June 5, 2020
Newsletter for June 5, 2020
This Issue:
  • State Engineer’s Presentation To Public Lands Committee Hints At The More To Come
  • …And Then Along Comes A Proposed Regulation
  • Nevada Farm Bureau Offers Public Comment For BLM Programmatic EIS
  • If You Haven’t Shared Your Thoughts – Please Let Us Know What You Think About Nevada Department of Ag Proposed Remake Of State Brand Program
  • Federal Legislative Proposal Seeks To Plug Ag Into Climate Change Solution
State Engineer’s Presentation To Public Lands Committee Hints At The More To Come
Agenda Item VIII, “The Discussion of Current Issues In Nevada Water Law,”  during last week’s Public Lands Interim Committee meeting offered the clearest look so far at what the Nevada State Engineer has in mind for the next Nevada Legislative session.  It appears to be more of the same from what we have been dealing with from attempts in the last two sessions to change Nevada water law, primarily aimed at responding to over-appropriated groundwater basins throughout the state.

In his presentation, he provided details on the status of the state’s 256 groundwater basins. These two slides offer a very telling view with the first page – “Ratio of Committed Groundwater Resources to Perennial Yield By Basin” – identifying the degree to which basins are “over appropriated”…light blue shading shows basins that are more than 100 percent committed and the dark blue colored basins 200 percent above perennial yield levels.  The second page of the maps offers a look at the pumpage percentages with the purple highlighted basins 100 percent above perennial yield.

Knowing what and where problems exist is one thing – figuring out a solution to address those problems is another.  The “theory” of Nevada water law is that with over-appropriation and impacts on senior water right owners, the State Engineer is supposed to curtail by priority.  Reaching the point of over-appropriation and when attention is supposed to be acted on, the law provides for designation of the basin as a “Critical Management Area” and the clock is started for the development and implementation of a Groundwater Management Plan.  At this point there is one such basin designated and while a locally developed Groundwater Management Plan has been developed, it has also been challenged as not following state law.

We’ve indicated that the concept of addressing over-appropriation through curtailment by priority is a “theory” of Nevada water law.  It may say that is what supposed to happen, but it has not been carried out to this point.  In some cases, going in time, applications for additional water rights have been granted, knowing that the balance of perennial yield was being exceeded. 

The outline for anticipated future legislative initiatives seeks “a more robust statutory framework to provide stakeholders the ability to create and adopt a groundwater management plan for approval by the State Engineer.”  Adding to this call for “new tools” the point is made that the statutory framework “needs to allow for maximum flexibility in terms of what tools can be used to bring a basin back to a sustainable level.”

While including the need for “creative solutions to encourage water conservation” – an additional point which is identified calls to “explore programs to allow for the acquisition of water rights.”
…And Then Along Comes A Proposed Regulation
One of the bills passed in the 2019 Nevada Legislature dealt with the extension of time for completing construction activities for putting water to beneficial use. AB 62, was proposed by the State Engineer and went through a host of different versions before simply ending up with a few lines being adopted to authorize the State Engineer to come up with regulations for the process of carrying out the existing law dealing with the possible extensions of time.

During the legislative debates, Nevada Farm Bureau policy argued that all those with water permits should be treated equally and if the plan was to grant municipal and quasi-municipal water permits the ability for 10-year time frames for extensions, all other water permits (including agricultural ones) should be granted the same time.  As we indicated…nothing changed in the law beyond the direction to the State Engineer for developing regulations.

After some rather inconclusive workshops or maybe better considered “discussion sessions” not much appeared to be taking shape until earlier this week when a Farm Bureau member contacted us to ask about a survey that they had received seeking input as a small business on the impact if the Division of Water Resources went forward with adoption of  a set of regulations.  Surprise!  Something has been happening, with the three or four lines of legislative direction turning into 27 pages of proposed regulations for everything from how hearings before the State Engineer will be carried out to applications for extensions of time to perfect a water right to licensing of Nevada water right surveyors.  The proposal even has created a definition for “Beneficial use” – along with a number of other regulatory definitions…

If you are interested, and able to do so  before 5 p.m. Friday, June 5,  you can participate by sharing your input to the agency’s Small Business Impact Survey .

Based on the best information we have available, there could be a workshop on the proposed regulations as early as the end of June.  Following the workshop and whatever re-drafting takes place, the regulations could receive a hearing (or series of hearings) and then advance forward to the Legislative Counsel Bureau for official language before winding up in front of the Legislative Commission (a group of legislators who will determine if the regulation fits their view of whether the language matches up with their legislative intentions).  The timetable is rather uncertain but could get through the process sometime this fall.
Nevada Farm Bureau Offers Public Comment For BLM Programmatic EIS
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has offered a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for fuels reduction and rangeland restoration in the Great Basin.  The closing date for offering public comment was June 2. Nevada Farm Bureau prepared and submitted these public comments as part of the process.  We greatly appreciate the collaboration we were able to work through with Nevada county representatives and also with Idaho Farm Bureau. 

