- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting economic prosperity in California
- Editor: John M Harper
- Author: Pam Kan-Rice
CONTACT: Pam Kan-Rice, (510) 206-3476, email@example.com
Cannabis and utilities hold potential for economic development, says UCCE specialist
As California strives to recover from the pandemic-induced economic slump, Keith Taylor is taking an unconventional approach to economic development. In the world's sixth biggest economy, where do you start? Taylor, who was hired in 2017 as UC Cooperative Extension's sole specialist in community economic development, started by tackling a couple of the state's thorniest sectors: cannabis and utilities.
Participatory research in Mendocino County
In 2016, the passage of Prop. 64 legalizing recreational cannabis ushered in an era of both opportunity and headaches for Mendocino County growers. The county's permitting program has been the source of significant confusion and debate: Between 800 and 1,100 growers have received county permits, but many have not been able to obtain permanent state licenses because of a lack of clarity around the county process and compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The burden of uncertainty is one reason why only a fraction of Mendocino growers have pursued licenses, says Taylor, who is based in the Department of Human & Community Development at UC Davis.
While these regulatory battles play out, Taylor says better economic coordination between small growers could buffer them against large capital interests moving into cannabis. Virginia-based Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, is investing in cannabis and filing patents for cannabis-specific vaporizers. Individual legacy growers have the crop experience and market share, Taylor says, but don't have shared institutions through which they can exercise collective power — especially down the value chain in processing, distribution and consumer technology. Taylor believes that creating a small farmer-centric system will involve the creation of more interest groups, associations or cooperatives.
"For too long in agricultural and rural communities, we've encouraged people to do things alone," Taylor said in an October 2020presentation to the UC Davis Cannabis and Hemp Research Forums. However, if you look at parts of the world where rural economies do very well, they work together."
With help from a Cannabis and Hemp Research Center grant, Taylor has been working on a wide-ranging participatory action research project in Mendocino County. Taylor's team — comprised of two faculty members, one post-doctoral researcher, and two student researchers — is producing research publications, policy recommendations and public events about ways that the emerging cannabis industry can support high-quality livelihoods and environments for county residents.
"The more we make folks aware of these good actors, the more likely we are to get challenges to the incumbents in terms of climate mitigation and economic developments," Taylor said.
West Business Development Center, Economic Development & Financing Corporation and Mendocino County Supervisor John Haschak have been allies in the process so far. Haschak says Taylor brings valuable knowledge, resources and networks to bear on local challenges.
"There's a lot of opportunity for doing this whole new industry in a new way, and I think that's what Dr. Taylor sees too," Haschak said. "There's a lot of potential here for structuring the industry along the lines of what our community values already are."
As Taylor's team releases their findings, they intend to host forums at the Hopland Research and Extension Center to help the county harness the legal cannabis sector for economic impact.
Power to the people
Shortly after arriving at UC Davis from Illinois, Taylorpublished a book about the benefits of community ownership of wind energy in the Midwest. The turmoil surrounding California's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, could have been ripped from the pages of his research. PG&E equipment hasignited half of California's most destructive fires since 2015, and experts pin much of the blame on the company's lack of investment in the grid.
In the months following the 2018 Camp Fire, which burned an area roughly the size of Chicago andkilled85 people, Taylor was one of the first advocates to propose converting PG&E into a user-owned nonprofit cooperative. This conversion would remove the extractive role of investors and give customers a voice in big-picture decisions about the company, Taylorwrote in an op-ed pushing the idea of customer ownership in The Mercury News in February 2019. By December, more than 100 elected officials across 10 countiesendorsed the idea. The federal bankruptcy judge overseeing PG&E's case did not endorse the plan, although it's still possible for the state totake over the company under certain conditions. Other attempts to gain local control of PG&E's grid — including San Francisco's bid tobuy the city's power lines from the company — also stalled.
Taylor isn't discouraged. He is working closely with theGolden State Power Cooperative, an association of the state's three community-owned electric utility co-ops, to push forward what he calls a "Rural Electrification Act for California broadband." Taylor often references this New Deal-era law that gave federal loans to rural communities seeking to expand the electrical grid to their area. The act gave rise to the nation's more than 900 electric cooperatives today, including the three in California. With their help, Taylor sees opportunity in legislation or programs that would catalyze community-initiated, community-owned internet services. Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative is already bringing broadband to the rough terrain of its mountain customers.
"When you first set foot in California and are exposed to the giant that is PG&E and their influence over policy, you think that it's an obstacle that's too difficult to overcome," Taylor said. He tries to elevate the visibility of people who are making inroads and recently featured Kevin Short in a webinar about community economic-development innovations.
Short is the general manager of Anza Electric Cooperative in California's high desert and current board president of theGolden State Power Cooperative. He said there are "tremendous opportunities" in the idea of growing cooperative broadband entities, especially with the attention on infrastructure at the state and federal levels. Short said the effort will take some creativity and willingness to depart from existing models: "The old saying among us here is if you've seen one co-op, you've seen one co-op, because it's going to be different everywhere you go."
