Regulatory issues: NCBA executive directors provide update on governmental affairs
On Feb. 6, four National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive directors met up for NCBA’s Beltway Beef podcast to discuss the hottest topics in Washington, D.C., including the latest Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) developments, an Hours of Service (HOS) update, a climate and natural resources update and NCBA’s 2021 policy priorities.
Latest CFAP developments
To begin the conversation, Danielle Beck, NCBA executive director of government affairs, explains the latest developments in CFAP aid.
“CFAP is one of the many things that has been put on pause in President Biden’s regulatory freeze pending review,” Beck notes. “Although Biden hitting pause on CFAP money doesn’t really affect cattle producers, NCBA is working with the administration to ensure when they do lift their finger from the pause button, we aren’t left out in the cold again.”
Beck notes there is $1.4 billion coming available for cattle producers who were left out of the first round of CFAP.
“It is also important to note the CFAP payments authorized in the last COVID-19 package are discretionary funding that didn’t come from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC),” says Beck. “It is also very clearly spelled out in statute that there is no way around providing those payments – the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) simply doesn’t have the authority.”
She continues, “Additionally, CCC has broad regulatory authority, but it is not in the form of a savings account to dip into. It is more like a line of credit, where we see them borrow against themselves from the Department of the Treasury, and the money has to be paid back through the appropriations process.”
Beck recognizes there is a lot of speculation around how CFAP funding will be used moving forward and the type of authority surrounding the program, but she encourages producers to be patient.
“It is too early for people to speculate, and it isn’t worth getting bent out of shape about,” she says.
Climate and natural resources
Following Beck, NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover discusses climate change and natural resources.
“Climate change has dominated a lot of time in the natural resources portfolio, and it is something we are going to hear about a lot more in the next few years,” she says, noting the Biden administration has placed a considerable emphasis on the topic. “The climate front is included in everything – every policy this administration is going to pursue.”
This said, Glover notes ranchers and farmers need not worry since they spend each and every day caring for the environment and doing what is good for the climate.
“Whether one calls it climate change, sustainability or good stewardship, livestock producers have been doing it for the last four or five generations,” Glover states.
Glover also mentions the Biden administration’s 30 by 30 plan, which aspires to conserve 30 percent of land and water in the U.S. by the year 2030.
NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane points out producers in the West are worried about grazing regulations under the 30 by 30 plan.
“Therefore, we are, and need to continue, carrying out and relying on research to amplify and demonstrate everything cattle producers are doing has to do with conservation,” replies Glover. “The sustainability and long-standing cultural heritage our producers have demonstrated and live everyday proves conservation measures don’t require acquisition, designation or change in use.”
“The message we are hoping to send out is U.S. beef production is not only important for achieving this cultural heritage, but cattle producers need to be at the table and actively engaged in the conversation for any kind of change to be made,” she says.
Next, NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera provides an HOS update.
“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is the largest committee as far as membership, and this year we have seen a large cross over between agriculture and transportation as far as new members and old members,” explains Rivera.
She continues, “I spend a lot of time reminding our friends at the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and on Capitol Hill that agriculture is a huge part of the transportation conversation. We have to be able to get our goods, particularly our livestock where they need to go.”
Rivera notes there is an HOS emergency declaration, due to COVID-19, in place until Feb. 28, which NCBA has had to continue fighting for.
“We have had a lot of Zoom calls with FMSCA to continue talking about the need for this declaration and to point to the fact we have continued to haul safely though this declaration, which has allowed the ag industry the flexibility we have been looking for over the last five years,” Rivera says.
She notes NCBA is pushing to keep this emergency declaration in place until the COVID-19 situation improves.
NCBA 2021 policy priorities
As far as NCBA’s policy priorities for the coming year, Lane explains the organization will stay very busy, but their number one priority is to create a business climate which increases opportunities for producer profitability across the board.
“Ongoing COVID-19 recovery has dominated all of our agendas in the last 12 months, and we will continue working on this,” Lane says. “Food safety, worker safety and packing capacity continue to be priorities as well.”
Beck notes the fight against fake meat will also continue through the next year.
“NCBA will continue working to ensure the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between USDA and the Food and Drug Administration on lab grown cell-cultured products are maintained through the Biden administration,” says Beck. “As they move forward with labeling practices for these products, we will work to ensure they make the right decision in appropriately differentiating them from real beef in the store.”
Additionally, Lane says NCBA will continue to be present in the ongoing battle to increase price transparency, climate sustainability and trade and market access.
“Trade and market access is always a big bipartisan issue,” states Lane. “There is a lot of work to be done – a United Kingdom deal to broker, expanding our market in Japan and gaining more access in China.”
“Regulatory work has also been a big deal for us at NCBA, and we have seen a lot of this in the past few years including a major rewrite to the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and the delisting of the grey wolf in the lower 48,” Lane adds. “Keeping some regulatory certainty is also on our policy priority list.”
Hannah Bugas is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.