You Can’t Regulate the Wind

Why is it that government agencies always want to create a regulation to solve any and all problems? A friend answered it quite succinctly when he said, ” Laws have to be passed by an elected body and may not happen, but this is not the case with a regulation.”

So leave it to our California State Water Resource Control Board to choose a less messy way to advance their agenda by proposing a regulation. The Grazing Regulatory Action Project (G.R.A.P.) that in their infinite wisdom will tell me how many cattle I can graze on my ranch, in order to address water impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.
 

This G.R.A.P. aka C.R.A.P. is an acronym that will consider a wide range of alternatives to ensure that grazing has a minimal negative impact on water quality. The GRAP says it will give thoughtful consideration to the cost of compliance to the regulated grazing community. Historical evidence shows quite the opposite.

I’m sure there will be a fee involved for the G.R.A.P. to save we grazers from ourselves and all the nice rhetoric about hearing each other will disappear as the regulation becomes more stringent and the compliance bar is constantly raised to make sure that most ranchers don’t comply. It’s called “job security”.

I don’t think it’s possible to successfully regulate an art form, for that’s what good ranch management is. Ranching is never the same for any two years, let alone any two days. Ranching, done well, is constantly changing, and a regulation that might work for one situation won’t work for another. But I do have a rule that has never let me down, that doesn’t need a regulation that works, every time.

I make my decision on how I affect the speed of water. First, any rain that falls on our ranch, I will use every effort to make those rain drops stay on the ranch as long as possible. There’s a handy little phrase that I carry in my mind at all times:

SLOW DOWN WATER always works. Speed water up, that’s a bad decision, slow water down that’s a good decision. Simple as that.

This type of decision-making doesn’t lend itself well to a regulation, because so much of good ranch management is subjective. I think a better way for the water quality folks to approach their goal of quality water is not with a regulatory whip, but with an olive branch of education and patience. For if you make all the stakeholders furious, then the agency will end up PUSHING A STRING.

What follows are my thoughts after this first gathering on 9/15, the first of three public focus listening sessions has taken place in San Luis Obispo. I’m sitting in my recliner watching some silly movie that I think has some parallels with today’s happenings. I was under the naive impression that the Water Board was exploring a range of options to enhance environmental benefits from grazing.

But in the same sentence, “Protect beneficial uses of surface and groundwater and address water quality impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.” I think this double talk to lull we members of the livestock profession into thinking that the Water Board really wants to hear from us is B.S.

 
After today’s session I think this ‘dog and pony show’ is just a perfunctory step so it can be said by the water board that we heard from the stakeholders and have duly noted that the grazing community has had their day in court.

The water board probably now thinks that it has a self made mandate to start making a hard copy of the regulations that they have already been discussing IN HOUSE the last couple of years. Water Board, your regulations will fail just like an entity that would try to regulate the wind.

Because livestock grazing is an art form that needs the flexibility to adapt to each new day. Regulations are much too cumbersome to allow for this kind of flexibility. Without the ability to react to each day’s events, your hoped for goal of water fit to drink, will most assuredly founder on the rocks of rigidity.

Looking back over what has transpired it looks like my thoughts pre- stakeholder meeting and post stakeholder meeting haven’t change much. I believe this agency will not attain the results that they want. That said, I believe the board will not deviate from their regulatory ways. It’s in their DNA. The sad part of this regulation fiasco, is the quest for quality water that we all want will not happen. What will happen is my tax dollars will fund an attempt to corral the wind.

See ya,

Jack

A Day on the V6 Ranch

Horses 061I feel a little uncomfortable telling you all that I’m some sort of Guru. What feels more comfortable to describe is who I am as a guy; that’s been at different times in my life a cowboy, a cattleman, and I have now evolved into a grass man holding a bag full of keepers and mistakes that we can talk about. One of the things that, I believe, has bedeviled the cattle industry is its ties to tradition. Dad did it that way and that’s good enough for me. Or that’s the way my neighbors have always done it.

The year was 1991 and a 5 year span of sub normal rainfall was behind me and I was really in need of a better way to keep “the wolf away from the door”. The answer came when I attended a 3 day seminar taught by Allen Savory the founder of Holistic Management who put forth the idea that when you make a decision assume that its wrong and test it to see if its right. It was a water shed moment for me as it gave me permission to examine the way I manage our family ranch and the best part was I got to throw out old ways that took more than they gave. I guess that’s what this DAY ON THE V6 IS ALL ABOUT. I think that 20 folks is a good number to spend Saturday, February the 28th with breakfast at 8 o’clock at the Parkfield Cafe, a hearty V6 Beef Stew at lunch, and a day of give and take knowledge in a most beautiful setting all for $150. A seat at Super Bowl 49 cost $5000.
If you would like to spend Friday and/or Saturday night we have room at the Horse Camp Bunkhouse or you can throw your bedroll on the ground. Saturday night dinner at the Parkfield Cafe if you choose is on you but Sunday morning is a pancake and bacon breakfast, morning hike, and a Good Bye on me.
See Ya,
Jack