In both of these areas — cannabis and utilities — Taylor says his role is networker and facilitator. As the only economic development specialist at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, he spends a lot of time researching and meeting people to understand where his efforts can be the most strategic. "In order to scale, I've got to go small, root and build and be comfortable with that process," he said.
Small works for now, but Taylor remembers an associate dean telling him, "You've got a great job, now make it work for 40 million Californians."
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.
Farm Service Agency Will Begin Taking Applications for indemnity program July 20th
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2021 — Livestock and poultry producers who suffered losses during the pandemic due to insufficient access to processing can apply for assistance for those losses and the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack announced the Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program (PLIP) in [recorded] remarks at the National Pork Industry Conference in Wisconsin Dells, WI. The announcement is part of USDA's Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Livestock and poultry producers can apply for assistance through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) July 20 through Sept. 17, 2021.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, authorized payments to producers for losses of livestock or poultry depopulated from March 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020, due to insufficient processing access as a result of the pandemic. PLIP payments will be based on 80% of the fair market value of the livestock and poultry and for the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animal. Eligible livestock and poultry include swine, chickens and turkeys, but pork producers are expected to be the primary recipients of the assistance.
“Throughout the pandemic, we learned very quickly the importance and vulnerability of the supply chain to our food supply,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Many livestock producers had to make the unfortunate decision to depopulate their livestock inventory when there simply was no other option. This targeted assistance will help livestock and poultry producers that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic alleviate some financial burden from these losses.”
Additional Assistance Planned
The previous administration proposed pandemic assistance using flat rates across the industry, which does not take into account the different levels of harm felt by different producers. Pork industry supported analysis projected that disruptions in processing capacity in the pork supply chain create a situation with small hog producers and especially those that sell on the spot market or negotiate prices, bear a disproportionate share of losses. USDA has examined the difference between the negotiated prices for hogs and the 5-year average and documented a significant drop during April through September of 2020 due to the pandemic. USDA has set aside up to $50 million in pandemic assistance funds to provide additional assistance for small hog producers that use the spot market or negotiate prices. Details on the additional targeted assistance are expected to be available this summer.
PLIP Program Details
Eligible livestock must have been depopulated from March 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020, due to insufficient processing access as a result of the pandemic. Livestock must have been physically located in the U.S. or a territory of the U.S. at the time of depopulation.
Eligible livestock owners include persons or legal entities who, as of the day the eligible livestock was depopulated, had legal ownership of the livestock. Packers, live poultry dealers and contract growers are not eligible for PLIP.
PLIP payments compensate participants for 80% of both the loss of the eligible livestock or poultry and for the cost of depopulation and disposal based on a single payment rate per head. PLIP payments will be calculated by multiplying the number of head of eligible livestock or poultry by the payment rate per head, and then subtracting the amount of any payments the eligible livestock or poultry owner has received for disposal of the livestock or poultry under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or a state program. The payments will also be reduced by any Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 1 and 2) payments paid on the same inventory of swine that were depopulated.
There is no per person or legal entity payment limitation on PLIP payments. To be eligible for payments, a person or legal entity must have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $900,000 for tax years 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Applying for Assistance
Eligible livestock and poultry producers can apply for PLIP starting July 20, 2021, by completing the FSA-620, Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program application, and submitting it to any FSA county office. Additional documentation may be required. Visit farmers.gov/plip for a copy of the Notice of Funding Availability and more information on how to apply.
Applications can be submitted to the FSA office at any USDA Service Center nationwide by mail, fax, hand delivery or via electronic means. To find your local FSA office, visit farmers.gov/service-locator. Livestock and poultry producers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.
As USDA looks to long-term solutions to build back a better food system, the Department is committed to delivering financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers and businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. Since USDA rolled out the Pandemic Assistance initiative in March, the Department has announced over $7 billion in assistance to producers and agriculture entities. For more details, please visit www.farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America's food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
Video Series Offers Practical Advice for Producers
The GOT SHEEP? series made its debut on YouTube last week in an effort to assist American sheep producers with management considerations for their flocks.
The videos take an interactive approach and include a panel discussion at the end of each video. Content is provided by Bridger Feuz, Dr. Whit Stewart, Hudson Hill and Barton Stam. Two videos in the last week of May touched on economic tools and essential record keeping for sheep producers. This week's videos – scheduled to be posted today – include discussions on ewe and ram genetic considerations, as well as pasture, range and forage insurance.
Click Here for the GOT SHEEP? YouTube channel.
Join us for our next webinar on Wednesday, June 17th at 1pm PDT, which will feature Dr. Tina Saitone, CE Specialist in Agricultural and Resource Economics, presenting "Can you Insure Against Drought? Information and Outcomes from the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Insurance Program".
Register at https://tinyurl.com/WRWs4
(we will email registrants a Zoom meeting link morning of the webinar)
Working Rangelands Wednesdays is a bi-weekly webinar series where we explore topics around rangeland agriculture in California and across the West.
You can view previous Working Rangelands Wednesdays sessions on the UC Rangelands YouTube channel.
For questions, please contact Grace Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org.