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Cattle Industry Priorities Included in Farm Bill Compromise

Washington (April 26, 2002) — The House and Senate Farm Bill negotiators have reached agreement on a Farm Bill that includes provisions for America’s cattle producers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said today. Key components of the bill for farmers and ranchers are funding for conservation programs, a market driven commodity title and country of original labeling.

Under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a program where USDA and producers share costs of conservation efforts, livestock producers can receive up to $450,000 in cost share, over the life of the six year Farm Bill.

"We are pleased that the EQIP program was so well funded," said Chandler Keys, Vice President, Public Policy. "This level of EQIP funding will help cattle producers preserve the land for future generations and comply with environmental regulations."

The inclusion of the Grasslands Reserve Program is another important victory for cattle producers. This program will help producers preserve America’s grasslands and help them constructively deal with sprawl and development.

The Commodity Title of Farm Bill 2002 is expected to continue in much the same way it was established in 1996, and is not expected to have unintended consequences of a negative nature to beef production.

"By maintaining marketing loans, the conferees have insured that livestock producers, the largest customer for America’s grain, will pay market price for feed," said Jim Pellet, Chairman, NCBA Agriculture Policy Committee.

The Trade Title contains provisions that are important in promoting U.S. beef in countries like Korea, Japan and Mexico.

"We are pleased that the conferees recognize the importance of the Market Access Program and provide a substantial increase in funding. This funding is extremely beneficial for promoting U.S. beef abroad."

Country of Origin Labeling
The conferees agreed to a two-year voluntary country-of-origin labeling program, which becomes mandatory in the third year.

"NCBA would have preferred a voluntary country of origin labeling program in the House/Senate Farm Bill compromise," said Keys. "The two-year voluntary program will provide an opportunity to determine the sustainability of a mandatory program."

"NCBA will continue to pursue a labeling initiative that provides consumers with the information they seek and U.S. producers with the market recognition they deserve," said Keys. "NCBA will closely monitor the country of origin labeling program for its impact on the industry. We have concerns that a mandatory country of origin labeling program may have negative trade implications and place regulatory burdens not only on retailers and packers, but on cattle producers themselves."

Packer Ownership
The compromise version of the Farm Bill eliminated the provision banning packer ownership. Proponents of the provision felt that it would solve profitability problems in the cattle industry.

While NCBA recognizes that there are tremendous losses in the industry right now, we did not believe that this provision would solve the multitude of problems facing the industry.

"This is a multi-faceted problem," said Wythe Willey, producer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and President of NCBA. "That’s why we are taking a broad-based approach to solving it. NCBA recently established a task force to develop viable solutions to answer complex marketplace questions."

"NCBA looks forward to engaging the intellectual capacity of government and the industry in investigating solutions to the marketplace problems," said Willey. "We do not rule out utilizing government action in solving these problems, however we want to be careful and prescriptive in using federal measures."

"The financial malaise facing the cattle and beef market is a complicated sickness, and we want to make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease," said Willey.

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