To follow up on our last post, we’re still awaiting details on a couple of components of Gov. Abbott’s border security initiative. As soon as we get more information about the online portal to report damage from trespassers and the process to volunteer for border fencing, we will pass that along.
Our own Peyton Schumann had the opportunity to speak at a meeting of the Hill Country Cattlewomen this week. He provided an update on the recently concluded Texas Legislative Session. Also, he had the opportunity to address some of the other current issues facing cattle producers in Texas and across the country.
One of those topics was 30×30, President Biden’s proposal to conserve 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030. The proposal generated some significant concerns from farmers and ranchers across the country when it was announced, but it is important to note that currently, it is only a concept, and no action has been taken to mold it into a formal policy.
The agencies involved have repeatedly committed that private working lands like pastures and cropland will not be taken as part of the plan. It will also be far more impactful on states with a lot of federally owned land. In Texas, where 95.8% of the land is privately owned, many of the initiatives proposed within 30×30 would not apply.
When we look at the guiding principles for the proposal, four of the eight may be good for agriculture producers and landowners. Those guiding principles generally support locally led efforts, honor private property rights and voluntary stewardship efforts, promote the use of sound science, and build on exiting tools while emphasizing flexibility.
Locally led and voluntary efforts should mean no mandatory, heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all regulatory programs handed down from Washington. Instead, as we’ve advocated for in the past, it should allow landowners and producers to decide if and how they will participate. We were also pleased to see the emphasis on science-based solutions, though we will have to be careful to ensure they don’t ignore certain academics while promoting others.
Of course, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is remaining very vigilant as these discussions continue in Washington. It will be up to us to ensure the above guiding principles are followed and that implementing such a plan doesn’t harm our members in any way. For better or worse, we have a lot of experience working on these kinds of issues and remain committed to defending your ability to raise cattle.
Another federal issue has once again reared its ugly head — WOTUS. The fight over what exactly is covered under the definition of Waters of the United States is back.
Since it’s been a little while since we’ve talked about it, the one-paragraph summary is this:
In 2015 the Obama administration implemented the so-called 2015 WOTUS rule. It was a vast overreach of federal authority and would have been disastrous for U.S. agriculture producers, but it was never truly implemented because it was tied up in legal challenges for the remainder of its time. The legal battle ebbed and flowed, but eventually, the Trump administration repealed the rule and replaced it with the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which did a better job balancing water protections with landowner protections. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration last week announced that they intend to revise the definition once again.
No word yet on exactly what the new rule will look like, but given the significant amount of time and expense that was spent fighting the 2015 rule, the announcement is concerning, to say the least. Fortunately, the Trump-era rule will remain in place while the new rule works its way through the process.
We remain committed to the fight and will be heavily engaged in these discussions moving forward. It was a long battle, but we defeated the 2015 WOTUS rule and will do everything necessary to ensure we do not allow a return to oppressive federal regulation on your private property.
I was also going to loop in some of the federal tax issues being discussed in D.C., but once again, I’m getting a little wordy, so we’ll save that one for next week.
Also, Gov. Abbott’s veto period ends this Sunday, so by next week’s update, we will be able to say with certainty what did and did not make it across the goal line.
Until next time!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of policy communications and government relations for Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.