USDA APHIS Proposes New Animal Disease Traceability Rule
Last Thursday, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a Proposed Rule regarding the “Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison.”
The Proposed Rule would require that eartags “be both visually and electronically readable in order to be recognized for use as official eartags for interstate movement of cattle and bison.” With regard to cattle, the Rule would apply to all sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older, all dairy cattle (as defined) and all cattle of any age used in rodeo or other recreational events. USDA APHIS currently anticipates implementing this requirement six months after a Final Rule is published by the agency.
USDA APHIS argues that an updated animal disease traceability rule is needed to “enhance the ability of Tribal, State and Federal officials, private veterinarians, and livestock producers to quickly respond to high-impact diseases currently existing in the United States, as well as foreign animal diseases that threaten the viability of the U.S. cattle and bison industries.” Foreign outbreaks of animal diseases such foot-and-mouth disease which have disrupted commerce and depopulated nations’ livestock herds have underscored a need for decisive action to limit spread and mitigate damage if these diseases are ever introduced to the U.S.
CCA is currently reviewing the Proposed Rule and will file detailed comments with USDA APHIS prior to the comment deadline of March 20 (producers may file comments electronically by clicking “Comment” here). CCA membership has adopted detailed policy on animal disease traceability regulations, detailing eight priorities for such a policy including that any “costs to the beef and dairy industry…be minimized” and that any information collected through such a program be “kept confidential and strongly protected from disclosure.” This policy will form the bedrock of CCA’s advocacy on the Proposed Rule. CCA’s national partner, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, has announced that it will be guided by similar policy as it engages with USDA APHIS.
NCBA, PLC Sue Biden Administration Over New WOTUS Rule
Last Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) formally published the agencies’ Final Rule revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which are subject to federal regulatory and permitting jurisdiction.
The next day, CCA’s national partners at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council filed a lawsuit against the EPA and Corps in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas alleging (among other claims) that “The Rule should be held unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act…because the Rule adopts an unworkable definition of WOTUS that conflicts with the [Clean Water Act], the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent.”
According to NCBA Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Heart, “The Biden administration’s WOTUS definition is an attack on farmers and ranchers” because it removes existing “exclusions for small and isolated water features on farms and ranches and adds to the regulatory burden cattle producers are facing under this administration.” As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, the Final Rule expands federal jurisdiction to features such as ephemeral tributaries, vernal pools and other water and land features which have a “significant nexus” or a “relatively permanent” connection to traditional navigable waters. These case-by-case determinations are likely to cause regulatory uncertainty and increase regulatory costs for cattle ranchers.
In addition to the substance of the WOTUS definition, the timing of the Final Rule is also concerning, as it comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering Sackett v. EPA. The outcome of that case could bear directly upon the appropriate scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Texas has also sued the Biden Administration over the WOTUS Rule, and CCA expects that several other states and organizations will mount challenges to the regulation. The new definition of WOTUS is currently set to take effect on March 20, though courts may delay that effective date in light of ongoing legal challenges.
President Biden Expands Major Disaster Declaration in Wake of Winter Storms
Last week’s Legislative Bulletin reported that President Joe Biden had approved a major disaster declaration for Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties. On Wednesday, Governor Newsom announced that President Biden has added Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to the major disaster declaration. The declaration allows individuals in those counties “affected by severe winter storms” to receive “grants for temporary housing and home repairs [and] low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Biden on Wednesday also committed the federal government to paying for 100% of public assistance and hazard mitigation for a two-month period.
For resources available to help recover from the recent floods, see last week’s Legislative Bulletin or the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Flood Recovery Resources webpage.
CDFW Pegs Wolves as Cause of Four Late-December Cattle Kills
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) last week released ten livestock loss determination reports for suspected wolf depredations reported between December 14, 2022 and January 2. All ten of the reported losses occurred on private land in Eastern Siskiyou County, within the range of the Whaleback wolf pack.
Of the ten reports (investigating 12 discovered cattle carcasses), CDFW confirmed three as wolf depredations and deemed one more to have been a “probable” wolf depredation. Both confirmed and probable kills are compensable under CDFW’s Livestock Loss Compensation grant program).
The first confirmed wolf kill was of a 150-pound calf likely killed in the early morning hours of December 28 and discovered by a rancher the following day. CDFW found wolf tracks at the site of the kill and physical evidence consistent with a wolf attack, enabling a confirmation. The second confirmed incident concerned nearly-identical circumstances and was confirmed to have been a wolf kill occurring “in the early morning of December 29.”
The final confirmed incident was fortunately not a kill, but an “injured 200 lb. calf” likely attacked on December 26 but not discovered until December 31. According to the report, the “calf had two large, deep wounds on the back of the left leg, and a tail with the end missing.” The size and location of those wounds was consistent with a wolf attack, and while no tracks were identified because the pasture had since been “well trampled by cattle,” the pasture “is within the regular winter range use of the Whaleback pack.”
Finally, the killing of a 150-pound calf on December 27 was deemed a “probable” wolf depredation by the Department. While wolf tracks were found near the attack and wounds on the calf carcass were “suggestive” of a wolf attack, the carcass had been “largely consumed,” preventing a more thorough investigation.
Among the six other reports, two causes of death were listed as “unknown” because there was insufficient evidence for an investigation. In one instance, two calf “carcasses were…2 weeks old and largely consumed” and in another a calf “carcass was entirely consumed,” frustrating investigative efforts. CDFW found one other cattle kill to be the work of coyotes and deemed three other events “non-depredation” deaths.
In the past year, the Whaleback Pack has been confirmed as the cause of 14 livestock kills, with many more suspected kills reported to CDFW. CCA is aware of further suspected depredations involving the Whaleback Pack since January 2 for which CDFW has not yet issued livestock loss determination reports.
Governor Newsom Releases Proposed 2023-24 Budget with Cuts to Climate Spending
Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month released his Proposed 2023-24 State Budget. With a forecasted $22.5 billion budget deficit, the Proposed Budget suggests numerous cuts, shifts and delays in funding, including $94.2 million in cuts to Climate Smart Agriculture programs across fiscal years 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Governor’s budget blueprint also proposes cutting 3% from the prior two years’ appropriations for Wildfire and Forest Resilience and 2% from Drought Response and Water Resilience over the same period. The Proposed Budget would retain $48 billion of the State’s recent climate investments, though, and proposes an additional $385 million in 2023-24 water resilience investments, including $40.6 million to strengthen Delta levees and $25 million for Central Valley flood protection. For additional details, see last week’s Legislative Bulletin and stay tuned for a deep dive on the Budget in the February edition of CCA’s Hot Irons.
SWRCB Extends Scott River Curtailment Suspensions; Other Relief Remains in Place
The State Water Resources Control Board announced last week that water rights curtailments in the Scott River watershed would remain suspended through at least this Thursday, January 26. Curtailment relief remains in place throughout several watersheds – including suspension of the prohibition against “inefficient livestock watering” within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds – as detailed in last week’s Legislative Bulletin.
California State Treasurer on CCA Podcast
California State Treasurer Fiona Ma is on the newest episode of Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast. Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or by clicking here to listen to a conversation with her directly intended for California’s beef producers and ranching community. Hear about her role as treasurer for the 5th largest economy in the world, how the State Treasurer’s office can help ranchers, how Fiona’s curiosity has led her to learn about California agriculture and more.