Federal Policy News
December 8, 2022
Federal Funding Deadline Approaches, Ag Labor & Immigration See Movement
As Congress heads towards a federal funding deadline, several key legislative items remain in flux. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have put together a bipartisan bill that would look to address the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Included in the proposal is an estimated $25-40 billion in border security funds that would potentially help shore up Republican support. No bill text has been shared at this time though which clouds the potential math for getting at least 60 votes in the Senate.

Similarly, no bill has been dropped as of Wednesday evening on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA); however, we are expecting the text to be released sometime over this coming weekend. That will leave legislators with a very slim window by which to pass the legislation. It is our understanding that Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have ironed out several compromises on a few key sticking points such as year-round caps and worker protections. AFBF and over 300 other organizations (CAFB included) signed onto a letter this week urging the Senate to move forward on an ag labor solution. While it was not a clear-cut endorsement for FWMA as-is, it did reference the bill directly and called on legislators to move quickly with finding a workable solution.

It still remains unclear whether lawmakers will move forward with a continuing resolution to keep government funded—or put together a broader omnibus package that funds government much longer than a CR would. An omnibus package could be seen as a vehicle by which to add in immigration or ag labor reform. We will continue to update members as these pieces move forward.
USDA Farmer, Rancher and Forest Manager Survey
USDA is looking for feedback from farmers, ranchers, and forest managers through an online, anonymous nationwide survey. The survey focuses on gathering feedback about the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. Additionally, USDA is interested in hearing from prospective customers including those who don’t know about USDA or have yet to work with USDA, as well as those unable to participate in the past. The survey is intended to help enhance producer support, improve programs and services, increase access, and advance equity for new and existing customers. The survey is open until March 31, 2023.
US Forest Service Permittee Range Futuring Survey
The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a strategic planning effort called ‘Range Futuring’. With this initiative, USFS is currently soliciting input from USFS grazing permittees to better understand what the agency is doing well, what isn’t working well, and thoughts around what might shift in the near or long-term future that the agency should consider. Permittees are encouraged to submit feedback via email to [email protected] on the following questions:

  1. What is the Forest Service Rangeland Management Program getting right as it relates to you as a permittee?
  2. What do you see as challenges or roadblocks that stand in your way of a successful relationship with the Forest Service Rangeland Management Program?
  3. What issues do we need to address to keep the program relevant, resilient, and sustainable?

USFS will also be hosting a webinar on December 13, 2022, at 9:00am Pacific to solicit feedback on its Range Futuring strategic planning effort. To register for that webinar, once open, click here.  

Deadline for Emergency Relief Program
Phase One is December 16
A December 16th deadline is quickly approaching for those wishing to receive “Phase One” financial assistance under the Emergency Relief Program (ERP, formerly WHIP+). This covers disaster assistance for impacts experienced in both 2020 and 2021. California farmers and ranchers have received around $330 million in funds up until this point—which is not a particularly large portion of the $7.2 billion doled out already. That is because Phase One payments relied heavily on existing crop insurance participants in order to get funds out.

With a large portion of our commodities not covered by existing programs, this means our state will rely much more on Phase Two payments (which have not begun at this time). We continue to work with Congressional offices in pressing USDA to move more expediently on this secondary portion, as we are now nearly into three years since some of these disasters took place. CAFB will be sure to update members as those Phase Two payments roll out, but in the meantime, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the portal to see whether you qualify for any Phase One assistance.
USDA Announces $981 Million to Improve
Ag Market Opportunities
Earlier this week, USDA announced nearly $1 billion in new grants and loans directed at various projects across the country for what they refer to as “improved market opportunities” for the ag industry. With roughly a dozen projects in California, the grants and loans range from new worker housing projects to microentrepreneur assistance programs. A full list of the projects can be found here. Per the release, “…the partnerships we’re announcing today demonstrate USDA’s commitment to advocating for rural business owners and building brighter futures for everyone in rural America.”
AFBF Drought Survey
Recently, AFBF decided to re-open their regular drought survey to reflect data points from Fall 2022 (to compare to their Spring results). For those who have not participated previously or were not included in the past, this survey is meant to provide a window into member level challenges on farms and ranches due to persistent drought conditions. You can find a link to their previous report here. The survey should take no more than a few minutes to complete. We highly encourage your participation to help ensure California farmers and ranchers are well represented.
Federal Policy Team
Matthew Viohl
Federal Policy, Associate Director
Erin Hutson
Federal Policy, Consultant