Cattlemen conclude successful mid-year meeting
DENVER - The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) wrapped up the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver Friday with a meeting of the NCBA Board of Directors. About 800 cattlemen from across the nation attended the Summer Conference, which was a big success in the eyes of NCBA President John Queen.
“This was a very energized group,” Queen said. “With several crucial policy issues playing out right now, they came together and completed a lot of important work.”
NCBA members kept a close eye on Washington, D.C., during the Summer Conference, as debate heated up on the 2007 Farm Bill, and work continued on energy legislation. Queen said these key legislative issues could have an impact on cattlemen’s profitability for many years to come.
“We seem to have reached a compromise on the country-of-origin labeling portion of the Farm Bill that addresses cattlemen’s concerns about liability and proving the origin of their livestock,” Queen said. “So I think that piece of legislation is going to be good for us. As we look at the energy legislation, that’s going to be tough. But we will continue to work hard for a renewable fuels policy that respects every sector of agriculture.”
Thursday night, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee advanced a compromise provision that addresses the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef and many other meat products, set to take effect in September of 2008. While it does not repair all shortcomings in the existing COOL law, the compromise measure makes many improvements for the nation’s cattlemen. It greatly eases U.S. cattlemen’s concern that proving the origin of their cattle – especially in their existing herds - would require burdensome and expensive record-keeping.
Queen is also encouraged that the latest version of the Farm Bill – which just advanced from the House Ag Committee and is set for House Floor debate this week - places no new restrictions on cattle ownership or limitations on cattlemen’s marketing options.
“One of our top priorities at NCBA is to minimize federal involvement in our cattle operations,” Queen said. “Cattlemen don’t need the government telling us how we can or cannot market our cattle. We don’t want that in any shape, form or fashion.”
Cattlemen have a heightened interest in energy policy because of the impact grain-based ethanol production has had on feed prices. While NCBA members support development of renewable fuels, their policy calls for no further increase in the renewable fuels mandate for grain-based ethanol production. The Senate’s energy proposal mandates 15 billion gallons of grain-based ethanol by 2015 – doubling the current mandate of 7.5 billion gallons. But the House version of this legislation currently includes no increase.
NCBA also announced its regional Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP) winners for 2007 at the Summer Conference. Families from six NCBA regions were honored for innovative practices that protect land, air and water quality in conjunction with successful cattle production.
Also honored at the conference were the inaugural winners of the W.D. Farr Graduate Scholarships, presented by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. The $12,000 scholarship awards will bolster the academic careers of two outstanding agricultural graduate students and researchers, while honoring the legacy of W.D. Farr. Farr is a longtime industry leader in the areas of cattle feeding, uniform beef grading, water conservation and management, and banking and finance.
Sandra Gruber and Dale Woerner were honored as the first recipients of these scholarships.
NCBA Policy Division Chairman Steve Foglesong, who also chairs the NCBA Membership Committee, reported that NCBA membership has grown to 28,000 over the past year. NCBA’s 64 state and breed affiliates across the nation include about 220,000 members.
“The more cattlemen we have participating in NCBA, the more effective we will be in protecting our business climate,” Foglesong said. “I think we can achieve our goal of 30,000 members by year’s end, and 35,000 in 2008. With the energy and commitment I’ve seen from our members this week, I believe that’s within our reach.”