In related fire news, the Nevada Legislature’s Committee to Conduct an Interim Study Concerning Wildfires held their meeting on June 2 nd , featuring presentations by Sam Mori of Elko County and Brad Schultz of Humboldt County Extension.  Both shared the economic impacts of wildfires, effecting livestock ranchers.

Committee Chairwoman, Assembly Heidi Swank announced that the next meeting, being planned for July 2 nd , will include a work session for considering bill draft ideas that will come before the 2021 Nevada Legislature.
If You Haven’t Shared Your Thoughts – Please Let Us Know What You Think About Nevada Department of Ag Proposed Remake Of State Brand Program
We’ve been seeking to obtain the feedback and input from Farm Bureau members who will be affected by the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s plans to make changes to the state’s livestock brand inspection program.  Part of the changes to the program is aimed at having a program which will pass muster with the Nevada Legislature’s fiscal leaders.

Coming out of the last Nevada legislative session the agency was issued a letter of intent to present a budget solution for the brand inspection account.  The Department’s plan is aimed at establishing a more financially sustainable program which provides for the required levels of reserves to be met while funding an operation that meets the needs of Nevada’s livestock owners.

The framework of the draft proposal from the Department of Agriculture (which is being proposed to begin with the 2022 fiscal year – starting July 1, 2021) includes an overhaul which proposes:

  • Staffing the program with 9 full-time inspectors and 15 part-time inspectors
  • Using a centralized dispatch program that would provide both on-line or phone calls to schedule brand inspection appointments
  • A fee system that would include a $35 fee for a brand visit to carry out livestock brand inspections
  • A cattle fee increase to $1.15 per head (from the present $1 per head rate)
  • A horse fee increase to $5 per head (from the present $3 per head rate)
  • An annual horse brand fee increase to $35 (from the present $25 annual rate)
  • A lifetime horse brand fee increase to $75 (from the present $50 annual rate 

The more formalized employment relationship with the full and part-time inspectors, the Department’s objectives include higher levels of training and enhanced expectations for job performance.  Staff assignments would also locate inspectors for specific areas.

Prior to actual implementation of changes, regulations would need to be changed and legislative actions would also be necessary.  The process for regulatory changes would provide for public involvement through workshops as well as a formal hearing.

Under the proposal, livestock owners seeking a livestock brand inspection would be able to continue to bring their livestock to the inspector or have the inspections take place at the state’s livestock auction market locations and not be assessed the $35 fee.  The $35 inspection charge for the inspector to travel to the location would not cause a travel or time fee to be charged as is now the case for trips which aren’t scheduled 24 hours in advance.

We invite Farm Bureau members who use the brand inspection program to share their input and thoughts on the rough outline that has been proposed by the Department of Agriculture.  Email  doug@nvfb.org   your questions, thoughts, concerns, ideas.  Phone calls are also welcome… the office phone number is 1-800-992-1106 and the cell phone 775-870-3349 is also available for contact.
Federal Legislative Proposal Seeks To Plug Ag Into Climate Change Solution
A Senate Bill has been introduced to establish a certification program that will provide farmers and foresters to sell carbon “credits” earned by voluntary, sustainable farming practices to companies looking to offset their footprint.  The legislation, called the  “Growing Climate Smart Solutions Act”  is intended to bring clarity and validity to a voluntary market-based carbon-credit system with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) taking a lead role in providing an online one-stop shopping website. This background piece offers more details that may be of interest for those who are seeking further insight.

If such federal legislation were to become law and a system is established for a carbon-credit system, there may be opportunity for linkage with the state of Nevada’s efforts to protect the planet from incineration from man-caused global warming of greenhouse gas.  In the 2019 Nevada Legislative Session, a law was passed to make sure that Nevada will have zero greenhouse gases coming from the state in 2050. SB 254 directs that the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources do an annual report which uses a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculator to determine what level of greenhouse gases are connected to Nevada estimates from past data of believed to be release of greenhouse gases.  This then further estimates on where this trend will take us going forward as established targets for levels are considered, ratcheting the levels down to zero in 2050.  The 2016 greenhouse gas emission report indicates that Nevada contributes roughly 0.65 percent to the total, overall greenhouse gas emission level of the United States…  Agriculture’s contribution is based how many cows are included in the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics numbers and how much fertilizer is sold for crop production.

Again referencing the 2016 report, it was noted that Nevada agriculture contributes 3 percent of the 0.65 percent of greenhouse gases that the state produces of the US total.  58 percent of that 3 percent total is because of the digestive process of ruminant livestock and another 27 percent of the 3 percent total is based on the amount of fertilizer that is sold for crop production.

As we monitor the developments in Congressional actions for the  Growing Climate Smart Solution Act  Nevada agricultural producers who join in the carbon-credit system could have opportunities to bring Nevada’s numbers into line and cause future warming to be prevented.
Have a great weekend!