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Cattlemen Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

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Cattlemen Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue sat down with NCBA President Jennifer Houston at the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention. Photo credit AgWired

Over 9,000 cattlemen from across the U.S. are in Texas this week for the Cattle Industry convention. Last year was a tough year for the cattle industry, but there is optimism about 2020 at the gathering in San Antonio.

Floods, fires, and a host of natural disasters made 2019 a tough year for cattlemen. On top of that, trade disruptions, market uncertainty, and negative publicity about beef stemming from the popularity of plant-based meat made it a difficult year for producers. Yet, Jennifer Houston, NCBA President, says the mood at the convention is upbeat.

“There is a very optimistic mood among cattlemen, and they are optimistic 2020 will be a good year. As a result, many are gearing up with expansion plans.”

Huston says the focus on the environmental impact of livestock has given the industry a chance to tell its story.

“How sustainable we are, what a good job we do. How our cattle graze and make beef on land that, in many cases, cannot be used for anything else. Forty percent of the U.S. land is range land and is only good for livestock. It is not like you can grow soybeans or peas on this land.”

She said the criticism that the livestock industry has received has provided a chance to tell the other side of the story. She added the same thing can be said for some of the criticism being leveled against meat on the nutrition side.

Another source of cattlemen’s optimism about 2020 is progress on trade in several key markets. According to Huston, “From the EU, to Phase one China, or USMCA, all these trade deals will benefit the beef industry in the coming year.”

Regulatory victories around grazing lands and water usage will also benefit the industry in 2020.

On Wednesday, NCBA set forth its policy priorities for the new year. According to a release from the organization, NCBA’s top policy priorities include issues related to international trade, proper regulation of fake meat, and regulatory reform. Although, after a series of significant policy victories in 2019, this year’s priority list is focused on implementing and protecting those gains while further advancing progress into new territory.

For example, after helping secure bilateral trade deals with Japan, China, and the European Union, as well as the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, NCBA’s focus this year will turn to implementing those deals, while still expanding access in those markets — as well as newly changed markets like the post-Brexit United Kingdom. Likewise, after securing proper regulatory oversight of fake meat by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, NCBA will, in the coming year, work to build on that successful regulatory framework while also advancing bipartisan legislative efforts like the Real MEAT Act in the U.S. House and Senate to end deceptive labeling of plant-based fake meat.

“America’s cattle producers have made tremendous and historic progress on the policy front over the past year,” said Houston. “Now it’s time to implement and defend those gains and to keep pushing for policies that will help improve conditions for cattle producers so they can better provide the nation and the world with delicious and nutritious U.S. beef.”

This year’s priorities include an issue that was a late addition to last year’s list after Congressional introduction of the so-called Green New Deal: climate policy. NCBA plans to “Continue to push back against misguided climate policies while advancing the U.S. cattle industry’s tremendous environmental record, upholding the U.S. cattle industry as the global model for sustainable beef production.”

In the year ahead, NCBA also plans to prioritize the importance of cattle markets — specifically promoting “policy that creates markets free from unfair practices and manipulation both in the fundamental markets and the cattle futures markets.”

The association will also aggressively pursue final rules on key regulatory issues and defend victories on issues like the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)/Navigable Waters Protection Rule, 2020 Dietary Guidelines, Endangered Species Act modernization, Electronic Logging Devices, and comprehensive NEPA reform.