The National Cattlemen's Beef Association welcomes you to "Beltway Beef." Initiated in 1898, NCBA is the oldest and largest national marketing organization and trade association dedicated solely to U.S. cattlemen and women. With offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver, NCBA is a producer driven organization representing the largest segment of the nation's food and fiber industry. "Beltway Beef" was created to serve as a sounding board for the U.S. beef industry. Decisions are made in Washington, D.C., directly impacting the cattle business. Our goal is to get the word out and we need your help. We encourage you to comment on the postings, ask questions and share with your friends. Posts on "Beltway Beef" are produced by NCBA staff and invited guests. Feel free to contact the bloggers at cadams@beef.org or snewsome@beef.org.

December 5, 2014

Don’t Politicize Producer’s Checkoff


By NCBA President Bob McCan

Over my past year as President of the NCBA, I have had a rare opportunity to look at all sides of the beef industry. And I have come to realize, that much like our country, the cattle industry has individuals and organizations that differ on their views of government involvement. By and large, the members of the NCBA, the members who I have represented this year, want less government involvement. They don’t want the government to pick winners and losers. They don’t want the government to tell them how to market their cattle, they don’t want the government to market their beef, and they sure don’t want the government to run their research, education and promotion. The government is distant and ineffective when it comes to doing the work of private industry.

But there are also those who do want the government to do all these things and more. They aren’t all of one mind, but they sometimes feel at a disadvantage, they are a minority and the easiest way to tip the scales toward the minority, is if the government steps in and throws off the balance. This is nothing new; the government has been picking winners and losers since the very beginning. One of the very first cases ever to come before the Supreme Court was McCulloch v. Maryland, where the fourth Supreme Court Chief Justice, Justice Marshall wrote that “the power to tax was the power to destroy.”
The government power to tax, regulate and legislate is unparalleled in our economy. And now there are some that are looking to that authority to again tip the scales in their favor to fix what they perceive as an inequity. Their policy positions have fallen out of favor with the majority, they have been dealt one loss after another, and they cling to a system of production that no longer exists or is no longer practical. And like a wounded snake, they lash out at everything that moves, in the hopes they can latch on to something with their remaining venom. The problem is, that never solves the issue, it only hurts the industry.
The National Farmers Union and other groups oppose NCBA’s member passed policy. That is fine; there is always room for dissent in organized debate and our government system works on adversarial positions, where in the end the right outcome is found. But to bring your losses from the adversarial arena of policy and politics to the public arena of education is foul. Just because you lose, doesn’t mean the system is flawed, sometimes you’re just wrong.
Cattlemen and women nationwide, benefit from a Beef Checkoff that is non-partisan and non-political. A Beef Checkoff that is administered by boards of producers at the national and state levels and overseen by the USDA. A Beef Checkoff where national organizations that meet the most basic of requirements have a chance to submit their proposals for national funding.
So next time you hear someone throw stones, ask them if they have submitted a contract, if they have had an opportunity to submit a name for the Beef Board, if they have sat in on these meetings and given input.

The National Farmers Union was an active participant in meetings of several national organizations working to enhance the Beef Checkoff Program and when the groups had agreed on a concept to discuss with their respective boards on enhancing the Beef Checkoff, National Farmers Union pulled out. That doesn’t sound to me like they ever intended to reach a compromise. Fact is, the rhetoric from the National Farmers Union has been so inconsistent on this issue it’s impossible to determine what they want. One thing is clear; they want to get rid of the current Beef Checkoff that is supported by 78 percent of beef producers, because they mistakenly think it will humiliate the NCBA. You can disagree with our positions, you can deny our success, or you can join and craft policy engage in debate, but do not use a program that benefits everyone in the cattle industry as a political battering ram for your personal or professional gain.

November 6, 2014

The Dust is Settling


By NCBA President Bob McCan
With the elections on Tuesday now largely behind us, it looks like the landscape for cattlemen and women may have shifted in our favor. With both expected and unexpected victories and a few still up in air, one thing is apparent: your contributions to the NCBA PAC helped to shape this election and will keep our priorities in front of the new Congress. Building on the success of past cycles, the NCBA PAC set an ambitious goal of raising $1.25 million dollars this election cycle. And with nearly two months left in this cycle, we are very close to topping the $1 million mark. That is a major milestone and I would encourage you to make an NCBA PAC contribution yet this year.

Unchanged by the outcome of the elections, there is still work we need Congress to do in the current lame duck session. We know many in Congress see the need to clear the backlog and allow the 114th Congress to start with a clean slate. Specifically, we need this Congress to address key tax issues, including extending Section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation, with enough time left to allow producers to adequately plan for the tax year and make needed investments. We need Congress to grant the President Trade Promotion Authority, sending our trade partners a clear signal that we are serious about these agreements and we will act quickly to seize opportunities. We also need this Congress to send a clear signal to the USDA and the Administration, that producers do not want greater government involvement in their Beef Checkoff.

