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Trade and science: NCBA shares U.S. beef trade and climate issues intertwined

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

With a new administration comes new trade and climate change policy and the policy will greatly impact the cattle industry in the United States.  

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA), in a Beltway Beef podcast dated May 21, shares how science impacts trade and climate within the beef industry and how producers can advocate to improve these issues.  

Trade and climate 

When most people think about trade, they are focused on tariff and nontariff issues. However, NCBA Senior Director of International Trade and Market Access Kent Bacus is more focused on the producers. 

“In previous administrations – the Trump administration and Obama administration – trade was really a focus to try to expand export opportunities and to bring more value back to American producers,” Bacus shares. “This current administration is continuing in this same step, but with a slightly different focus – trade in addition to climate and other things.” 

Bacus shares trade policy tends to include more than just trade. The new administration’s agenda focuses more on human rights, labor and climate, and the incorporation of climate allows beef producers to be more involved.  

“This is creating some opportunities for us to engage and really tell a story about our industry, about our producers and put a face on the product we produce.” 

Bacus hopes as producers become more involved and share their story, the image of factory farms is broken and a positive light is shone on the industry. 

“I think we are going to have a lot of opportunities over the next couple of years to incorporate a positive story, in addition to advancing our trade policies,” Bacus explains. 

Climate change has also been a heavily discussed topic within the Biden administration, and it is to no surprise today’s trade market is focused around this matter. However, climate has been talked about for over a decade in agriculture.  

“I think the international story about livestock production is that it contributes anywhere from 14 to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is not the case in the United States, and this, I would say, is wholly attributed to the work of our producers,” shares NCBA Environmental Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart, crediting the advancements to improvements in genetics, utilization of technology and improved grazing management. “This means direct emissions from cattle in the United States only account for two percent of our country’s overall gas emissions.” 

This statistic can all be attributed to cattle producers implementing efficient practices which can be tracked. Hart describes these practices as a blueprint. Cattle producers have found what works and showed how it benefits the country. 

“It adds a significant value to our beef product when we can sell it as a sustainable product globally.” 

Science-based trade 

When trade and climate come together, science is the key to success. 

“One of the fundamentals the United States has always had is we want market based, rules-based and science-based trade, and as these climate discussions are coming forward, its just as import now to incorporate science in setting all of those standards,” says Bacus. 

The United States and NCBA have faced tariff trouble in the past, which has hindered the cattle industry from capitalizing on foreign trade. Cattle producers and the government have had to work together to put in place protectional measures to trade with European and Asian countries.  

Bacus predicts, “Moving forward we are really going to have to do a good job of telling the story and laying out all of those science-based arguments.” 

Bacus and Hart both agree science should continue to be a foundation in the trade discussion.  

“It is important to emphasize the point of science being the foundation for these decisions and for the United States. Giving the cattle industry a voice in telling the story in sound science and true benefits the cattle industry and cattle producers have to the environment,” Hart mentions. 

Sharing the story 

For trade to continue to be successful, cattle producers need to continue to advocate for the industry. When cattle producers share their story, it helps consumers appreciate the product. 

“What producers have and the story they can tell is so much more valuable than me telling their story,” shares Hart. 

Not all consumers understand the daily practices of cattle producers. When producers share about their morning chores or conservation practices, it draws the consumers to the industry. 

Bacus explains, “There is a growing disconnect from people knowing how their food is raised and how their food is produced, and this always creates an opportunity for us.”  

For producers, it is easy to advocate for the industry by sharing the importance to family, community and country. By being involved, there is a chance to share the story. 

Ashley McDonald, host of the Beltway Beef podcast, concludes, “The cattle industry and cattle producers are addressing 21st century problems and it is important their story is shared and the cattle industry has a seat at the table in these conversations.” 

Savannah Peterson is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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