USDA Announces $215 Million in Funding to Enhance the National Food Supply Chain
On Thursday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will be providing $215 million for grants to help expand meat processing options and strengthen opportunities in rural areas. This is part of USDA and the Biden Administration’s efforts to foster competition in cattle markets to ensure fair prices for ranchers.
According to USDA, USDA Rural Development will make $150 million available through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) for grants to fund startup and expansion efforts in meat processing. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will make $40 million available for workforce development and training and the Agricultural Marketing Service will make $25 million available through the MPPEP for technical assistance to grant applicants and others who need resources for meat processing.
CCA is pleased to see USDA and the Biden Administration putting more effort and funding into ensuring that there are adequate competition levels in U.S. cattle markets and into expanding beef processing capacity. CCA will continue to work with USDA and our national partner, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, to ensure that these funds are implemented as intended.
Hours of Service Exemptions for Livestock Haulers Extended Through May 31
On March 18, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration exempting livestock haulers from compliance with the federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time. Under the Emergency Declaration, Hours of Service rest requirements remain in effect, meaning that once a driver returns to his or her “normal reporting location,” that individual must still receive a minimum of 10 hours of off-duty rest.
The Emergency Declaration has been extended on seven prior occasions, most recently through today. On Saturday, FMCSA again issued an extension of the modified Emergency Declaration, which continues the hours of service exemption through May 31.
The current Emergency Declaration applies to a limited class of freight, including livestock and finished livestock feed. Those operating under the exemption must report their reliance on the exemption shortly after the end of each month (more information regarding this reporting requirement can be found in a prior Legislative Bulletin report on the exemption).
In response to FMCSA’s initial March 2020 action, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order also exempting haulers engaged in intrastate or interstate transportation from California’s Hours of Service regulations. California’s exemption remains in effect as long as FMCSA’s Declaration remains in effect (while Newsom did terminate a number of COVID-era executive orders on Friday, this particular executive order remains in effect).
New Stories from California Cattle Country Episode on Humboldt County
Episode 11 “Lawrence Dwight and Operating on the edge of the Western World” is out now! On this episode we speak with Lawrence Dwight, a fifth generation rancher from Ferndale, about the benefits and difficulties associated with operating in this unique and remote landscape. Dwight descended from Joseph Russ who came to California from Maine in 1850. He was among the first of the pioneers to reach the area, establishing prosperous ranching, butchering, shipping, banking and general merchandise enterprises in Humboldt County. To listen to the episode and see photos from the visit 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.
SWRCB Updates Curtailment Statuses in Multiple Watersheds
As of last Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has updated certain curtailment statuses in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed (Delta).
The following water rights in the Sacramento River tributaries are now curtailed until further notice: post-1914 water rights in the Stony Creek subwatershed with a priority date of 1916 or later and post-1914 water rights in the Putah Creek subwatershed outside of the Legal Delta with a priority date of 1945 or later. The following water rights in the San Joaquin River tributaries are now curtailed until further notice: post-1914 water rights and pre-1914 water rights in the Fresno River subwatershed with a priority date of 1914 or later and post-1914 water rights in the Chowchilla River subwatershed with a priority date of 1923 or later.
You can check the status of your water right on the Delta Watershed Curtailment Status List. For more information about drought in the Delta watershed, visit the Delta Drought webpage. You can send any questions to Bay-Delta@waterboards.ca.gov.
On Friday, the SWRCB announced that curtailment suspensions in the Shasta River watershed are being extended through midnight on March 15 as long as the 135 cubic feet per second (cfs) minimum flow requirement is sustained at the Yreka United States Geological Survey (USGS) gage.
Also on Friday, the SWRCB announced that all curtailments in the Scott River watershed are temporarily suspended through midnight on Friday, March 4 as long as the 200 cfs minimum flow requirement is sustained at the USGS Fort Jones gage. As a reminder, if flows at the USGS Fort Jones gage dip below the 200 cfs minimum flow requirement then all diversions under the water rights in the List A1 are required to stop immediately. You can find more information on drought in the Scott and Shasta River watersheds on the Scott River and Shasta River Drought webpage.
Finally, this morning the SWRCB announced that the temporary curtailment suspensions in the Russian River watershed will be extended through March 15. The SWRCB will re-assess the need for curtailments in the Russian River watershed at that time and will update as needed. For more information on drought in the Russian River, visit the Russian River Drought Response webpage.
For any questions about curtailment notices or how to comply, please contact the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program at (916) 409-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCA-Sponsored Legislation Introduced to Extend Ag Vehicle Exemption to CHP’s BIT Program
Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) has introduced CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 2415, which would extend by three years the current exemption for agricultural vehicles from the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) Basic Inspection of Terminals (BIT) program. For more information on AB 2415, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin. For information regarding CCA’s other sponsored bill – SB 880 (Laird), which indefinitely extends the availability of water measurement training courses offered by University of California Cooperative Extension – click here.
CDFW Releases Updated Statewide Black Bear Policy
In mid-February, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) issued a new statewide black bear take policy. Of particular interest to ranchers will be the “depredation bear” portion of the policy, which addresses CDFW’s policy for black bears threatening, damaging or destroying property (including livestock). For additional details, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
CDFW Announces Interim Wolf Livestock Compensation Grant Program
Earlier this month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the rollout of its Interim Wolf Livestock Loss Compensation Grant Program. The program serves to bridge the gap and compensate producers for confirmed livestock losses due to wolf predation from now until a full pilot program is approved. To receive an application for the Interim Program, contact Wolfprogram@wildlife.ca.gov. For more details, see last the Valentine’s Day edition of Legislative Bulletin or visit CDFW’s gray wolf webpage.
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.