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LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

February 7, 2022

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California Leads Discussion at NCBA’s Live Cattle Marketing Meeting
Last Wednesday, all eyes were on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Live Cattle Marketing Meeting and the policy that would come out of the 2022 Cattle Industry Convention held in Houston this year. At the standing room only meeting, California was well represented as seven producers voted on behalf of CCA with additional producers from the state and CCA staff in attendance.

Once the time for new business on the agenda was reached, California was the first of any state to speak, with CCA Price Discovery Subcommittee Chair and San Luis Obispo County Rancher Seth Scribner offering an amendment for a current NCBA resolution to include opposition for any government mandates. CCA’s decision to push for no mandates was a result of the CCA Price Discovery Subcommittee’s months of work studying the markets and deliberating over possible solutions to fix disparities. CCA leadership ultimately determined that having the government involved in regulating how ranchers market their cattle and conduct their business is a step too far.

Dozens of producers from across the country spoke both in opposition and in support of the amendment during the discussion period. Through a roll call vote membership voted, as reported by Agri-Pulse, “to specifically state their opposition to cash trade mandates, adding clarity to an explicit part of a bill being pushed by a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill.” The vote final was 146 in support of the policy and 41 in opposition, and the policy was approved at the NCBA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday.

To hear CCA President Tony Toso speak more about the live cattle marketing meeting, CCA’s preparation for it and the continued work CCA will be doing on cattle market issues, listen to today’s episode of the Sorting Pen podcast “Sorting through CCA’s decision to keep the government out of cattle marketing.” NCBA’s Director of Government Affairs and Market Regulatory Policy Tanner Beymer also comes on the episode to give further details about the meeting and discuss what’s next for NCBA’s work to improve cattle markets.

In addition to the strong participation California had in the live cattle marketing meeting, California cattlemen and women also led in many other policy committee meetings and activities that took place at the event last week. Look for further details on California’s involvement in the annual event to be published in the March issue of the California Cattleman magazine.

JBS USA Announces $52.5 Million Settlement in Price Fixing Lawsuit
On Tuesday, meatpacker JBS USA announced it has agreed to a $52.5 million settlement agreement with grocers and wholesalers who had sued the company – alongside the other “big four” meatpackers Tyson Foods, Cargill and National Beef – alleging price-fixing and other anticompetitive practices. JBS has not admitted to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

A federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota reviewed the details of the settlement agreement in a hearing last Thursday; the judge will rule later whether to approve the settlement.

CCA’s national partner the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) responded immediately to the news, deriding the settlement as “deeply disturbing.” “NCBA was the first national organization to request a government investigation of beef markets in 2019,” NCBA’s statement reads. “Now there are settlements occurring without Department of Justice (DOJ) having released findings or even providing cattle producers with an update on progress.”

NCBA CEO Colin Woodall reiterated the need for DOJ to release investigative findings regarding anticompetitive behavior in light of the recent settlement agreement. “It is clear from this settlement that cattle producers still don’t have all the information they have demanded and is deserved,” Woodall said. “The DOJ has an obligation to finish their investigation. Cattle producers do not have years to wait for the government to determine whether there has been wrongdoing, we demand answers now.”

USDA Launches Online Tool for Ranchers to Report Anticompetitive Practices
On Thursday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released an online tool that allows ranchers to anonymously report unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock industry. CCA previously reported in January that the Biden-Harris Administration planned to release this tool as a part of the Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive and Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain.

With the modern packing industry being made up of less than a handful of major packers, there have been increasing concerns about the disparities between the resources ranchers are putting into the production of their beef compared to what they are actually getting as a result of the sale of the final product. According to USDA, ranchers received more than 60 cents of every dollar a consumer spent on beef 50 years ago, compared to approximately 39 cents today.

This new tool will allow users to submit complaints either under their names or anonymously and that complaint will then be reviewed by USDA Packers and Stockyard Division staff and DOJ staff. If a complaint demonstrates sufficient evidence of a violation under the Packers and Stockyards Act or antitrust laws, it will then be investigated by the appropriate agency.

SWRCB Updates Curtailment Statuses in Delta Watershed
On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced that certain curtailments in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed (Delta) have been reimposed.

As of last Wednesday, February 2, in the Sacramento River tributaries curtailments on appropriative water rights in the Putah Creek subwatershed outside of the Legal Delta with a priority date of 1945 or later, appropriative water rights in the Stony Creek subwatershed with a priority date of 1921 or later and appropriative water rights in the Cache Creek subwatershed with a priority date of 1856 or later are reimposed. Additionally, in the San Joaquin River tributaries, curtailments on appropriative water rights in the Fresno River subwatershed with a priority date of 1873 or later, appropriative water rights in the Mokelumne River subwatershed outside of the Legal Delta with a priority date of 1949 or later, appropriative water rights in the Calaveras River subwatershed outside of the Legal Delta with a priority date of 1959 or later and appropriative water rights in the Chowchilla River subwatershed with a priority date of 1959 or later are reimposed.

