Beef industry sees progress in priorities in 2018
Casper – As the U.S. beef industry looks back on the past year, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Kevin Kester told members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) that a lot of positive progress has been made.
“There is a lot going on, but it’s almost all good,” Kester said during the 2018 WSGA Winter Roundup Convention and Trade Show.
Kester, whose family ranches along the central coast of California about halfway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles and about 40 miles from the coast, emphasized the importance of relationships and working together to accomplish the goals of the industry as a whole.
“The state-national partnership is truly, truly important,” he said. “Without our partnerships between the state and national levels, we would not be effective in Washington, D.C.”
“The same is true for states,” Kester added. “States would have a harder time if they didn’t have the partnership with the national organization.”
In looking back at 2018, Kester said NCBA “hit the nail on the head” in assessing the association’s top five priorities for the year.
While the 2018 Farm Bill was making good progress, the passing of President George H.W. Bush has slowed movement in Washington, D.C.
“The text of the farm bill was agreed upon during the week of Nov. 26,” Kester explained. “The text had to be sent to the Congressional Budget Office to be ‘scored,’ which will determine how much it will cost. Right now, they are coming up with that number to make sure costs are in line with what the assumptions are.”
Kester said NCBA hopes budget numbers will be in early the week of Dec. 10 and leadership can confer moving forward.
“So far, leadership in the House and Senate has been successful in not releasing details,” he commented. “At this point, we think the Senate version will over-ride the House’s version.”
As a major priority for the U.S. cattle industry, Kester described a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank.
“Right now, the bank is woefully undersupplied,” he said. “We don’t have all 23 strains or nearly enough amounts to cover an outbreak when we get a FMD outbreak.”
Kester continued, “We asked to cover all 23 strains and enough vaccine to meaningful cover an outbreak in the U.S. We have approval of that in the farm bill. This is a start, but we’ll see what the actual financial numbers are.”
Under the conservation title, programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are widely used in the agriculture community. Kester and NCBA believe EQIP will remain intact, as will the Conservation Security Program (CSP).
“The farm bill will be signed and voted on soon,” he said. “When it goes back before the House and Senate, there are no amendment allowed. They will vote yes or no, and then it will go to the President to be signed. I think that will be done before Christmas.”
Electronic loggings devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are important to producers across the country.
“Implementation of ELD would have been a disaster for the agriculture industry,” Kester said. “We had a delay that ended Dec. 7, but if we get a continuing resolution and extension of government funding in Congress, the extension is included.”
“When Congress adopts the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which we are in right now, we will have an extension of ELD requirements for livestock haulers through the end of this fiscal year, which is Sept. 30,” he continued. “That’s the good news.”
However, Kester said livestock organizations are still working with government officials to find a common sense, workable solution for HOS for livestock haulers.
Efforts have been made to insert language for ELDs and HOS in multiple pieces of legislation.
“This administration, under President Trump, compared to the prior administration is looking for solutions with us instead of fighting us,” Kester commented. “But, the mindset of a lot of career Department of Transportation employees is of 18-wheelers overturned and killing people. We have to keep that in mind.”
NCBA and other industry groups are asking for 15 hours regulations which would start 150 air-miles from the start of service, which provides several extra driving hours.
He commented, “We’re going to keep working to come up with a common-sense solution and get the maximum safe solution to the HOS regulations.”
“When I’m traveling across the country, producers want to know about ELDs and HOS regulations, but they also want to know about fake meat,” Kester said.
Two classifications for fake meat exist – existing, protein-based meat imitation products including Beyond Burger and cell-based, lab-based products. Currently, imitation products are available on the market, while lab-based products are in development at labs across the U.S.
“These products are big deal into the future,” Kester said.
Many agriculture organizations advocated for oversight of fake meat products to be housed in USDA, but a recent agreement has allowed for the products to be co-regulated by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA will be responsible for research and development, as well as nutrition labels, while USDA will oversee marketing claims and inspections.
“When we look at the milk industry, they lost control with soy milk and almond milk,” he said. “There are rules on what FDA can enforce. USDA enforces those regulations. USDA also has requirements that marketing claims must be approved prior to going to market.”
“We are working hard to make sure USDA retains its authority,” Kester commented. “We believe these cell-based products will be on the shelves in the next couple years.”
Finally, regulatory issues including the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and more continue to provide an obstacle for the industry.
“Many people believe WOTUS is behind us, but it’s not,” Kester said. “There are 22 states are under the Obama administration’s definition of WOTUS.”
The Trump administration has worked to define WOTUS within the bounds of the Clean Water Act.
“The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Trump administration, has reached out and included our advice as far as the definition,” Kester said. “We’re looking forward to an announcement on Dec. 11 from the White House. Pay attention to that announcement because I think cattle producers might like it.”
Across a broader regulatory spectrum, Kester said the Trump administration has also removed 22 regulations with every new regulation that has been created over the last two years.
Kester commented, “That’s a good thing for us, generally speaking.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.