Cattle Contract Library Act Introduced in Congress
Last Tuesday, Congressmen Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021 (H.R. 5609). The bill would establish a cattle contract library under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS).
In a press release issued Thursday, CCA applauded the Act’s introduction, noting that “CCA has long advocated at the federal level for greater market transparency alongside our partners at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association” and that “creation of a contract library would equip cattle producers with the market data they need to make informed business decisions and exert greater leverage in negotiations with the packers.”
The Cattle Contract Library Act would require USDA to establish a library documenting each type of contract packers offer for the purchase of fed cattle. The library would collect information about the type and duration of such contracts, contract provisions which may affect the base price, any premiums or discounts offered and the total volume of cattle covered by the contracts, among other details.
USDA AMS would be required to report this data on a weekly and monthly basis, with information reported being subject to USDA’s confidentiality rules.
CCA’s Price Discovery Subcommittee Chair Seth Scribner reacted to the bill’s introduction noting that “As a cattle industry, this is an opportunity to ask ourselves what the data from a cattle contract library should look like and more importantly, how we can design it to help with adequate price discovery.”
CCA is actively tracking H.R. 5609 and will keep members apprised of updates on this bill and other market transparency efforts as they become available.
Stories from California Cattle Country Podcast Releases New Episode
Six-year-old Chesley Tipton is the highlight of the Stories from California Cattle Country podcast episode released today. Listen to learn more about roping and branding from Chesley and hear more about the Maddalena Ranch from his mom, Annie. You can see photos related to the episode and listen at https://calcattlecouncil.org/maddalenaranch.
The episode is also available on a variety of platforms for streaming podcasts. Stories from California Cattle Country is produced by the California Cattlemen’s Foundation with support from the California Cattle Council.
SWRCB Temporarily Suspends Certain Curtailments in Multiple Watersheds
Due to recent precipitation events, last week the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued announcements that curtailments in several watersheds are temporarily suspended. The watersheds that are impacted are the Shasta River Watershed, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed and the Lower and Upper Russian River Watersheds.
On Thursday, the SWRCB announced a temporary suspension of curtailments in the Shasta River to the priority date of July 1923. This means that your curtailment order is only suspended if your water right’s priority date is before July 1923. Water rights in the Shasta River Watershed with a priority date after July 1923 remain curtailed. The suspension of these curtailments is based on the current flow at the Yreka gage and the weather forecast over the next week. The temporary suspensions will end at 11:59 pm on October 31 unless the SWRCB issues further extensions. Water rightsholders in the Scott and Shasta River Watersheds are highly encouraged to subscribe to the Scott-Shasta Drought email list, which is available at the bottom of the Scott River and Shasta River Drought Response webpage.
As a reminder, there is a Minimum Livestock Watering provision in place for the Scott and Shasta River Watersheds. The SWRCB sent out a letter regarding livestock watering on Thursday, detailing the rules about livestock watering in the Scott and Shasta River emergency regulation. This provision does not allow inefficient surface water diversions, which include unlined ditches, for stock-watering during September through January. This limitation applies regardless of whether your water rights have been curtailed. You cannot divert more than 10 times the estimated amount that livestock drink. The estimates are provided in the letter for reference.
If your water rights are curtailed, you are still allowed limited continued diversions for stock-watering and information about this can be found on your curtailment order. You must reduce the amount you divert to the minimum amounts necessary, which are the levels shown on the letter. You must also submit a Scott-Shasta Minimum Livestock Diversion Certification form to the SWRCB Division of Water Rights to demonstrate compliance. If the minimum livestock watering levels do not meet your needs, it is possible to petition the SWRCB to divert additional amounts. More details are available on that process in the letter linked above.
On Tuesday, the SWRCB announced a temporary suspension of all curtailments under the August 20 curtailment orders issued to water rightsholders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) Watershed. There is no estimated end date for this suspension. You can see updates to your curtailment status on the Delta Watershed Curtailment Status List webpage. More information about the SWRCB response to drought in the Delta Watershed can be found on the Delta Drought webpage.
On Wednesday, the SWRCB announced a temporary suspension of certain curtailments in the Russian River Watersheds. As of Thursday, all curtailments in the Lower Russian River Watershed are temporarily suspended. This is the area of the watershed that drains towards Dry Creek, or is downstream of where the Russian River meets Dry Creek. The Upper Russian River Watershed makes up the rest of the Russian River Watershed. On Friday, the SWRCB announced temporary suspensions to curtailments for all water rightsholders in the Upper Russian River Watershed. These suspensions became effective on Saturday at noon. You can find more information on curtailments for the Russian River Watersheds on the Russian River Drought Response webpage.
CCA will continue to monitor drought conditions and provide information on any further updates from the SWRCB. For assistance with compliance issues, ranchers may contact the Rancher Technical Assistance Program at (916) 406-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CDFW Issues Quarterly Wolf Updates
Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued its “Quarterly Wolf News” update, covering the period from July to September.
The report details that there are at least seven wolves currently active in the Lassen Pack (three adults or yearlings and four pups) despite the Dixie Fire burning throughout much of the Pack’s range. The Whaleback Pair in Siskiyou County is known to have produced at least seven pups this year. The Beckwourth Pack, which range throughout Plumas and Sierra counties, are not known to have reproduced, according to the report.
The report also notes the likely presence of OR-93 in southern California and OR-103’s confirmed presence in Siskiyou County, noting that CDFW has “regularly detected dispersing wolves in California since December 2011, and it is likely that a small number of uncollared dispersers exist in the state at any moment in time.”
No livestock depredations by wolves were reported to CDFW throughout the quarter.
Additional information about these wolves is available in the October update to CDFW’s “California’s Known Wolves – Past and Present” document. CDFW has also updated its map of wolf packs’ areas of known activity. CCA will continue to keep members informed about gray wolves within the state.
CNRA Releases Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy
Earlier this month, 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 email@example.com.
Dept. of Insurance Orders FAIR Plan Coverage Increase, Reinitiates Wildfire Risk Rulemaking
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has 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 has 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 October 13, 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.
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.
To see the three changes CEQ is proposing to the 2020 NEPA regulations in Phase One, read October 11’s edition of this publication.
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.