You can check the status of your water rights on the Delta Watershed Curtailment Status List. More information can be found on the Delta Drought webpage. For any questions about curtailment notices or how to comply, please contact the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program at (916) 409-6902 or rtap@wrstrat.com.

CCA-Sponsored Legislation Introduced to Preserve Cost-Saving Training Program
On January 26, Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) introduced CCA-sponsored Senate Bill 880. If signed into law, SB 880 would indefinitely extend the availability of University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) water diversion monitoring and reporting courses, first authorized by AB 589 (Bigelow 2017), which certify ranchers and other water rightsholders as “qualified individuals” for purposes of installing and maintaining water measurement devices required by state law. For more information, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.

CNRA Draft Strategy for 30×30 Initiative Open for Public Comment
On December 15, the California Natural Resources Agency released “Pathways to 30×30: Accelerating Conservation of California’s Nature,” a draft strategy document for achieving the state’s goal of conserving 30% of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030. The draft is available for public comment through February 15. For more information, see the January 10 edition of Legislative Bulletin.

Stock Dogs from Red Bluff on Stories from California Cattle Country
We visited the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding sale at the Tehama County Fairgrounds to learn about the stock dog trials and auction. In this auction 17 dogs, all border collies, exhibited their cattle herding abilities and went on to auction…with one of the dogs fetching $45,000. To listen to the episode click here.

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.

Signups Open for Conservation Reserve Program
USDA has announced that the agency has begun accepting signups for its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP provides landowners financial incentives to “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.” Signups for CRP will run through March 11. Signups for CRP Grasslands, meanwhile, will run from April 4 through May 13. To sign up for CRP or other USDA assistance programs, contact your county Farm Service Agency. You can find contact information for your county FSA office here.

Healthy Soils Program Incentives Program Application Period Open
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting applications for the Healthy Soils Program Incentives Program until funds run out or by February 25. This program “provides financial incentives to California growers and ranchers to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), and improve soil health.” To learn more about applying click here.

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Upcoming CCA Events

CCA Feeder Meeting
May 25-27, San Diego

CCA Midyear Meeting
June 22-23, Rancho Murieta

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Upcoming Industry Events

SB 88 Water Measurement and Reporting Update
February 17, 4:30 p.m., Virtual
Last year, legislation altered the due dates for water measurement and use reporting required annually of all California water diverters, commonly referred to as SB 88 regulations. In 2022, reports for all water diversions will be due April 1, and will be due February 1 of each subsequent year.

The Rancher Technical Assistance Program (RTAP) offers free regulatory assistance to all California cattle producers and is funded by the California Cattle Council. On February 17, RTAP will hold this webinar to go over the State Water Resources Control Board’s recent changes to the due date for water measurement and use reporting. This webinar will provide an overview of SB 88 regulations, discuss the due date changes, and have time for questions and answers. Participation is free but registration is required. Click here to register.

Ranchers Wildfire Field Day
February 18, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Browns Valley
The University of California Cooperative Extension is collaborating with the California Cattle Council and the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC) to host a Ranchers Wildfire Field Day at the SFREC in Browns Valley. To see the agenda for this day, learn more and register for this event, click here.

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CCA in the News

California considers subsidizing plant-based school meals Agri-Pulse “In arguments filed against the measure, Western United Dairies and the California Cattlemen’s Association assert that the bill would use state funds to promote ‘costlier plant-based processed foods above other healthy, nutritious products.’ ‘Given the breadth of food insecurity among California’s schoolchildren, the state’s first priority should be ensuring that all California students receive adequate nutrition in school,’ the trade groups wrote.” To continue reading, click here.

Live Cattle Market Regulations NCBA Updates AgInfoNet “California Cattlemen Association’s President Tony Toso says the state voted against cash mandates, even though the cattle industry has suffered disasters which have challenged the market.” To continue reading, and to listen to the segment click here.

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Industry News

Losing land to 30×30 goals a concern among farm groups Agri-Pulse “Victoria Rodriguez, a policy advocate for the California Cattlemen’s Foundation, pointed to trust issues with government programs like this. She said the plans lack clarity and transparency with implementing the actions, and raised questions over how the agency will work with private landowners. Rodriguez argued the definition of conservation does not include rangeland already under permanent easements.” To continue reading, click here.

NCBA Releases 2022 Policy Priorities National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “During the 2022 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, the executive committee of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) approved the organization’s 2022 policy priorities with an emphasis on strengthening the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the cattle industry.” To continue reading, click here.

USDA Forest Service Announces 2022 Grazing Fees on the National Forests and Grasslands in Western States United States Forest Service “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service is announcing that western states federal grazing fees will be $1.35 per head month for 2022. The 2022 fee remains unchanged from 2021.” To continue reading, click here.

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Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast

In this episode, CCA President Tony Toso talks about the game plan and CCA leadership’s decision to push for a “no cash mandates” policy at NCBA’s Live Cattle Marketing meeting last week. Later in the episode, NCBA’s Tanner Beymer gives further details about the meeting and what’s next for NCBA’s work to improve cattle markets. Click here to listen.

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February California Cattleman

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