CNRA Releases Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy
Last Monday, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) announced that it has released a public comment draft of its Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy. The document was mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Oct. 7, 2020 Executive Order which also initiated the state’s “30×30” initiative – the goal of conserving 30% of the state’s land and waters by 2030 in an effort to preserve species diversity and slow climate change.
CCA has been working closely with CNRA and the Newsom Administration throughout the development of the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy. As a result, much of the draft strategy acknowledges the vital ecological contributions of well-managed livestock grazing. For instance, the strategy identifies “science-based grazing” as a method to “reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire,” and acknowledges the benefits of grazed rangelands for sequestering carbon and improving water storage.
CCA and California Cattlemen’s Foundation staff are currently reviewing the draft strategy and will continue engaging directly with the Administration in addition to submitting formal comments on the draft strategy prior to the November 9 deadline.
CCA encourages members to submit comments on the draft strategy by selecting “How to Provide Input on the Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy” here. For further information, contact Victoria Rodriguez at the California Cattlemen’s Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dept. of Insurance Orders FAIR Plan Coverage Increase, Reinitiates Wildfire Risk Rulemaking
On Tuesday, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered the California FAIR Plan to increase its coverage limits – which were set more than 24 years ago – to keep pace with the rate of inflation and “to be a more effective backstop for California’s commercial businesses.” As a result of this year’s Senate Bill 11 (Rubio), the state’s insurer of last resort now provides coverage for certain farm and ranch structures.
Once implemented, the order will result in Division I commercial property insurance limits being increased from $4.5 million to $8.4 million and Division II businessowner program insurance limits increasing from $3.6 million to $7.2 million.
The Department of Insurance on Tuesday also announced that it is re-initiating previously-delayed public hearings regarding new rules “to require that insurance companies take into account fire-preparation actions by homes and businesses when they determine the risk of wildfires” in an effort to increase insurance availability.
The public hearing will be held Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 1:00pm. Interested persons can register for the virtual hearing here; the draft text of the proposed regulations is available here. Finally, a press release overviewing the Department of Insurance’s recent actions relating to agricultural business coverage and wildfire insurance is available here.
USDA Releases Feed Transportation Tool for ELAP Applicants
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in September announced that it had updated its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to help cover the cost of livestock feed transportation for drought-stricken ranchers.
On Wednesday, USDA announced the availability of its ELAP Feed Transportation Producer Tool “to help ranchers document and estimate payments to cover feed transportation costs caused by drought.” The tool is in the form of a fillable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and USDA has provided instructions and a demonstration video for how to utilize the tool.
According to USDA, to utilize the tool, ranchers will need data on the number of truckloads of feed transported this year, the mileage per truckload and the share of feed costs if splitting loads. Ranchers will also need baseline data for a “normal” year against which to compare those figures.
The deadline to file an ELAP application for costs incurred in the 2021 program year is January 31, 2022. For assistance, ranchers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center, which can be found here.
Governor Signs Two CCA-Sponsored Bills into Law
Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two CCA-sponsored bills. On October 6, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bills 332 (Dodd), legislation which incentivizes the application of prescribed fire by minimizing prescribed fire practitioners’ exposure to liability. The following day, the Governor signed a package of bills intended to support rural communities, including CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 1103 (Dahle), which establishes a statewide framework for county “Livestock Pass” programs to safely provide livestock producers access to their ranches during wildfires and other emergencies.
Both bills previously passed through both houses of the Legislature without recording a single “no” vote.
AB 1103 facilitates county adoption of “Livestock Pass” programs which grant livestock producers ranch access during wildfires and other emergencies to safely care for and evacuate livestock. While some counties have already developed emergency ranch access programs, others lack the resources to develop and implement Livestock Pass programs. AB 1103 requires CAL FIRE to establish a statewide training program for Livestock Pass holders, codifies a requirement that law enforcement and emergency responders grant ranch access to Livestock Pass holders and establishes certain minimum standards for administration of the programs, facilitating and streamlining adoption of county Livestock Pass programs throughout the state.
SB 332 reduces prescribed burners’ potential liability when a planned burn becomes uncontrolled. Under existing law, when CAL FIRE responds to a prescribed fire that escapes containment lines, the agency can seek ‘cost recovery’ from the prescribed burner for the agency’s fire-suppression costs. SB 332 will immunize prescribed fire practitioners from this cost recovery unless the practitioner acts in a grossly negligent manner. According to prescribed fire experts, this immunity from cost recovery will remove a significant disincentive to burners’ use of prescribed fire – thereby incentivizing greater application of prescribed fire.
More information from CCA about SB 332’s signing is available here, with more details about AB 1103’s signing available here.
For more information regarding AB 1103 and SB 332, as well as a preview of CCA’s 2022 legislative priorities, listen to “Episode 5: End of Legislative Session Takeover” of CCA’s podcast released today.
Additionally look for a recap in the November edition of California Cattleman or contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office. A full rundown of CCA’s 2021 legislative priorities is available in the October edition of California Cattleman.
CEQ Announces Proposal to Revise NEPA
On October 6, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced that they will be revising regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in two phases. CEQ published Phase One in the Federal Register on October 7, beginning a 45-day comment window on the proposed changes. CEQ’s NEPA regulations were previously amended last year under the Trump Administration – the first substantive amendments since 1986.
