Cattle producers continue to fight for nutrition and industry policies
Washington, D.C. – With a never-ending onslaught of new rules and policies coming out of Washington, D.C., the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Colin Woodall spent the week of Oct. 3 making sure beef has a place at the table in everything from nutrition and market regulation to water and government overreach.
NCBA was invited to attend the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in over 50 years. When the first similar conference was held, the result was the first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“As our members understand, every five years since, it has been a fight to keep beef in the center of the plate,” he said. “We went into the conference with a healthy dose of skepticism with what we were going to hear.”
Woodall noted the conference yielded some mixed messages, including opportunities.
“They talked about the need for nutritious foods,” he commented. “We know beef fits this mantra, plain and simple. Nutrient dense? Healthy? We can cover all of those boxes.”
He continued, “The nutrient density of beef is hard to beat. In order to get the same amount of protein as a serving of beef, we’d have to eat six cups of quinoa.”
The conference also cited the need for evidence-based science to drive decision making, which is a good sign.
However, the event didn’t go without conversations about moving to plant-based systems, including fake meat.
“We need to really lean on what the White House has been talking about in terms of evidence-based science in order for us to maintain our position in the dietary guidelines,” Woodall said. “If they will stick to evidence-based science, then we know we will have all of the data and material to support beef as an optimal and lean diet. That’s what we’ll continue to fight for.”
A new Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule has also been released.
“Most people will remember the old GIPSA,” Woodall said. “GIPSA no longer exists, but we spent many, many years fighting the rule. This is once again U.S. Department of Agriculture’s attempt to come in and tell cattle producers how they can and cannot market cattle.”
Woodall noted the most concerning aspects of the new rule is how broad it’s in scope, while also being vague and lacking detail.
“Anytime we have anything from a federal agency that is so broad in scope and light in details, we have to get worried,” he said, noting the bigger discussion stems around the appropriate role of the government in cattle markets. “We want the government to stay out of cattle markets.”
“At the same time, when it comes to the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act) as it is today, we think it does a good job,” Woodall explained. “It just needs to be fully enforced. Instead of trying to add more layers, let’s enforce what we have.”
Same issues, new year
Another returning issue is the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, and the Supreme Court will begin hearing a landmark case on the topic Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the beginning of October.
“We’re definitely looking for a win on the Sackett side, which would really start to poke even more holes in this concept of WOTUS as it was envisioned by the Obama administration,” Woodall said.
NCBA has remained engaged in the case, including by filing Friend of the Court documents.
“Here we are, after all the work we did to fight back against the 2015 rule, the Biden administration is coming out and trying, once again, to bring WOTUS back,” he continued. “If we can get a win on this, it will help us to set a really healthy precedent to push back against the Biden administration’s effort and hopefully any future attempts by the administration to define WOTUS.”
Greenhouse gas rules
Another federal agency with potential impact is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and their climate disclosure rule, which would require disclosure of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“This is an issue because this is ‘mission creep,’” Woodall explained. “The P&S Act is supposed to regulate the market, and they have that role. EPA is supposed to be regulating waters. The SEC is not supposed to be regulating GHG.”
“Their role is to regulate those publicly traded companies and the financial transactions between them. It’s not meant to regulate GHG,” he continued. “They don’t have the jurisdiction, and they don’t have the expertise.”
Woodall described the action as agenda-driven action by the agencies to force GHG regulations on all segments of the supply chain. He further described, if one particular segment of the rule is allowed to go forward, all GHG emissions from cattle producers are going to have to be passed up the chain as cattle are sold.
“SEC needs to focus on Wall Street, not on Main Street. Their jurisdiction and area of expertise is on financial markets. It’s not on GHG,” Woodall said. “We have quite a few members on Capitol Hill who are willing to step up and help us fight back on this one.”
Wins and fall focus
The year hasn’t gone without some bright spots.
“Washington, D.C. is an interesting town where sometimes ‘winning’ means keeping things from happening,” Woodall said. “Year, 2022 happens to be one of those years where ‘winning’ is keeping bad ideas from happening.”
Actions like fighting back against the SEC rule, combatting legislation which would insert the government into market regulations, extension of mandatory livestock reporting and more are all positive actions.
“Right now, we’re looking towards the rest of the year,” Woodall commented. “It’s a little too early to start claiming victory yet.”
As Congress heads home to finish off election season, there will be more to fight for after the election.
“While we’ve been happy with the things we’ve kept at bay, the fight is not over,” Woodall emphasized. “NCBA is in Washington, D.C. for our members, for cattle producers and for the member-driven policy directing our organization.”
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.