New Labor Laws and the Threat to Wildfire Prevention in California

Scattered across the California landscape, hundreds of goats represent a unique and natural strategy for wildfire prevention. The ruminant animals are employed to munch on potentially hazardous vegetation — grass, shrubs, and weeds that could fuel dangerous wildfires. Jason Poupolo, parks superintendent for the city of West Sacramento, affirms,

“It’s a huge fuel source. If it was left untamed, it can grow very high. And then when the summer dries everything out, it’s perfect fuel for a fire.”

These goats have become invaluable partners in wildfire prevention due to their ability to graze in hard-to-reach, steep terrains and consume a wide variety of vegetation. This process, known as ‘targeted grazing,’ is being hailed as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides and noisy, polluting weed-whacking machines.

However, recent changes in state labor regulations are posing a threat to this innovative wildfire prevention strategy. These new rules, which raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to a daunting $14,000, according to the California Farm Bureau, have put the future of the goat-grazing industry in jeopardy.

Tim Arrowsmith, owner of Western Grazers, provides a grim prediction of what the new regulations could mean for his business:

“Without a fix to the new regulations, we will be forced to sell these goats to slaughter and to the auction yards, and we’ll be forced out of business and probably file for bankruptcy.”

His company, which manages around 4,000 goats, provides crucial grazing services to government agencies and private landowners across Northern California, demonstrating the considerable scale of this looming crisis.

One of the contentious issues is that goatherding jobs necessitate round-the-clock availability, leading to herders being paid a monthly minimum salary rather than an hourly wage. However, legislation signed in 2016 extended overtime pay rights to these herders, increasing the minimum monthly pay and further escalating the operational costs for herding companies.

From January, these labor costs are slated to rise again sharply, as a state agency has decreed that goatherders should no longer follow a separate set of labor rules, but rather be subject to the same labor laws as other farmworkers. This would elevate goatherders’ pay even higher, possibly reaching up to $14,000 a month. These changes, according to goatherding companies, would make providing goat-grazing services untenable, leading to a potential collapse of this sector.

Arrowsmith notes the dire implications of this regulatory overhaul, stating,

“I can’t pay $14,000 a month to an employee starting Jan. 1. There’s just not enough money. The cities can’t absorb that kind of cost. What’s at stake for the public is your house could burn up because we can’t fire-mitigate.”

As California invests heavily in wildfire prevention, having witnessed the destructive impact of wildfires over the past years, the impending challenge to the goat-grazing industry could undermine these efforts significantly.

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May 30, 2023 6:14 pm

Thank you again Govenor Newsom and California Democrats. No good deed shall go unpunished.

Reply to  flogage
May 30, 2023 6:19 pm

He’s probably jealous of herders.

Reply to  flogage
May 30, 2023 8:35 pm

A.) $3,730/month x 12 months = $44,760 annual salary

B.) $14,000/month x 0 months = $0 annual salary

All Marxists believe that Choice B is the higher salary!

Reply to  pillageidiot
May 30, 2023 9:34 pm

Oh that’s not what they believe.
They believe that subsidies will solve the high annual salary problem.
Then they’ll discover a tax problem which they will hide with debt.
High debt of course will be solved by printing money.
Inflation will happen, which will be blamed on greedy capitalism with wealthy goat herders as the proof.

Mind boggling how simple it all is.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 31, 2023 9:38 am

Fortunately, California can’t print money. But they do sell more debt every year.

Mike McMillan
May 30, 2023 6:37 pm

Wouldn’t goat herding qualify as management?

Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 30, 2023 6:53 pm

Goats are smarter and more intellectually independent than socialists.

The Other Nick
Reply to  MarkW
May 30, 2023 9:17 pm

I think the goats may object to being compared to socialists.

Mark BLR
Reply to  MarkW
May 31, 2023 4:52 am

Goats are smarter and more intellectually independent than socialists.

Sir Pterry (Pratchett) wrote about this aspect of the human condition decades ago, in his “Small Gods” Discworld novel.

The merest accident of microgeography had meant that the first man to hear the voice of Om, and who gave Om his view of humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have been different. For sheep are stupid, and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.

The Other Nick
Reply to  Charles Rotter
May 30, 2023 9:21 pm

The truth being:

Gaots = Management
Headers = subordinates

Goats not getting paid, where is the outcry??

Bob in Castlemaine
May 30, 2023 6:38 pm

Here in Victoria we had a tradition of summer grazing of the high country which for a century and a half did a great job of controlling the fuel load. Our socialist state government has banned our mountain cattle men from grazing the high country, so we no longer have that safeguard, a service long provided free charge.
In NSW the government parks agency is shooting wild horses in the alps from the air, because they are an “environmental threat”. These wild horses (brumbies) have grazed in the alps since the early days of European settlement.

The Other Nick
Reply to  Bob in Castlemaine
May 30, 2023 9:18 pm

But it was the greenies who wanted the battle and horses removed..

Then they object to bushfires..
Never happy that lot.

Martin Brumby
Reply to  Bob in Castlemaine
May 31, 2023 12:11 am

Well, as it was allegedly an ancestor of mine (a Captain Brumby) who set his horses loose when the Captain was posted elsewhere, I guess I have some distant skin in that game.

Did the NSW Government also shoot the well known bakery firm and the politician (from Victoria?).

Other than Tony Abbott, most Aussie pollies would make much better targets than wild horses.

But the Goat Herders in California should fight back. Their comrades in Afghanistan defeated the most powerful army in the World using some sacks of fertiliser and some rusty Kashalnikovs.
Perhaps this is just part of Newsome’s plan?

