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.

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.

October 10, 2014

NCBA’s Kristina Butts Recognized by Drovers 40 Under 40

It doesn’t take long to recognize that the cattle industry is unique among not only agriculture, but American small businesses. A visit to NCBA’s Washington, D.C. office makes that clear very quickly. Our producer members are dynamic, strong willed and independent much like the animals they raise and the lands they are proud to steward. The people that have the privilege to work on their behalf in one of the most metropolitan cities in the world, come from the same roots, sharing their dedication to family and country. That is certainly true of NCBA’s executive director of legislative affairs, Kristina Butts.

 Kristina is an impassioned advocate for the cattle industry, because she grew up in it, and understands the challenges of cattle producers across the nation. From her background in Texas, she has worked both on and off the Hill on issues that affect all segments of our industry and all climates, terrains and production practices that make up our varied operations. Kristina has been extremely innovative in her approach to connect Capitol Hill with an understanding of the day to day work cattlemen and women. Many of these Congressional and Agency members and staff are as unfamiliar with what the producer, feeder, or packer does as those outside D.C. are with the legislative process.

Kristina is able to bridge that gap, with innovative programs like her “Beef 101” seminars and staff colleges that bring cow/calf producers, feeders, veterinarians, animal scientists, and other beef industry professions to Washington to talk about complex issues like antibiotics, drought, animal welfare and handling, and stewardship.

 Kristina has a broad range of policy victories to her name and she has been instrumental in NCBA’s policy work on issues as encompassing as the Farm Bill, which took over three years, to daily regulatory matters that often go unnoticed outside the Beltway. She works diligently with everyone she comes in contact with, regardless of their background knowledge level to ensure the priorities of our producers are top of mind.

She does all this while staying involved with and actively engaged with not only NCBA’s committees and members, but the American National Cattlewomen, chairing their legislative committee, and serving on the Board of Directors for the Texas Tech Alumni Association, and still finding time to volunteer for several charity groups in Washington, D.C. Those accomplishments alone would more than qualify Kristina for any honor but she is also fiercely devoted to her family. Her and her husband Randy balance their livelihood and the challenges of living in Washington, while placing a priority on the needs of raising their two daughters.

Kristina is a true leader and a standout in a city full of personalities, we are honored that her skills and dedication have been recognized by the industry, through the Drovers 40 Under 40.

 Kristina will formally be recognized at the 2015 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show’s Best of Beef Awards breakfast on February 6 in San Antonio, Texas.