Sustainable Ranching Program
Many livestock producers feel overwhelmed and confused by the complicated environmental regulations being placed upon them. By understanding the rules and implementing tools available to them, producers can ensure economic sustainability of their small businesses using environmentally sound management practices. The Sustainable Ranching Program has compiled information about state and federal regulations that have a direct impact on individuals who have livestock and use private, state and federal lands to graze and water their animals throughout the year.
PowerPoint presentations, web page development and distribution of information about state and federal laws have put an emphasis on when, where and under what circumstances regulatory programs impact livestock producers’ current management practices. The Livingston Ranch has reviewed water quality rules and considered the impact on their hay production and livestock grazing activities. A stream nearby supports steelhead (ESA-listed fish), and they have been able to systematically review their management practices to determine if they are in compliance with the local watershed rules. They set up a water quality monitoring program to determine if runoff from their agriculture activities was contributing pollution to the stream and to document the water conditions in 2005 that can be used to compare to water conditions in future years. The Sustainable Ranching Program has encouraged producers in counties across Oregon to follow their example and Sharon Livingston has referred livestock producers to the Oregon Cattlemen’s website to obtain more information.
This project is aimed at increasing livestock producer awareness about water quality laws so they can communicate with government agencies that enforce clean water rules. The program gives producers the tools needed to comply with laws, resolve misunderstandings, and empower themselves using technical information, contacts with experts and new skills that can guide them in seeking a common goal of solving water quality problems.
The Sustainable Ranching Program has been presented to seven different groups where specific local watershed issues were discussed in detail. Handouts were prepared for participants to take home and use to conduct web searches about federal and state regulations. Participants were also provided contact phone numbers and email addresses for the Oregon Cattlemen’s office to request other information. Some of the specific issues that were discussed included water quality monitoring, CAFO and AFO regulations, federal grazing regulations and weed management restrictions on fish-bearing streams.
The project co-sponsored two workshops with Oregon State University’s extension program and the USDA Forest Service (Region 6), which provided training for federal employees and permittees on how to manage livestock grazing on riparian meadows and conduct monitoring to achieve objective results.
The project Ag Producer (Sharon Livingston) and Ag Professional (Pat Larson) attended both events and thought the programs provided technical information by experts that gave the permittee/producers new tools to use when resolving misunderstandings about the common goal of solving water quality problems that impact fish habitat. The program included field trips to permittee allotments where grazing practices had been put in place and the results were discussed.
During the summer of 2005, water monitoring was conducted in a watershed where the project Ag Producer and two cooperators live and ranch. The water quality monitoring information is being analyzed and put together as a demonstration about conducting assessments on private land. The information will be made available to producers through the Oregon Cattlemen’s web pages. The water quality temperature standards where ESA listed fish spawn and/or rear are regulated by the state of Oregon. The information obtained will demonstrate how to set up a monitoring program, where to monitor and describe the kinds of information producers need to assess whether their management is protecting the river.
The Sustainable Ranching Program has been presented to students at Oregon State University’s Agriculture Program located at Eastern Oregon University. Two classes (Introduction to Forestry and Grassland and Shrubland Ecosystems) were introduced to some of the laws and regulations that private landowners face while grazing livestock on public, state and private lands. Understanding the parts of the ecosystem that are regulated from the perspective of a producer is intended to challenge the paradigms many students bring to their learning experience obtained from what they have heard or read in popular journals, news items and other classes. The Sustainable Ranching Program documents have also been sent to the Oregon State University Extension Program to facilitate making contact with livestock producers in local communities throughout the state.
We prepared and sent emails out to all Oregon Cattlemen members and county livestock producer organizations alerting them to an October 1, 2005, deadline for registering to obtain a CAFO/AFO permit. We provided the definition of a feeding operation where a permit was required and attached a form to apply for a permit. The notice resulted in numerous calls from livestock operators asking for government contacts, more information, and/or contact with an expert who could visit a ranch to assess the landowner’s operation. Many of the calls were addressed during the conversation, but six specific cases required follow-up information. As an example, to respond to one request we provided printed material about the Oregon clean water law and rules and sent a CD with the Sustainable Ranching Program handout, their county agriculture water quality management plan and rules, definitions of the many acronyms used by government and a flow chart of how the Clean Water Act nonpoint and point source issues are handled.
Recently, a livestock producer contacted us about an Oregon Agriculture Water Quality Management (AWQM) rule violation. The producer did not know how to address a request from a government agency to change a land management practice. The SRP project provided the information needed and is continuing to visit with the landowner about the situation. Through this request we have found an area where we can improve our database and extend our effort to contact each county with information that will be useful to producers during a regulatory investigation.
Our project will be long lasting. The information that has been put together during the project will serve livestock producers throughout the state for years to come. The various formats we have used to distribute information has been useful and easily accessed by the Oregon Cattlemen’s staff, livestock producers and is available to anyone who has access to the internet. The handouts have prompted many to consider and reconsider their understanding of the laws and rules, seek expert advice on issues that have been worrisome and we are certain society benefits when the agriculture community takes an active role, rather than passive role, to learn new ways to manage land and protect the natural resources of the state.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
1. Due to information provided to livestock producers regarding the federal administration of grazing permits, permittees on nine allotments on the Malheur National Forest have adopted new techniques to measure pasture utilization.
2. Two private landowners have adopted a bank protection measure to assure compliance with a state
water quality regulation and limit the amount of runoff during the spring thaw.
3. Three producers were advised about weed management options using vegetative controls and we were able to provide information about the Oregon weed program as well as their specific county weed control ordinances. The producers have implemented grass seed plantings to protect the water quality on their private lands.
The most memorable reaction from a producer was from a rancher who had been fined for a permit violation in Oregon. He had spent more than a year dealing with the various government agencies and summed up his situation as a “bad year.” He said it was programs like the SRP that are invaluable. He said he should have been involved earlier and intended to remedy that for the future by staying informed and involved. He offered to spread the word, because he didn’t want anyone to go through what he did simply because they had not paid attention to the wonderful help available to them, just for the asking.
The project has emphasized that we can help producers before problems become a crisis, but are limited when we get calls “after the fact”. The reaction we get from most producers is a simple and genuine: Thank you.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
1. Farmer Stockman, May 2005
2. Beef Producer, June 2005
3. Notice sent for a presentation in Long Creek, Oregon: March 18 and 19, 2005, Long Creek, Oregon
Water Quality Oregon Cattlemen’s Sustainable Ranching Program will be presented by Pat Larson.
Oregon Cattlemen’s training program has pulled together information useful to ranchers and farmers about state and federal water regulations that govern operations. This will be an opportunity to get up to speed on the rules, ask questions and receive information helpful to your specific operation.
Information about how individuals or groups can conduct water quality monitoring using good scientific methods will be included in the presentation. Pat and Larry Larson published a three-year study about the Middle Fork and North Fork John Day Rivers that concluded thermal and sediment pollution were undetected in the rivers once natural and/or background conditions were established. They found that the streambed material had minimal amounts of sediment and remained unchanged during the three-year study and concluded that land management was controlling erosion.
4. Co-sponsor with Oregon State University and U.S. Forest Service, May 17 & May 19 at John Day, Oregon and La Grande, Oregon. Approximately 30 federal employees and livestock producers attended.
EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS PRODUCED
1. Sustainable Ranching Program handouts
2. Clean Water Act flow chart
3. Federal Grazing Permit Files (what should be in your files)
4. Sustainable Ranching Program Introduction
5. Green-line Monitoring
Long Creek, OR
Office Phone: 5414215276