements utilize a base price from which premiums are added and discounts subtracted. However, the base prices for these transactions are determined through means other than direct, buyer-seller negotiation. The National Daily Direct Formula Base Cattle report shares national base price information of formula agreements. The National Weekly Cattle Net Price Distribution reports what levels (price and volume) trade occurred across the weekly weighted average price for each purchase type—negotiated, negotiated grid, formula and forward contract. These new reports aim to make it easier for producers to better compare their marketing arrangement to others and allow them to make more informed business decisions on their operations.

Today’s National Daily Direct Formula Base Cattle report summary is available here. Last week’s National Weekly Cattle Net Price Distribution report is available here.

California Wolf Population Grows by a Dozen
This month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued a July/August update of its “California’s Known Wolves” document. Of greatest significance, CDFW reports that two wolf packs within the state produced litters of six pups each this year, expanding California’s known wolf population by at least a dozen.

The Lassen Pack – the state’s largest wolf pack – produced a litter of pups for the fifth consecutive year, with the female wolf designated LAS09F birthing six pups this year (LAS01F, the pack’s other breeding female which produced pups in prior years, has not been detected by wildlife officials this year).

Siskiyou County’s Whaleback Pack – previously designated the Whaleback Pair – also produced a litter of “at least” six pups this year, according to CDFW.

CCA will continue to keep producers apprised of the state’s growing wolf population and of any developments in state and federal policy governing management of California’s wolves.

2021 CCA Scholarship Applications Now Available
Applications for the 2021 CCA Scholarships are being accepted now through October 1. In 2020, CCA awarded over $51,000 in scholarships to students studying agriculture, although scholarship amounts and quantities vary year to year.

Current CCA members (producer, feeder or YCC) that are currently enrolled (or accepted for fall 2021) at a university or college are eligible to apply. Past recipients of the CCA scholarship program may also apply again this year. For a complete list of awards and to download the application visit calcattlemen.org/scholarship. Contact Katie in the CCA office at katier@calcattlemen.org with any questions.

Receive Updates in Your Inbox from the California Cattle Council
The California Cattle Council has launched a new monthly email to keep all cattle producers and interested subscribers updated. Anyone is able to sign up for the newsletter by visiting calcattlecouncil.org and subscribing in the popup form. The monthly emails will focus on highlighting recent investments the Council has made as well as hearing an update from a producer board member each month. 

USDA Soliciting Public Input on Meat Processing Infrastructure
As previously detailed in Legislative Bulletin, 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 July 16, 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.

Upcoming CCA Events

August 18-20, San Diego

Midyear Meeting + Cattle-PAC Fundraiser
August 25-26, Paso Robles
See you next week for this year’s Midyear Meeting and Cattle-PAC Auction + Dinner Dance. To learn more, see the schedule and register click here.

Learn more about the importance of supporting Cattle-PAC and see a handful of the auction items being offered (spoiler: there are football tickets, a puppy, a seven nights stay in Hawaii and more) on August 25 by clicking here.

August 26, Paso Robles
Join us on the Central Coast for a free workshop in our series on Wildfire Preparedness: Assisting Ranchers with Wildfire Risk Minimization, Wildfire Response, and Post-Fire Recovery. This workshop is free and open to anyone interested. More details will be available here soon. This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28587.

Grant logos

Upcoming Events

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.” The first workshop was held on July 27. Learn more about the workshops 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

One Year After Wildfires Decimated California Rancher’s Herd and Legacy, Devastation Fuels Change U.S. Farm Report ”’I’ve basically made a commitment that this is really important to me right now. So, I’m working on it at every level I can, through Cal Fire, with Governor Newsom, his staff came to visit the ranch and look at the fire. I’m working with our California Cattle Council, with California Cattlemen’s Association.’” To continue reading, click here.

Industry News

PG&E power line suspected in Dixie fire was set to be buried underground in safety move Los Angeles Times “After Pacific Gas & Electric equipment sparked a massive fire that burned much of Paradise, Calif., and killed 86 people in 2018, the utility vowed a safety campaign aimed at preventing similar disasters.” To continue reading, click here.

Targeted Cattle Grazing Quickly Contains Wildfires in the Great Basin USDA Agricultural Research Service “Using cattle grazing to create firebreaks on landscapes invaded by cheatgrass has successfully contained three rangeland wildfires in four years in the Great Basin—the latest being the Welch wildfire near Elko, Nevada, on July 18.” To continue reading, click here.

PG&E threatens power shutoffs as Dixie fire rages in Northern California Los Angeles Times “As the Dixie fire continues to rage, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced it could cut power for roughly 39,000 residents across 16 counties in Northern California on Tuesday night to reduce the risk of wildfires from energized power lines.” To continue reading, click here.

College professor held in wildland arson spree near California’s massive Dixie Fire Sacramento Bee “A college professor suspected in a series of arson fires in remote forested areas of Northern California near the massive Dixie Fire has been charged in connection with one of the blazes in Lassen County and was ordered Wednesday at the Sacramento County Main Jail.” To continue reading, click here.

Consumers could see prices rise as Western droughts worsen Fox Business “As Curtis Thomas stepped out of his truck and planted his boots on the dried yellow grass in California, he was reminded of how hard his job of raising cattle is. Thomas, who has been in the business for more than a decade, said he’s always forced to adapt to the constantly changing weather situations.” To continue reading, click here.

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