When the 114th Congress is seated in January, we expect for the first time in a number of years, they will be able to take up a number of legislative priorities that will help not only our industry, but business and commerce nationwide. Specifically, we are looking to the Hill to give much needed direction to the EPA on their misguided “waters of the United States” rule. We expect trade to remain top of mind, with hope that many pending trade agreements will see resolution. Congress has taken tax provisions piecemeal, addressing expiring provisions and kicking larger issues down the road. But long term stability and a pro-business tax code is desperately needed to address current issues and spur real economic growth. We all know how important sound and viable interstate transportation and international hubs are to our ability to bring cattle and beef to market and sustain our ever increasing export markets. We need Congress to address outdated transportation laws and put in place rules that encourage safe and efficient transportation.

We look forward to working with this Congress to address key issues before the end of the year and we look forward to working with the next Congress, educating new members on the cattle industry and tackling legislatives issues that will encourage growth and innovation.

October 31, 2014

WTO Hands Down Latest COOL Decision: US Law in Violation

The title pretty much says it all, and for all intents it comes as no surprise. On Monday, the WTO publically released their awaited opinion from the dispute settlement body on the US Country of Origin Labeling rule. The rule, placed into effect in 2008 requiring all beef be labeled as to its origin, was found not to be compliant with our international trade obligations, first in 2011. It was amended in May 2013 by the USDA to include born, raised and slaughtered information. The intent according to USDA, was to bring this rule into compliance. The WTO, however, ruled that, “because it necessitates increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin; entails a higher record-keeping burden; and increases the original COOL measure’s incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock” it “accords to Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorable treatment than accorded to like US livestock.”

Essentially, the amended COOL rule discriminates against Mexican and Canadian livestock, just as the initial COOL rule did, and just as any COOL rule inevitably will. And that is why COOL is a failed legislative experiment. There is no fix USDA, or any regulator, can put in place that will satisfy our international trade obligations. And that brings the US economy closer to retaliatory action through sanctioned tariffs and non-sanctioned self-help style trade disruptions.

Canada and Mexico combined account for over $2 billion in US beef exports annually, or one-third of all US beef exports. But that is only one part of the picture. The total US exports to Canada and Mexico amount to $597 billion annually. These are our largest trading partners, not just for beef, but for the entire US economy. There is no possible reason to upset this relationship. We can all rally around the importance of buying American and supporting our domestic economy, but US cattle ranchers benefit from this trade, adding around $350 in value to each head of cattle by the time of processing. This is value that is added here in the US and then realized throughout the chain.

Many argue that COOL satisfies consumer’s desire/intention/right to know. Yet, COOL has been the law of the land for nearly six years and we have not seen demand for US beef increase, or premiums to US beef producers increase. The Kansas State University Study demonstrated that demand has not been impacted, consumers are unaware of origin labeling and do not look for it, and that they do not value it any more than other labeling. The conclusion: consumers shop for beef based on price and appearance. Regulations and industry investment assure them beef is safe; and grading standards, appearance and preparation round out the equation for a first rate eating experience.

So how can the US beef industry have it all, can we have labeling for those who want it and still fulfill our international trade obligations, preserving our markets and serving all consumers who just want high quality beef? Absolutely, there are existing certified programs, in place, sanctioned by the USDA that do just that. For consumers willing to pay, or seeking a specific product, there are programs that certify origin, guarantee tenderness and mandate certain production practices. These programs are voluntary, they market to consumers who want a certain trait (or market to create that demand) and pay premiums to producers who are willing to comply. These programs are run by the private sector, regulated by the USDA. They invest in resources and market information, because they have an incentive to do so, the drive to be profitable.

As an industry, we can continue to throw resources, talent and time at a program that is a failure, or we can move forward and focus our resources in areas that benefit our producers and expand our opportunities.  

October 15, 2014

Beltway Beef Commentary: Philip Ellis Discusses the Beef Checkoff

NCBA President-Elect and Chugwater, Wyoming cattleman, Philip Ellis discusses the letter 45 state affiliates sent to Secretary Vilsack and how producers can get involved to preserve their Beef Checkoff

October 13, 2014

NCBA and Veterinary Groups ask for Comment Period Extension for Argentina Proposal

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and the Academy of Veterinary Consultants joined together in requesting an extension of 120 days to the comment period for the USDA APHIS proposed rule allowing the export of fresh beef (chilled or frozen) from northern Argentina to the United States.
 
Collectively, these groups, representing cattlemen/women and veterinarians, share a strong dedication to ensuring and maintaining the health and well-being of the cattle under their care as well as the safety of the beef produced in the United States.

Overwhelming scientific evidence, including over a hundred years of real world experience, shows that Foot-and-Mouth Disease is a highly contagious and economically devastating animal disease. Northern Argentina is a region that is not recognized as being free of FMD by USDA APHIS as FMD vaccination is currently practiced in this area.

With over 68 documents, some documents in Spanish and requiring English translation, posted to the docket for review, the requested extension period of 120 days is necessary in order to complete a comprehensive review of these materials as well as any additional background information  from supporting agencies.

In light of recent questions from Congress to the Government Accountability Office regarding the transparency and management controls for the APHIS site review visits used as the basis for verifying information for the APHIS risk analysis process, NCBA feels even more compelled to carefully review and request all pertinent documentation associated with this proposed rule.