CEQ is proposing three changes to the 2020 NEPA regulations in Phase One. First, CEQ is proposing to eliminate language stating that the “purpose and need” for an Environmental Impact Statement must be based on the goals of an applicant and the agency’s authority. In the 2020 NEPA regulation, CEQ under the Trump Administration had stated that the purpose of this language was to clarify that when an agency is reviewing a proposal for authorization, they must base that authorization on the stated goals of the applicant. This had the effect of limiting the impacts the agency would consider and streamlining the NEPA authorization process.
Second, CEQ is proposing to reinstate discretion for agencies to develop procedures beyond the CEQ regulatory requirements. Under the 2020 NEPA regulation, agency NEPA procedures could not be “inconsistent” with CEQ regulations. This was interpreted to mean that agencies could not require more extensive review than that required by the CEQ regulations. Similar to the “purpose and need” language, this language was added to the 2020 NEPA regulation to help streamline the process and ensure that a proposal that would be approved under CEQ regulations would also be approved at the agency level.
Third, CEQ is proposing to revise the definition of “effects” or “impacts” to restore the definitions of “direct” and “indirect” effects and “cumulative impacts” from the 1978 NEPA regulations. This proposal would eliminate language defining “effects” as those that “are reasonably foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship.” CCA strongly supported the removal of these terms and the addition of this definition of “effects” during the 2020 NEPA regulation revision process to remove confusion, reduce the length of NEPA documents and increase the efficiency of NEPA environmental analyses.
As CEQ is currently in the public comment period for Phase One, the California Cattlemen’s Foundation will be providing comment on the proposed revisions and emphasizing that NEPA must consider the economic impacts of proposed decisions and do so in a timely manner. CCA and the Foundation will continue to support efforts to streamline the NEPA process and aim to ensure that NEPA isn’t a limitation to the important work of California ranchers.
SWRCB Releases Measurement and Reporting Deficiency List
2015’s Senate Bill 88 required water diverters with diversions greater than 10 acre-feet to install a water measuring device at the point of diversion and requires all diverters to annually report their diversion and use of water to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). For appropriative water rights such as permits, licenses, registrations and certificates, annual diversion and use reports are due by April 1. Reporting for riparian and pre-1914 rights is due annually by July 1.
The SWRCB maintains a Searchable SB-88 Measurement Regulation Deficiency List for water rightsholders who have failed to certify the installation of a measurement device or who have failed to timely file their annual diversion and use report. The SWRCB’s online Deficiency List was last updated October 6.
Because failure to file can subject diverters to fines of up to $500 per day, CCA strongly encourages members to search the Deficiency List for their names or other identifying water right information.
Ranchers in need of compliance assistance are encouraged to contact Noah at the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program at email@example.com or (916) 406-6902. Support through the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program is available at no cost.
Nominations for CVDRMP Board of Directors due October 25
The Central Valley Dairy Representative Monitoring Program (CVDRMP) is seeking nominations for candidates for election to its Board of Directors. Nomination forms were mailed to current members the week of September 27 and must be returned to the CVDRMP office by October 25, 2021. Nomination forms are also available at CVDRMP.org/Election.
A total of seven seats are available for nominations, one for each CVDRMP “B” district seat, one for the “B” at-large seat, and one for the currently vacant “A” District 5 seat. Following the call for nominations, an election by mail-in ballot will be held in December 2021. Director terms are two years in length and begin in 2022.
Current “B” seats up for election and current seat holder: District 1 (Darren Dias – not seeking reelection); District 2 (Jeff Troost); District 3 (Janie Sustaita-de Raadt – not seeking reelection); District 4 (Tony Ott); District 5 (Rien Doornenbal); and At-large: (Scott Wickstrom).
The CVDRMP is a not-for-profit group of more than 1,200 Central Valley dairies and bovine operations, organized and overseen by directors elected from its membership. Any member in good standing who owns or operates a dairy or bovine facility is eligible for nomination.
CVDRMP’s purpose is to reduce regulatory costs for members by administering a representative groundwater monitoring program for permitted dairy and bovine facilities operating within the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board region. Membership in this voluntary program satisfies individual groundwater monitoring regulatory requirements included in the Dairy General Order. Membership also satisfies compliance with the Central Valley Water Board’s recently implemented Nitrate and Salt Control Programs.
For more information, please visit CVDRMP.org or contact the CVDRMP office at 916-594-9450 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stories from California Cattle Country Podcast Releases New Episode
Last month, The California Cattle Council and the California Cattlemen’s Foundation launched Stories from California Cattle Country—a new podcast that takes listeners to some of the most beautiful parts of this diverse state to learn more about the people and practices of ranches and dairies. The second episode of the podcast is out now and takes listeners to the Dorrance Ranch in Monterey County to discuss the ranch’s history, the River Fire and the hustle that is securing the future of the ranch for the next generation.
To listen, search “Stories from California Cattle Country” on your preferred platform for streaming podcast episodes or click on one of the following links to go straight to it: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or calcattlecouncil.org/dorranceranch.