CCA and Grazing Permittees Win Ninth Circuit Appeal in Water Quality Lawsuit
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a significant victory for public lands grazing, finding in favor of CCA and several Stanislaus National Forest grazing permittees in an appeal brought by the Central Sierra Environmental Resources Center (CSERC).
In 2017, CSERC had filed a lawsuit against the Stanislaus National Forest alleging, among other complaints, that the Forest had violated the federal Clean Water Act and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act by continuing to permit livestock grazing on three grazing allotments. CSERC alleged that permitted cattle grazing had resulted in violations of federal and state water quality standards for fecal coliform in waters that flowed through the three allotments.
CCA, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the permittees of the allotments intervened in the lawsuit to protect the ranchers’ grazing interests and to assist the US Forest Service in defending against the claims. In August of 2019, Judge Lawrence O’Neill of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed CSERC’s lawsuit, which the environmental group then appealed to the 9th Circuit.
The Western Resources Legal Center (WRLC), which litigated the case on behalf of CCA and other defendant-intervenors, summarized the 9th Circuit panel’s decision as follows: “[CSERC] sought to enforce aspirational water quality objectives established by a regional water quality board to the individual grazing decisions. The Ninth Circuit’s decision today makes clear that those water quality objectives are not directly enforceable, but instead are used as the basis for the water quality board to issue specific conditions applicable to nonpoint sources, typically in the form of so-called waste discharge requirements. The Court’s holding today means that plaintiffs cannot short-circuit these ongoing, iterative processes, and the board’s own enforcement mechanisms. The decision also has important implications for the continued use of best management practices to regulate agricultural uses with potential nonpoint source impacts.”
CCA thanks WRLC, Kari Fisher of the California Farm Bureau Federation, Scott Keller of law firm Lehotsky Keller, and Chris Carr and Navi Dhillon of the Paul Hastings law firm for their excellent representation in this case and for their excellent defense of grazing permittees’ rights.
Rep. Panetta Introduces A-PLUS Act to Improve Access to Processing Facilities
On Thursday, Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA20) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act alongside Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO4).
The A-PLUS Act would amend the Packers and Stockyard Act to allow livestock auction markets to own, invest in and manage small meat packing facilities with slaughter capacity of less than 2,000 head per day or 700,000 head per year. By allowing auction markets to invest in small and regional processing facilities, the bill aims to increase meat processing capacity and alleviate existing challenges in cattle marketing.
“California’s small family ranches often struggle to bring their products to market due to a lack of meat processing infrastructure in the state,” said CCA Executive Vice President Billy Gatlin. “Ranchers applaud Congressman Panetta for working to address this issue by co-sponsoring the A-Plus Act, which will enhance opportunities for California ranchers to access processing facilities to provide California consumers with fresh, sustainable, locally-raised beef.”
SWRCB Again Extends Curtailment Suspensions in the Scott River Watershed
On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) renewed its temporary suspension of all curtailments in the Scott River watershed through midnight this Friday, April 15. The temporary suspension will remain in place only so long as minimum flow requirements are sustained at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Fort Jones gage (the minimum flow requirement throughout April is 150 cubic feet per second). If flows dip below the minimum flow requirements, diversions under the water rights included in the SWRCB’s “List A1” must cease immediately.
You can find more information on drought in the Scott River watershed on the Scott River and Shasta River Drought webpage and more information on drought conditions in the Russian River watershed at the Russian River Drought Response webpage. For any questions about curtailment notices or how to comply, please contact the Rancher Technical Assistance Program at (916) 409-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Stories from California Cattle Country Episode: Pacific Flyway at Roberti Ranch w/ the Audubon Society
Every year millions of waterfowl go on a commute of thousands of miles and require respite in natural areas with water and sustenance. California ranches often fulfill such needs and have preserved enough pit stops throughout the Pacific Flyway. In fact, many of the ranchers I’ve met are birders who revel in the return of the waterfowl seasonally, know when to expect their arrival and provide habitat to preserve their travels for years to come. In this episode we visit Roberti Ranch in the Sierra Valley, one of these critical pit-stops for waterfowl and talk to rancher Rick Roberti about his infatuation with his annual wing-ed visitors and with Jill Slocum from the Plumas Audubon Society.
To listen to the episode, see photos of the birds we saw on the tour prior to recording and more, click here. Stories from California Cattle Country is produced by the California Cattlemen’s Foundation with support from the California Cattle Council. If you want a glimpse into our travels, follow the podcast’s Instagram account @calcattlecountry.
State “Beneficial Fire” Strategic Plan Released, Identifies CCA as Key Partner
On March 30, the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force released its Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire, which sets forth a strategy for applying ‘beneficial fire’ on up to 400,000 acres per year by the year 2025 as part of the state’s overall goal of treating 1 million acres of vegetation annually. CCA’s Fire Subcommittee provided input into the strategic plan, and CCA is the only private organization explicitly identified in the strategic plan as a partner in achieving the state’s prescribed fire target. For more information, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
FSA Announces New Emergency Livestock Relief Program and Expanded ELAP Relief
The USDA Farm Service Agency has announced the availability of “phase one” of its Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP), intended to provide additional aid to livestock producers who have been approved for assistance through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). FSA has also announced expanded relief available under its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP), which will now be available to help ranchers offset the costs of transporting livestock to available forage. For more information on these FSA relief programs, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin and the April edition of CCA’s Hot Irons.
SWRCB Issues Draft 2022 Russian River Emergency Drought Regulation
Earlier this month, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued a draft of its proposed 2022 Russian River Drought Emergency Regulations, which will replace current emergency regulations enacted last summer which are set to expire this upcoming July. The SWRCB will hold a public workshop on the emergency regulation this Thursday at 1:30pm in Santa Rosa (with options for online participation), with written comments due no later than April 18. The SWRCB is expected to consider the emergency regulation at its May 10 meeting. For more information, see the SWRCB’s Russian River Drought Response webpage or last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
TOMORROW: SLO County Modified Point of Origin Referendum
The San Luis Obispo County Cattleman’s Association (SLOCCA) will be holding a vote to repeal the Modified Point of Origin (MPO) regulations currently in place in the San Luis Obispo County brand inspection area. Only cattle producers (beef and dairy) that are property taxpayers, lessees or residents of the MPO area are permitted to vote. Voting will take place tomorrow, April 12, from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Frontier Building at the Paso Robles Event Center (Mid-State Fairgrounds). For additional details, see the March 7 edition of Legislative Bulletin.
Participate in a Summit Rangeland Tour on April 27
Join the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, University of California Cooperative Extension and the California Rangeland Trust for one of many Summit Rangeland Tours happening on April 27. Each tour will showcase the value of rangeland resources and how the ranchers who steward them help address climate, conservation and biodiversity goals. Tours will be held in multiple locations in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Yolo and other counties at roughly the same time to give you the opportunity to join the one closest to you or another you’d like to visit. To learn more and register, click here.
Scholarship Opportunity for College Seniors and Graduate Students
College seniors and graduate students studying agriculture and planning to eventually manage rangeland or a ranch are eligible to apply for the 2022 Tate Jensen Memorial Scholarship offered by the Tavaputs Ranch. The purpose of the scholarship is to honor Tate’s legacy by awarding an individual who reflects the same values as Tate with a love of ranching and the lands involved. The scholarship is for $2,500 and the application materials are due June 15, 2022. For full details on the scholarship and requirements for applying click here.