Future Looks Bright with Young Cattlemen’s Club

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Group Educates Fellow Students About Cattle

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

If their attendance at the California Cattlemen’s Association’s 100th Annual Convention was any indication, the future is bright for the next generation of cattlemen and cattlewomen. We spoke to Veronica Staggs, a junior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, about why she’s a member of the Young Cattlemen’s Club and what they are doing to educate students about the cattle industry.

Veronica Stacks, member of the Cal Poly San Luis Obisop Young Cattlemen's Club
Veronica Staggs, member of the Cal Poly San Luis Obisop Young Cattlemen’s Club

The club, which is a chapter of the California Young Cattlemen, has about more than 50 members, with both those who grew up on cattle ranches and many who just have a passion for livestock agriculture, Staggs said

Staggs, who is studying animal science at Cal Poly with the goal of becoming a livestock veterinarian, is one of those who doesn’t haven’t a background in cattle.

“I actually love cattle, but it’s a great industry to go into and to be a vet for because the people you work with are just so nice, and so genuine, and they’re so easy to work with,” Staggs said.

The prospect of working with cattle ranchers was a main reason that drew her to studying animal sciences.

“I just think that cattle ranchers are super easy people to work with,” Staggs said. “They’re super genuine. You can work well with them. They treat you like family, so I think being a vet for cattle ranchers would just be a super great job.”

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is well-known for a great agriculture program in general. The Young Cattlemen’s Club does their part to get to engage fellow ag students about the cattle industry.

“We do a lot of networking with people not a part of agriculture to show them what’s going on,” Staggs said. “And most of them are pretty receptive to it, and actually get interested in what’s going on and seeing how their food reaches their table.

Recently, the club even brought a calf into the student union to let people meet the animal and to educate the public about food animals. The Young Cattlemen also use social media to get their message across.

“We try to put a lot of information out there for them, because we think that it’s important for everyone to understand how food reaches their table and that it’s not just from a super market,” Staggs said.

Senate Tells Gov. Agencies to Back Off WOTUS Rule

U.S. Senate Tells EPA/Army Corps to Back Off Farmers re: WOTUS Clean Water Act

 

Edited by California Ag Today Staff

 

A report issued TODAY by a U.S. Senate committee documents how federal agencies overreach their authority to regulate farmland, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), which said the report underlines the need for congressional action to reform the agencies’ practices, particularly regarding the WOTUS Rule.

The report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee describes numerous incidents in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have tried to expand their authority to regulate what crops farmers grow and how they grow them, based on the agencies’ interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

“A disturbing number of the cases described in the Senate report came from California,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “Farmers and ranchers here have seen firsthand that the abuses outlined in this report aren’t theoretical—they’re real.”

One case in California is particularly troublesome. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) ordered John Duarte, a farmer and nurseryman to cease farming his land after he plowed 4-7 inches deep to plant a wheat crop in his field. Duarte, in turn, filed a lawsuit to vindicate his right to farm his land. The U.S. Department of Justice fired back with a countersuit.John Duarte WOTUS

Duarte has spent over $1 million in legal fees to date, yet the government is seeking $6-8 million in fines and “wetland credits.” Duarte now faces a costly appeal and legal battle, the outcome of which will set precedence on important issues affecting farmers and ranchers nationwide.

Landowners’ concerns stem from a rule the agencies finalized last year, known as the “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule, which would bring more waterways under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Although a federal court has temporarily halted enforcement of the WOTUS rule, landowners and their representatives say the Corps continues to enforce the act so narrowly that, as a practical matter, its actions mirror the intent of the new rule.

“We’re grateful the Senate committee has highlighted the impact on farmers and ranchers caused by overzealous interpretation of the Clean Water Act,” Wenger said. “Farmers and ranchers want to do the right thing and protect the environment as they farm. But they shouldn’t be tied up in knots by regulators for simply plowing their ground or considering a new crop on their land, and they shouldn’t have their land declared off limits if they must leave it idle due to drought or other conditions beyond their control.”

Wenger called on California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to join efforts to clarify Clean Water Act enforcement and reform agency practices. “Congress has the ability to restore balance to Clean Water Act enforcement,” said Wenger. “We urge our California members to help farmers grow food and protect the environment, free from fear of overreaching regulation.”

Details of Senate Statement

epa-logo-wotusU.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released an EPW Majority Committee report titled “From Preventing Pollution of Navigable and Interstate Waters to Regulating Farm Fields, Puddles and Dry Land: A Senate Report on the Expansion of Jurisdiction Claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.”

The report releases findings from the majority staff’s investigation into how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers are interpreting and implementing their authority under the Clean Water Act.

“This new majority committee report demonstrates in detail that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, under the Obama administration, are running rogue,” Inhofe said. “Case studies in this report show that the Obama administration is already asserting federal control over land and water based on the concepts they are trying to codify in the WOTUS rule, even though the courts have put that rule on hold. Congress shouldn’t wait on the Supreme Court to make the inevitable decision that this agency overreach is illegal.

“This report should be evidence enough that it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work together rein in EPA and the Corps. Over the course of the past year, 69 Senators – a veto proof majority – have gone on the record about their grave concerns regarding the WOTUS rule. It’s time to come together to protect farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors by giving them the clarity and certainty they deserve and stopping EPA and the Corps from eroding traditional exemptions.”

