Protecting producers: NCBA provides update from summer meeting, encourages producers to push back
During the last day of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Summer Business Meeting, held July 24-26 in San Diego, NCBA President and South Dakota Cattleman Todd Wilkinson provided an update on meeting highlights during an episode of the association’s podcast, Beltway Beef.
While chatting with Podcast Host Hunter Ihrman, Wilkinson voiced concern for numerous controversial issues plaguing the cattle industry and rallied producers to push back against seemingly endless government regulations thrown in the face of agriculture.
Transparent labeling remains a priority
Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent approval of cell-cultured chicken sales in public grocery stores, NCBA has again made transparent labeling a top priority.
In fact, on July 26 members passed a directive to continue the association’s advocacy efforts on clear and concise labeling and inspections of cell-cultured protein products.
“One of the biggest attacks our industry has recently come under is a cell-based chicken product gaining recognition from USDA,” Wilkinson said.
Although U.S. cattle producers aren’t afraid of a little competition, Wilkinson expressed his greatest concern is the fact fake protein is sponsored by billionaires who want to “take cattle off of the ground,” and that it is often mislabeled.
“Our priority is ensuring consumers accurately know the difference between real beef and cell-cultured products through transparent and accurate labeling. We have already been successful at engaging USDA to conduct robust inspections and oversight to protect food safety,” Wilkinson stated.
“But again, we want this product labeled correctly,” he added. “If it is in the refrigerator in the grocery store next to the rest of the meat and it is labeled ‘slaughter free,’ it isn’t truly depicting the product. When this stuff is on grocery store shelves, it has to be correctly identified.”
Animal activist battle persists
Designed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act has also become a hot button topic for the cattle industry.
Introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to “reform and refine the Beef Checkoff program,” NCBA believes the bill was actually created as “nothing more than another attempt to allow activists to dictate producers.”
“It’s ironic to me there are cattle organizations actually in support of the OFF Act because it is the very organizations who want to put us out of business who are funneling the money and moving it through the legislative tract,” Wilkinson said.
“Follow the money, folks. Look at where it goes. Look at who is trying to put us out of business and then decide if you want an act that does away with all checkoffs,” he continued.
Work on disease traceability continues
In the midst of battling a myriad of anti-beef organizations, NCBA is also continuing work with animal disease traceability. And, while this too is a controversial topic among producers, Wilkinson hopes they can view it in a more positive light.
He encouraged producers to think of electronic identification (EID) as an insurance policy, rather than a mark of shame.
For instance, he explained in the case of a foot and mouth disease outbreak, which is estimated to cause a nationwide shutdown and cost the U.S. $128 billion, producers who use EIDs can be identified as uninfected and go back to regularly marketing their cattle.
“The ability to track animals and work information back between various state veterinarians and administration offices is critical,” he stated. “With nearly everything else, we can push a button and have information in front of us instantaneously. We need our information to be the same.”
Producer pushback encouraged
When asked what other key issues NCBA will be paying close attention to for the rest of the year, Wilkinson noted they will simply be keeping an eye on the regulatory onslaught.
“I knew this was going to be bad, but I never thought it was going to be this bad,” he stated, recalling several recent examples of government overregulation including the Environmental Protection Agency trying to impose power over the Supreme Court on the definition of Waters of the U.S. or the Bureau of Land Management attempting to redefine grazing legislation that has existed for years.
“It appears, if we follow all of the tentacles of various regulatory agencies back up to the center, we find the administration who has a desire to control our way of life,” he stated. “And, this isn’t just an isolated item. They are taking us apart piece by piece and trying to take our freedoms away.”
With this said, Wilkinson encouraged producers to fight back.
“If it isn’t clear to producers who is out there fighting for them, trying to protect them and attempting to stop government mandates, I want them to know NCBA believes in a free market and free competition – not government intervention or overregulation,” he said.
“And, individuals who believe in those same principles and who truly believe farmers and ranchers are the best stewards in the world need to jump on the NCBA bandwagon to help us fight the fight,” he concluded.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.