A Look Back
By J.D. Alexander, NCBA President
At NCBA we’re all busy with summer work and the staff is working hard to prepare for the 2012 Cattle Industry Summer Conference at the end of the month in Denver, Colo. With nearly half of my term as NCBA president behind me it seems like a fitting time to look at some recent industry events and some of the major accomplishments we have achieved together. In June we saw major victories on several fronts as a result of our hard work in Washington, D.C., including a major win as the Senate passed its version of the farm bill.
Early drafts of the Senate farm bill and several amendments included language which could have been harmful to agriculture in general, and livestock producers in particular. Our grassroots membership worked hard with their members of the Senate to defeat those issues and last month the Senate passed a farm bill which stripped the livestock title out of the bill and avoided the inclusion of production mandates, two key areas of concern for NCBA members. Although there is much work to be done as the House prepares to work on their version of the bill, the wins in the Senate were major successes for NCBA and its membership.
Last month livestock producers also scored a win against big government regulation when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its preliminary standard for dust regulation. EPA announced that it would leave the current standard in place and avoid placing dust restrictions on agriculture which would have effectively made it illegal to drive a pick-up truck down a gravel road in most areas of the country. This assurance that cattlemen and women won’t be faced with crippling dust regulations based on an unscientific standard will help add to the confidence in our rural American businesses.
We’ve also made significant progress in the area of beef trade since the start of the year as well. With the enactment of three key free trade agreements (FTAs) and the inclusion of Canada and Mexico in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, U.S. cattlemen and women are gaining major market advantages. The FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea open important markets and level the playing field for U.S. beef. Including Mexico and Canada, the two largest buyers of U.S. beef in the TPP negotiations will help ensure that our products are allowed fair market access and that our trading partners are applying the same phyto-sanitary guidelines to U.S. beef as are used to determine access for other nations. By making certain U.S. beef is treated fairly and traded freely we’re adding value to each and every animal in the country.
However, we also have to treat products from other countries with the same respect we ask of ours. In late-June, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL), in its current form is a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NCBA had long predicted that outcome and worked hard with our trading partners on both sides of the borders to prevent the application of damaging tariffs to U.S. beef. Now that the final WTO ruling is in place, we’re committed to working with USDA and members of Congress to ensure that we’re meeting our obligations to our trading partners around the world.
Although we have accomplished much in a very short time, there is still a great deal of work ahead of us and we can’t take our eye off the ball. The most pressing issue remains finding a permanent solution to the death tax issue. We cannot lose sight of that goal. Between now and the end of 2012, we will all be working hard in Washington, D.C., to find a solution that ends this burdensome tax and prevents the break-up of multi-generational farms and ranches. We must have a permanent solution in place before the end of the year and we’ll be hard at work to ensure that happens.
Without the unwavering support of grassroots NCBA members, none of our achievements over the past six months and longer would have been possible and for that I’d like to extend a personal thank you to each and every one of you. I would also like to invite you to join us July 25-28, in Denver as we chart the course for the future at the end of July. Join us and make your voice heard as we work to provide a sustainable and successful future for cattlemen and women across the country.