The report summarizes case studies that demonstrate the following:

EPA and the Corps have and will continue to advance very broad claims of jurisdiction based on discretionary authority to define their own jurisdiction.

The WOTUS rule would codify the agencies’ broadest theories of jurisdiction, which Justice Kennedy recently called “ominous.”

Landowners will not be able to rely on current statutory exemptions or the new regulatory exemptions because the agencies have narrowed the exemptions in practice and simply regulate under another name.

For example, the report highlights instances where if activity takes place on land that is wet: Plowing to shallow depths is not exempt when the Corps calls the soil between furrows “mini mountain ranges,” “uplands,” and “dry land;”

Disking is regulated even though it is a type of plowing:

Changing from one agricultural commodity constitutes a new use that eliminates the exemption; and puddles, tire ruts, sheet flow, and standing water all can be renamed “disturbed wetlands” and regulated.

On Tuesday, Inhofe delivered a copy of the report with a letter to 11 Senate Democrats who, in a letter on Nov. 3, 2015 to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) on WOTUS, stated that: “Farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors deserve clarity and certainty. Should the EPA not provide this clarity or enforce this rule in a way that erodes traditional exemptions, we reserve the right to support efforts in the future to revise the rule.”

In Inhofe’s letter to the 11 Senators, he said the new committee report should meet the test set forth in their Nov. 3 letter, and he called on the members to live up to their commitment and work with the committee on tailored legislation to end agency overreach.

Women in Ag Survey: Gauging the Aspirations and Needs of Women in Agriculture

The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Program has launched “Women in Ag,” an online survey that aims to gauge the goals, aspirations, achievements and needs of women in American agriculture in a number of different areas.

All women who are farmers, ranchers, farm/ranch employees, employed in agricultural businesses, pursuing ag-related higher education or supportive of agriculture in other ways are invited to participate in the survey at womeninag.fb.org. Respondents must reside in the United States. Farm Bureau membership is not required to participate.

“This comprehensive survey is the first of its kind to ask women in-depth questions about how they are connected to agriculture and what leadership skills they think are most important today, as well as the top business challenges they’re facing,” said Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee.  “All women involved in agriculture – not just Farm Bureau members – are invited to participate in the survey,” Gilbert emphasized.

Data collected from respondents will be used to gauge trends related to the achievements of women in agriculture, including leadership positions, business successes and election to public office.

The AFB Women’s Leadership Committee is sponsoring the survey and is working with other farm and agriculture organizations to encourage participation. Participants will be eligible for an opportunity to win one of five $100 gift cards after the survey closes. Preliminary findings from the survey will be released in February 2015 at AFBF’s FUSION Conference in Nashville, Tennessee; the full report will be released in late spring.

New Program Seeks Growers to Help Curb Declining Bee Population

The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, a Pollinator Partnership initiative, is seeking 300 farmers, ranchers and foresters in California to set aside small plots of land as bee buffer zones. The soon-to-be-established honey bee forage supports pollination-reliant crops, which represent one-third of the food we eat.

“Honey bees play an integral role in the success of American agriculture,” says Laurie Adams, executive director for the Pollinator Partnership. “By fostering the health and growth of bee colonies, farmers are helping to enrich their crops and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.”

Why Bees? Why Now?

Honey bees are valuable to the nation’s crops and economics, contributing approximately $15 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Still, U.S. bees are having trouble finding food to store for winter months; 2012-2013 winter losses totaled more than 30 percent of honey bee colonies nationwide.

Specific to California’s economy agribusiness community, the state’s high-value crops requiring extensive pollination include:

  • Almonds – annual state crop value $4,347M
  • Berries – annual state crop value $2,122M
  • Avocados – annual state crop value $386M

Bee buffer zones between areas of pesticide application and sensitive species, sensitive habitats, water, and potential nectar sources, help to offset bee loss while improving the health of crops and orchards within four miles.

“We are excited to work with California farmers to improve bee habitat across the state, says Bill Lewis, president of the California State Beekeepers Association and U.S. Bee Buffer beekeeper partner. “This initiative is vital to encouraging a healthy pollinator habitat that results in a vibrant and diverse forage base for bee pollinators throughout the state, which is critically important to sustaining healthy bee colonies.”

 

 

Land owners in California willing to dedicate and maintain .25 to 3 acres – collectively impacting 6,000 acres – for an official bee buffer zone, can apply for the U.S. Bee Buffer Project. Those selected will receive free flower seed kits to plant in their buffers.

To learn more, reference the U.S. Bee Buffer Frequently Asked Questions. To review the eligibility requirements and complete participant application, visit http://beebuffer.com/.

The U.S. Bee Buffer Project is sponsored in part by Burt’s Bees®– through its non-profit organization The Greater Good Foundation – formed to help create 10,000 acres of healthy pollinator forage in the United States by 2020.

About the Pollinator Partnership

The Pollinator Partnership is a non-profit 501©3 organization—the largest organization in the world dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems. Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Without the actions of pollinators agricultural economies, our food supply, and surrounding landscapes would collapse.