OMAHA (DTN) -- Government policy and the upcoming midterm elections dominated discussions at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's summer meeting in Reno, Nevada, last week. NCBA officials emphasized their "grassroots" approach to determining what positions the group will take moving forward on key issues.
NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said in a report released by the group: "At this meeting, we have representatives from all over the country, coast to coast, and we'll debate the issues and formulate policies that are representative of the different voices we have." He added the goal is to allow NCBA's team in Washington to go to the Hill knowing the industry is unified behind one message.
CATTLE PRICE DISCOVERY AND TRANSPARENCY ACT
Tanner Beymer, NCBA senior director of government affairs, reported to meeting-goers that the Senate Ag Committee had a markup on the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act and had received a favorable voice vote. He noted Senators Robert Marshall, R-Kan.; Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.; and John Boozman, R-Ark., expressed concerns over the bill. With time so short, Beymer said it is unlikely the bill will advance this year.
"I just don't think this legislation enjoys that type of support over there," he said, noting if it doesn't pass before the 117th Congress closes out, the process would have to start all over again on Jan. 3 for the 118th Congress.
Beymer added both this bill and the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act (also passed by the House) "while they may be well intended ... would achieve the opposite and be detrimental to producers and not helpful." NCBA has opposed both bills.
The biggest barrier to producer profitability right now, Beymer stressed in NCBA reports, is high input costs.
"We've seen the costs of feed, fuel, and fertilizer absolutely skyrocket. We've seen a modest uptick in calf prices, a modest uptick in feeder prices, and that is all very helpful. But unless we can start to get these input costs under control, that's going to cut into profitability, so that's top of mind for us as we look to the new Congress," said Beymer.
AT STAKE IN THE MIDTERMS
Lane said one of the issues producers at the summer meeting were most focused on was midterm elections and what that outcome will mean looking ahead to the next farm bill.
"They want to know what that means for them in terms of issues they are facing on their operations right now, things like extreme drought and supply chain issues that have continued to drag the industry down just as we're seeing prices recover in some segments after a rough couple of years," Lane said. He noted he thinks there will be a lot of conversations around the need to update policy.
Supply chain issues were one area especially highlighted by Lane, who pointed to port and shipping container issues, rail challenges, driver shortages and trucking and transportation problems.
"Typically, there is not a lot of policy on that, so this is a great time to revisit, turn the wrench, get producer feedback and make sure we have what we need to engage on those conversations," he said.
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NCBA's Lane said the group would take a two-step approach to policy with the upcoming elections, focusing both on pre-election and post-election challenges. He stressed that often in a lame duck session where there is concern that leadership will change, some will feel this is their last chance to get something done. It becomes an "anything-goes environment" he cautioned.
Looking at the House, he said based on early polls, it seems Republicans are poised to retake the House. If they pick up 35 seats, it becomes the largest majority in 100 years.
FARM BILL PRIORITIES
NCBA President Don Schiefelbein, a Minnesota cattleman, said based on what they've heard from producers across the country, some of the association's priorities this year will focus on the following:
-- Protecting animal health through programs that guard against the spread of foreign animal diseases, as NCBA continues to advocate for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.
-- Stronger risk management programs to help protect cattle producers against weather events and price declines, along with ways to support disaster recovery and help producers get back to normal operations after adverse weather, attacks by predators or extreme conditions like drought and wildfire.
-- Voluntary conservation programs, free of government mandates.
-- Amending and renewing existing policy in the areas of cattle health, federal lands, environmental policy, trade, markets, taxes, transportation, food safety and more.
"Cattle producers have faced yet another challenging year," Schiefelbein was reported as saying. "The policies passed at this summer business meeting will help NCBA focus on resolving some of the challenges caused by extreme conditions and supply chain disruptions, ensuring the continued success of beef farmers and ranchers."
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