2012 NCBA Policy Priorities Taking Shape
By Colin Woodall, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs
Next week, thousands of cattlemen and women who are members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) will make their way to Nashville, Tenn., for the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. NCBA members will set policy priorities for 2012 and establish new policy positions for the largest and oldest national cattle industry organization. This is where NCBA’s Washington, D.C., staff will receive their marching orders for what will undoubtedly be a very interesting year inside the Beltway. Based on where we left off in 2011, I fully expect that NCBA will hone in on five primary priorities for the new year.
The top priority will most likely be an issue that impacts every single cattle producer and small business owner in the country. The estate tax, or more appropriately labeled the death tax, will be an issue we will tackle with every weapon in our arsenal. As a result of a last-minute tax package passed in December 2010, estates worth more than $5 million per individual or $10 million per couple are taxed at a 35 percent rate. This temporary relief from an outdated tax will end Dec. 31, 2012. NCBA supports a permanent repeal of this nonsensical tax and that’s why we fully support the Death Tax Permanency Repeal Act, introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). If a full and permanent repeal is not possible, NCBA supports making the 2010 package permanent. Our cattlemen and women deserve certainty, which can only be achieved through permanency.
Another issue we will be focusing a great deal of effort on will be the 2012 Farm Bill. Fortunately, our requests are relatively simple and should be welcomed by both sides of the aisle. We simply ask that Congress save taxpayer money by eliminating the livestock title. Cattlemen are independent people who do not need big government setting up shop on their farms and ranches. We can attribute the job-killing rule on livestock marketing proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) and mandatory Country of Origin Labeling to the livestock title that became reality during the 2008 Farm Bill deliberations.
Transportation is an issue we will continue working on in 2012. NCBA supports making transportation policies more efficient for cattle producers by supporting legislation to create uniform transportation laws across all states and helping states adopt transportation laws that increase allowable weight, length and trailer requirements. The bottom-line is uniformity across state lines. As we did in 2011, we will also continue working to make sure that there is not federal requirement of commercial driver’s licenses for farmers and ranchers.
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) was designed to level the playing field between small businesses and individual citizens and the federal government. EAJA allows plaintiffs to recover legal costs from the federal government when they prevail in a case against the government. Although EAJA was intended to protect citizens’ rights, it has been hijacked by radical groups targeting ranchers by challenging in court their rights to natural resource uses. Cattlemen support the Government Litigation Savings Act (GSLA) to bring transparency and accountability to EAJA. It would prohibit organizations with a net worth exceeding $7 million from filing for EAJA funds, require that EAJA filers show a “direct and personal monetary interest” in the action to be eligible for payments and cap the attorney fees activists claim to be owed. The GSLA passed out of the House Judiciary Committee late in 2011 and we will urge the full House to consider this important legislation.
The next priority will be the issue of farm dust regulation. The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, which provides permanent relief and regulatory certainty, passed in the U.S. House a couple months ago. We will be marching the halls of Congress urging the U.S. Senate to pass this legislation. It will be an uphill battle but one that is worth the fight.
Beyond policy priorities, this will be the year where NCBA’s Political Action Committee (NCBA-PAC) will be more important than ever before. In the last year, the NCBA-PAC has gained momentum becoming one of the leading animal agricultural PACs in the country but we must continue to acquire the funds necessary to ensure a political climate in Washington, D.C., that understand the importance of the U.S. cattle industry to the U.S. economy and global food security. NCBA-PAC needs support from all NCBA members to change the direction of the U.S. Senate that has consistently resisted legislation to reduce regulatory burdens on cattlemen and women.
Another priority will be sustainability. NCBA and the Beef Checkoff Program are focusing on educating consumers about the important role cattlemen play in sustaining the land and its resources for future generations. Together, with our members, we will assume a leadership role in defining what sustainability means and how cattlemen can continue the journey of producing the most sustainable beef possible. We will also devote resources to helping producers understand the latest in trends and technologies that will assist in making their operation’s more sustainable.
We certainly have our work cut out for us in the next 12 months but with our powerful grassroots membership engaging their members of Congress and capitalizing on educational opportunities afforded to them through their affiliation with NCBA, we will build on the successes of 2011 and 2012 will go down as another good year to be a cowboy. For more information about becoming involved in NCBA or donating to the NCBA-PAC, just give us a call at 202-347-0228.