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Policy Discussions
Cattle producers address top priorities and policy issues
at the 2004 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.

An estimated 1,000 producers and cattle industry representatives from across the country met in Denver, Colo., Aug. 9-13 for the 2004 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.

Cattle producers reviewed major policy issues affecting cattle operations and the overall state of the industry. During in-depth committee meetings and innovative open forums, attendees discussed major issues affecting the industry this year, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), export markets, animal identification (ID), cattle health, farm policy and the upcoming presidential election.

"The meetings went well — everyone was pleased with the turnout and is excited to bring the new and old policy to Capitol Hill and the Bush Administration this fall," says Jan Lyons, Kansas cattle producer and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president. "As usual, the voice of NCBA cattle producers will be heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill — no matter how many thousands of miles away they are from the beltway."

NCBA’s official 2004 Policy Agenda already addresses a lengthy list of policy priorities, covering more than 40 issues affecting cattle producers. These new resolutions and directives passed at the summer conference make amendments and resolutions to guide NCBA staff, members and state affiliates. They will serve as interim policies until they are reviewed and passed by the membership in a mail ballot following the 2005 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio.

"This is politics in action," Lyons says. "We have the opportunity to hear from all areas of the nation, coming together to talk face-to-face about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., as well as on our own operations and local associations. That’s the way we get things done in today’s massive political arena — by coming to a consensus and taking our priorities to a national level."

NCBA members passed numerous resolutions, amendments and directives. The following summarizes some of the top initiatives.

BSE: NCBA members resolved that NCBA will request that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not implement final BSE-related regulations until completion of comprehensive surveillance testing. They also requested that if the surveillance program indicates a need for additional regulations, such additional regulations should be subjected to the Harvard Risk Analysis Model to verify they would reduce BSE risk.

Privacy issues related to animal ID: NCBA members voiced concerned about the need to protect the confidentiality of producers’ premises and animal records collected by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NCBA will advocate that this data only be used when there is either a confirmed positive test for List A diseases, the declaration of an animal disease emergency, and/or a tracing (forward and back) for program diseases (such as brucellosis or tuberculosis) to determine the origin and scope of possible infection.

Oversight of animal ID system: NCBA members agree that implementation of the NAIS will have major effects on the beef cattle production and marketing system, affecting all cattle producers. NCBA has resolved that the oversight of the NAIS requires significant participation by industry organizations, while NCBA will play a significant role in the private oversight process.

Property rights-waste management: The National Center for Manure and Animal Waste Management (National Center) coordinates land-grant university scientists and engineers engaged in developing solutions to animal manure nutrient management, water and air quality protection, and byproduct utilization. It also actively engages scientists. USDA’s funding of the National Center is scheduled to expire in early 2005. NCBA members voted to support a continuation of funding to allow the National Center to continue in its valuable role of national scientific leadership and coordination.

NCBA producer education initiatives: NCBA strongly encourages state and local affiliate organizations to maintain and expand their producer education programs to maintain a strong American beef industry, while some industry partners have expressed sincere interest in becoming more involved. NCBA resolved to expand its support and emphasis on the planning, development and implementation of producer education initiatives. These programs will be economically viable, science-based and environmentally sound.

Grazing on federal lands: NCBA members agreed that the ranching industry needs a short-term policy to address immediate challenges posed by the introduction of the buyout proposal and a long-term policy that addresses the creation of vacant grazing allotments on public lands. NCBA resolved to support the introduction of legislation to compensate permittees for loss of income when they are forced to relinquish grazing permits. NCBA supports the creation of an industry task force to develop a comprehensive legislative proposal for introduction in Congress that will strengthen grazing rights on public lands.

Rehabilitation of sage brush habitat: NCBA resolved to encourage all agencies involved in post-fire rehabilitation to adopt a two-stage process for rehabilitation. The first step is utilizing quick establishing, non-native plant species and forage until plant communities and watersheds have stabilized. After this, native species can be inter-seeded into the rehabilitation site as allowed.

Farm Credit: NCBA members expressed concern about the sale of the Omaha-based Farm Credit Services of America. Therefore, NCBA members resolved that in the affected four-state area, stakeholders in Farm Credit Services of America should thoroughly study the issues before they vote on the future of their association.

Endorsement of George W. Bush: NCBA’s Political Action Committee (NCBA-PAC) has worked diligently to secure voluntary contributions from ranchers for the purpose of providing financial support to candidates of both parties. NCBA members agreed that George W. Bush’s policies have been in line with NCBA policy, and he has been a supporter of the American cattle producer. Therefore, a unanimous vote directed NCBA-PAC to financially support and endorse George W. Bush as the next President of the United States

Japanese trade: Since the single case of BSE was found in the United States, NCBA has continued to request that Japan re-open its borders to U.S. beef. It was officially directed that NCBA work toward normalization of trade with Japan based on sound science and harmonization of regulations between both countries.

Normalization of trade relationships: NCBA supports free and fair trade, and it is unlikely that major importing nations will reopen their borders to the importation of beef and beef products from the United States until trade issues are resolved between the United States and Canada. NCBA believes that this trade issue should be resolved using sound science, and there are significant economic advantages to U.S. beef producers by having fair and equal access to foreign markets. It was recommended that NCBA urge U.S. officials to diligently work toward the normalization of the trading relationship between the United States and Canada regarding the trade of live cattle and all beef and beef by-products.

Human nutrition research: Human nutrition research serves as the foundation for industry-wide nutrition programs, messages and efforts. Therefore, it was recommended that the impact of budgetary constraints on funding of research be minimized.

Canadian veal subsidy programs: NCBA supports fair and equitable trade within North America and the elimination of unfair farm subsidies in competing countries. Canadian programs were developed to protect and preserve the production profit margins of livestock producers and other commodities in Canada. These trade practices continue to have a deleterious effect on U.S. markets. Therefore, is was recommended that NCBA support the elimination of the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program and the Programme D’Assurance Stabilisation Des Revenus Agricoles (ASRA) and establish appropriate remedies that allow producers to compete on a level playing field.

Editor’s Note: This news release was provided by NCBA. For more information regarding the summer cattlemen’s convention, visit www.beefusa.org or http://hill.beef.org.

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