CCA-Sponsored Bills Pass Legislature, Await Governor’s Action
Friday was the last day of the 2021 Legislative calendar, with two CCA-sponsored bills advancing for Governor Gavin Newsom’s consideration.
AB 1103 (Dahle), which would establish a statewide framework for local “Livestock Pass” programs, and SB 332 (Dodd), which incentivizes prescribed fire application by minimizing practitioners’ financial liability, each sailed through both houses of the Legislature without taking a single “no” vote in policy committees, fiscal committees or on the floors of the Assembly and Senate.
SB 332 passed off the Assembly floor on September 1, with the Senate concurring in Assembly amendments the following day, and was presented to the Governor on Thursday. AB 1103 passed out of the Senate on Friday, with the Assembly concurring in Senate amendments just an hour before session gaveled to a close for the year. That bill has yet to land on the Governor’s desk.
Newsom has until October 10 to act on bills sent to him by the Legislature. CCA will continue to keep you apprised of developments on AB 1103 and SB 332, and a full update on CCA’s 2021 legislative priorities will be available in the October edition of California Cattleman.
Last-Minute Budget Bills Fund CCA Priorities
Last week, state legislators passed several bills intended to implement major provisions of the 2021-22 State Budget. The package includes a “budget bill junior,” which amends the main budget bill, and more than a dozen budget trailer bills (“trailer bills” enact the State Budget by implementing specific changes in law for a particular agency or policy area).
The junior budget bill includes a significant CCA priority in the form of a Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program which will “support coverage for losses from permitted prescribed fires by non-public entities.” The Pilot Program will effectively address a concern which CCA had sought to address earlier this year when CCA-sponsored SB 332 (Dodd) was introduced in the Legislature.
SB 332 originally sought to shield prescribed fire practitioners from liability for escaped fires which damage private property, as such liability concerns are the largest disincentive to prescribed fire application. To remove opposition to the bill, however, SB 332 was ultimately amended to instead immunize prescribed burners from Cal Fire’s recovery of costs incurred in suppressing escaped prescribed fires. Nevertheless, CCA continued to advocate for liability protections for prescribed burners, pushing legislators to fund a $25 million prescribed fire claims fund. While the $20 million Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program falls just short of CCA’s target, it represents significant progress toward shielding prescribed burners from liability and will hopefully incentivize greater application of controlled burns within the state.
The junior budget bill also appropriates $3 million for a “wolf conflict compensation pilot program.” According to the bill’s language, this money will be available to compensate ranchers for “verified loss of livestock” and for “the impacts of wolf presence on livestock,” and may also be used to fund ranchers’ voluntary deterrence efforts. It is important to note that while the bill funds a pilot program, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has not yet determined the parameters of such a program – CCA staff is engaged in ongoing discussions with the Department and other stakeholders to determine how such a program should be structured.
For more information about the junior budget bill and 15 trailer bills – particularly significant additional funding for prescribed fire and other wildfire prevention and forest resilience funding – see the October edition of CCA’s Hot Irons print newsletter.
USDA Expands ELAP Program to Cover Costs of Feed Transport Necessitated by Drought
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will update its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to help drought-stricken ranchers cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock.
ELAP already reimburses ranchers for the cost of hauling water during drought. Under the change announced last week, ELAP will now also cover feed transportation costs in areas which have a drought intensity of “D2” for eight consecutive weeks according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, have a drought intensity of “D3” or greater for any duration or where USDA otherwise “has determined a shortage of local or regional feed availability.”
According to USDA, “eligible ranchers will be reimbursed 60% of feed transportation costs above what would have been incurred in a normal year” for such costs incurred on or after January 1, 2021. That 60% will be applied to a “national cost formula…which will not include the first 25 miles and distances exceeding 1,000 transportation miles.” For 2021, USDA has set the initial cost formula at $6.60/mile, which may be adjusted on a regional basis.
USDA will release further details and an application tool later this month on its ELAP webpage; ranchers can find contact information for their local USDA Service Center here. The deadline to file an ELAP application for costs incurred in the 2021 program year is January 31, 2022.
CCA Presses Congress to Preserve Tax Policies that Protect Ranchers
On Wednesday, CCA joined the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and more than 330 other organizations comprising the “Tax Aggie Coalition” in issuing a letter to leadership of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees urging them to preserve sound tax policies which protect ranches and other family-owned businesses.