May 30, 2023 6:43 pm

When you look up dumb and dumber in the dictionary it has a picture of California and Newsom.

Curious George
Reply to  Bob
May 31, 2023 8:01 am

Newsom will be fully qualified to run for President.

Reply to  Curious George
May 31, 2023 9:40 am

Already is.

May 30, 2023 6:52 pm

The socialists don’t want solutions that work, they would rather have the problem so that they can milk it for more power and money.

Rod Evans
Reply to  MarkW
May 31, 2023 12:30 am

That is exactly it.
If it works and is a benefit it must be controlled and or stopped. Taken from the communist code of how to run society, rule one page one. Nothing has changed only the names.

Reply to  MarkW
May 31, 2023 2:25 am

Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

Reply to  MarkW
May 31, 2023 10:46 am

The socialists don’t want solutions that work, they would rather have the problem so that they can milk it for more power and money.

I guess goat cheese is off the menu

Tom Halla
May 30, 2023 7:35 pm

I wonder which union is pushing these rules, and what their actual goal is. Or it could just be a green NGO, opposed to grazing, which many are.

Jeff L
May 30, 2023 8:18 pm

Classic ! Instead of earning ~$3700/mo, now they will earn $0/mo because their job will go away due to government regulations.

May 30, 2023 8:29 pm

Newsom fiddles when California burns .
He will then blame the ” disastrous unprecedented fires ” on climate change .
Here is a tip from New Zealand that could save the goat owners millions .
A firm called Halter have patented a collar for dairy cows that does away with fencing .
The farmer installs small towers that can pick up signals from computers and cell phones via satellites.
The farmer draws a virtual fence on his phone and the livestock do not move out side of that area till milking time which is when they are virtually moved to be milked The cost is about $100, to set up , plus an annual service fee.

Mr Ed
Reply to  Graham
May 31, 2023 11:38 am

These goats are contained in Electo-net portable fencing, there’s
a shot in the video attached to this piece of the herders setting it
up. It’s electrified and keeps the goats in and the predators out,
12k+ volts.

They are doing * prescribed grazing * , it’s similar to prescribed
fire in that it’s about timing, intensity and duration. Just pasture
grazing is different as they are forcing these goats to graze undesirables
intensely to remove the fire risk. Like much of many things there is
the science and then there is the art eg the masters touch,

John Aqua
May 30, 2023 8:35 pm

GOAT = Greatest of All-Time. Not in this case for California and especially, the Governor.

May 30, 2023 9:57 pm

This job will be a live in looking after the “kids” Predators are a real problem in North America So I guess the goats are housed a night Living quarters for the crew will be provided So this job has board and lodgings and $3790 a month seem like a pretty good deal to me

Eric Vieira
May 30, 2023 11:17 pm

I don’t think it’s about herder wages. The Dems want to shut down farming, especially everything that has to do with animals. Probably next on the list, are wage increases for all farm workers so that farmers can’t do business anymore.

Reply to  Eric Vieira
May 31, 2023 8:02 am

Isn’t farming currently one of the 3 pillars supporting CAs economy? Tech and entertainment being the other two. Maybe tourism. That would be a pretty big blow.

Not that the politicians or activists care

Rod Evans
May 31, 2023 12:25 am

Easy fix available. Tell the current herders that from Jan 1st they will be called ‘volunteers’. In recognition of the good efforts of the ‘volunteers’ the goat management will award the volunteers out of pocket expenses, which are tax free. The monthly out of pocket expenses will be equal to the current salary payments but with the added advantage that none of the money will be taxed. As an additional advantage the volunteering expenses will be paid all year round so holidays can be enjoyed too.
Where there is a will there is a way, sadly the socialists just want everything to burn.

May 31, 2023 2:06 am

Just watched a slot on Earth TV, beamed to the UK, about a section of US forests which have been traditionally managed in previous times by native Indians by very selective burning to reduce the brash etc; both the representative of these indigenous folk and the current Americans trying to roll back the decades of gross mismanagement point out the raging wild fires that have destroyed very large areas of California and other states have been firestorms created by massive ground fuel……….

Same in Aus, I gather; so here we have it – so called green ecoloons have foisted their twisted, now known as “Woke”, and demented ideology on the environment they say they are protecting. The scale of the destruction has been catastrophic for some communities razed to the ground because of these firestorms which cannot be contained…when are these worthless ideologues going to be hauled in front of widespread public scrutiny and be made accountable for their crimes against the Planet? (rhet…sadly)

George T
May 31, 2023 6:18 am

So typical. Rather than consider the ramifications and the unintended consequences, it boils down to social justice. Virtue signaling to address the perceived inequality will solve nothing and likely exacerbate the problem the goats were solving.

Mr Ed
May 31, 2023 7:06 am

Goats are great..

Over half the goat meat eaten in the US is imported from Australia.
The above video shows some goat herders making some serious cash
wrangling feral goats .having fun making money..

California has gone completely bat sht crazy..

All the sheep producers i know have been using
foreign herders forever. Some of the California goat grazers end up here in MT
later in the season doing noxious weed prescribed grazing usually on sensitive
plots above water treatment plants or large plots which would be expensive to spray.

Mr Ed
May 31, 2023 8:38 am

Some historical color on this piece.

California would be advised to take a lesson from the past and solve
the wildfire issue and the immigration situation of today. I know at least one of the
CA goat grazers is from Idaho and has Basque heritage. The wacko’s in Sacramento
don’t have a clue on much of anything. They need to let the free market decide
the value of this issue.

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