This is a re-post from CWGA.
CWGA Legislative Action Alert – Members located in Marin County and Surrounding Areas:
Marin County is in the process of correcting an omission in the land use code that for the last 15 years has left ranchers in Marin without a pathway to commercial livestock slaughter in the county. On March 14th, the Board of Supervisors will meet to consider changes to the development code that would allow ranchers to conduct small-scale on-farm slaughter of poultry as well as allow a mobile slaughter unit to provide small-scale USDA-licensed slaughter of all species on ranches in the county. Both of these proposed rules would make it possible for ranchers to bring product to market without traveling across the state, submitting animals to stressful travel and costing the farms time and money. Anyone who has an interest in Marin's ranching community and/or locally produced meat should plan to write letters to the Board of Supervisors and speak at the March 14th meeting. Letters can be sent to the Board of Supervisors at BOS@marincounty.org.
The proposed rules would specifically allow:
1. On-farm slaughter by a rancher of his/her own poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese) for commercial sale without a use permit. This would be limited to 20,000 chickens (or equivalent) per year and only in lands zoned A3 - A60 (lands zoned A2 or ARP as well as those located in the Coastal Zone would be excluded). Ranchers would be able to process animals that are raised "on the same site or on other agricultural properties located in Marin County that are owned or leased by the processing facility owner or operator” but rabbits (traditionally included in the definition of “poultry”) would be excluded from this rule. Additionally, these processing activities would be limited to 5000 square feet.
2. Mobile Slaughter Units (MSUs) could provide USDA-licensed slaughter services to ranchers for all species without a use permit on lands zoned A3 - A60 (lands zoned A2 or ARP as well as those located in the Coastal Zone would be excluded). MSU's could not operate on any single property for more than 3 consecutive days and up to 12 total days within a calendar month unless the rancher secures a temporary use permit. Ranchers from other properties could bring their animals to where an MSU is in operation to have their animals processed. The unit would have to be located more than 100 feet away from any property lines.
3. Stationary slaughterhouses providing USDA-licensed slaughter services for all species would NOT be allowed in Marin County.
On March 14th, the Board of Supervisors has the power to approve, deny or even change these recommendations up to and including:
• Re-inserting rabbits into number 1 above.
• Allowing numbers 1 and 2 above in lands zoned A2 or ARP (the Board cannot at this time change the land use rules for farms in the Coastal Zone).
• Reversing or modifying the recommendation in number 3 in order to allow for some form of brick-and-mortar USDA slaughterhouse.
Substantial pushback from those who oppose ranching and livestock slaughter is expected at the March 14th meeting. It is very important for the Board of Supervisors to hear from the agricultural community on this issue, and members of the public who value local meats produced on local lands should also speak. Potential talking points might include:
• Raising pastured livestock is one of the oldest and most appropriate uses of Marin's coastal grasslands
• Without access to local slaughter services, ranches incur great cost in money, time and fuel to truck animals out of the area …just so they can be sold back to Bay Area consumers.
• Slaughter services are an essential part of the ranching business. Raising animals in an ecologically sound fashion is a fruitless endeavor if those animals cannot affordably be brought to market.
• New and small-scale ranchers are particularly paralyzed by the costs and complexity of working with distant slaughter facilities.
Also being recommended by the Planning Commission is a new rule to require use permits for ranchers in lands zoned ARP if they want to conduct educational tours. Until now, these activities have been considered “principally permitted” (i.e. a by-right activity that requires no permit or permission from the county). In the development code, “educational tour” is defined as: "Interactive excursion for groups and organizations for the purpose of informing them of the unique aspects of a property, including agricultural operations and environmental resources.” This has historically included school visits, chef/buyer tours, tours by organizations such as MALT or AIM, as well as open-farm type programming to help connect with new CSA members and other customers. Lands zoned A3-A60 would be unaffected by this change, but for those in ARP lands, the requirement to secure a use permit could mean $5,000-10,000 and extensive review by county Planning before allowing one of these activities to take place on your land. Given the growing interest by the public in visiting farms and ranches as well as the importance of transparency in the food system, this may pose a problem for many ranchers. Making your voice heard on this issue is recommended as well.
Again, on both matters, letters should be sent to: BOS@marincounty.org and please plan to speak on Tuesday, 3/14 (time TBD) in Suite 330 of the Marin Civic Center.
For questions contact Vince Trotter, Agricultural Ombudsman for Marin County at 415-524-7394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is a re-post from ASI Weekly.
The How to Handle Sheep video series released by the American Sheep Industry Association, in collaboration with Temple Grandin, Ph.D., the Livestock Marketing Association and Colorado State University, is approaching 10,000 hits on YouTube. The three-part video details the process of handling sheep through the entire life span of the animal.
The training tool is available in English and Spanish. From producers and auction-facility workers to the transportation industry and harvesting personnel, everyone can follow Dr. Grandin as she discusses the best practices to use in handling sheep.
ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick strongly encourages all sheep operations to ensure their livestock workers, whether full- or part-time employees or neighbors, are educated.
"These videos are a convenient way to accomplish this goal," said Orwick. "Poorly trained or uneducated workers who help with sheep are a business liability that is not necessary with today's access to training."
The videos are available on ASI's YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/SheepUSA1
Announcement reprinted from California Wool Growers' Association newsletter. I was part of the team and it reflects input from Mendocino and Lake County ranchers as well as the rest of the state.
California has experienced five large-scale, multiyear droughts since 1960; however, the current event is considered the state's most severe drought in at least 500 years. Each year of the current drought has presented different challenges; for example, much of California received no measurable precipitation December 2013 through late January 2014. In the following year, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was just 5% of normal. As California ranching is largely dependent on rain-fed systems, as opposed to groundwater or stored water, it is very vulnerable to drought. In fact, rangeland livestock ranchers were among the first affected by the abnormally warm, dry winters at the beginning of the current multiyear drought.
In this article, we highlight lessons learned so far from past droughts, as well as California's unprecedented and ongoing multiyear drought. We draw on ranchers' perspectives and experiences, including research results from a statewide mail survey of 507 ranchers and semistructured interviews of 102 ranchers, as well as our own experiences. The mail survey (the California Rangeland Decision-Making Survey) included questions on operator and operation demographics, goals and practices, information resources, and rancher perspectives. Semistructured interviews are part of a larger ongoing project (the California Ranch Stewardship Project) examining rangeland management for multiple ecosystem services.
The publication is available at the following link - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019005281630027X
The following is reprinted from ASI. For the first time some risk management tools are available to sheep producers. Now if predation losses were covered . . .
U.S. Sheep Industry Offers Own Insurance to Producers
Whether it's thru futures or crop insurance, risk management is a very important tool that helps farmers and ranchers guard against natural disasters, low prices and predators, which have the potential to wreck financial havoc on an operation. And for the longest time, the U.S. sheep industry was excluded from risk management tools like these; that is until now.
The Northern Ag Network's Russell Nemetz shares more of the details during the following interview available on ASI's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/sheepusa1.
Great news! Local shearer, Matt Gilbert has gotten approval for his new woolen mill. He expects to start processing wool in Ukiah by this fall. See the attached Ukiah Daily Journal article.