The Tax Aggie Coalition’s outreach comes as legislators begin drafting legislation implementing President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda as outlined in the recently adopted Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Resolution. The letter asks that legislators “not alter or eliminate long-standing tax code provisions that are fundamental to the financial health of production agriculture and the businesses that supply its inputs, transport its products, market its commodities, and support the vibrancy of U.S. livestock and crop production.”
Specifically, the letter asks that legislators protect the viability of family-owned businesses by preserving existing tax provisions “such as stepped-up basis, like-kind exchanges, the Section 199A small business deduction” and by leaving in place existing estate tax provisions.
In a press release announcing the letter, NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Danielle Beck stated “This is not a partisan issue; in fact, it’s an issue that affects every single American. With more than 370 million acres expected to change hands in the next two decades, preserving long-standing provisions in the federal tax code is a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike…without federal tax policy that supports a viable business climate for the next generation of producers, building on the environmental and economic contributions of today’s producers is impossible and risks compromising our nation’s ability to produce a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. The consequences of taxing family farms and ranches out of business completely undermines the ‘Build Back Better’ agenda.”
Federal Judge Overturns Trump Administration Navigable Waters Rule
In late August, Judge Rosemary Márquez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona issued a decision vacating the Trump Administration’s 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and remanding it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further consideration. The NWPR was a revision of the Obama Administration’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) Rule; the NWPR sought to reign in the EPA’s expansive claims of jurisdiction under the 2015 WOTUS Rule, which vastly expanded federal permitting authority over features such as wetlands, ephemeral streams, and vernal pools. Instead, the NWPR outlined four clear categories of waters that were considered “waters of the United States.”
The court striking down the NWPR reinstates the 1986 regulatory definition of WOTUS. It is not immediately clear whether this decision applies nationwide or just to the six federally recognized tribes who litigated the case, but as the court did not provide that the ruling was limited to the parties litigating, the ruling will likely be applied nationwide. If this is the case, the ruling could expedite the Biden Administration’s stated plan to repeal and replace the NWPR.
On an Executive level, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are still proceeding with their ongoing rulemaking process which seeks to repeal and replace the NWPR in two stages. The Biden Administration has begun the first stage, which included a comment period that concluded Friday. The California Cattlemen’s Foundation (CCF) and California Cattlemen’s Association provided verbal and written comments to EPA reinforcing the concerns of the ranching community that the new rule will assert jurisdiction over ephemeral features, among other concerns.
In addition to repealing the NWPR, the Biden Administration also plans to create a new definition of “waters of the United States,” which may provide clarity on federal jurisdiction. CCA and its national affiliate, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, have been actively engaged in this process and have repeatedly voiced concerns about the new rule. As the rulemaking process continues, CCF and CCA will ensure that ranchers’ concerns are voiced. CCA will continue to provide updates on the process.
USDA Announces Oct. 12 Deadline for CFAP 2
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced that October 12 is the deadline by which all eligible agricultural producers must apply for or modify their applications under Round 2 of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (“CFAP 2”).
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, FSA reopened applications under CFAP beginning April 5. CFAP 2 provides payments of $55 per head for a producer’s highest inventory of eligible livestock owned between April 16 and August 31, 2020. Cull cattle and breeding stock are ineligible for the per-head payment. More information on CFAP 2 can be found here.
Reservations for Tradeshow Booths Now Open
CCA invites you to exhibit at the 2021 California Cattle Industry Tradeshow held in conjunction with the CCA/CCW Annual Convention. This year’s tradeshow will be held December 1-3 at the Peppermill Resort Hotel in Reno, Nevada. With over 100 exhibitors at the 2019 event you won’t want to miss this opportunity to connect with those from across the state active in California’s cattle industry. Get all the details and reserve your booth today at https://calcattlemen.org/convention2021.
Initial booth space reservations will be taken through Friday, October 8. Tradeshow Questions? Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 444-0845.
College Students: Join the CCA Team as a Convention Intern Dec. 1-3
CCA is currently looking for hard-working college students to help put on the 105th CCA/CCW Convention and Tradeshow happening December 1-3 at the Peppermill in Reno. While interns will help run CCA’s tradeshow booth, onsite registration and other behind the scenes tasks at the event, they will also have the opportunity to attend select meetings, general sessions and have access to the tradeshow with a complimentary registration. Additionally, the interns will be able to interact with professionals and beef industry leaders at the most attended meeting of the year.
Interested in being part of this year’s team and gaining experience? Please send a resume and one page letter detailing why you would like to be a convention intern to Katie Roberti at email@example.com by Friday, October 8.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.