Prior to the end of 2021, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association staff members hosted a call to discuss some of the wins for the year and look toward 2022.
Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for NCBA, said slower times ahead of Christmas and the New Year’s holidays allowed him to reflect back on the year and on what the group has accomplished for 2021.
“We really had to focus this year on increasing opportunities for producer profitability throughout the supply chain,” Lane said. “And what we did was really link all of those policy priorities back into that central focus in looking through opportunities and challenges facing the industry in this new administration.”
During the first year of the Biden administration, Lane and others at NCBA were pleased with some of the progress that had been made. First with the Build Back Better initiative and some of the aggressive spending plans that were advanced in January 2021. NCBA worked to educate members and consumers around the country about the “very real threat of including ‘pay fors’ in the multi trillion-dollar spending package that could negatively affect cattle producers around the country.”
NCBA worked to focus on items in those initiatives like the stepped up basis in transitioning ag operations from one generation to the next, accelerating the death tax limit or dramatically increasing tools like capital gains taxes into the 40% range.
“All could have had a disastrous impact for cattle producers,” Lane said. “Just at a time when as an industry we’re transitioning or expecting to transition about 40% of our operations to the next generation within the next 15 years.”
This effort culminated in one of the largest grassroots campaigns the beef industry has ever launched.
“I’m really proud of the work that NCBA did leading that charge in Washington D.C., not just for the cattle industry, not just for agriculture, but truly for small business owners throughout the economy,” Lane said.
That’s a message NCBA believes has resonated back and Lane believes those on Capitol Hill have heard the concerns.
“They’ve heard our producers and they’ve managed to craft bills, whether they survive or not on their own, that don’t include onerous ‘pay fors’ in rural America and the cattle industry in particular,” he said. “We’re proud of the effort that was undertaken, the hundreds of groups that stood with the cattle industry that stood with NCBA and pushing back on those on those proposals and we’re going to have to continue that focus moving into 2022.”
Another area of focus for 2021 was on sustainability and climate, Lane said. NCBA released its sustainability goals and showed how beef production can be climate neutral as an industry by 2040.
And looking at the whole conversation on climate and sustainability in Washington, Lane is extremely pleased at the dramatic the difference in how grazing and cattle production is being viewed in the capital compared to 10 years ago.
“Whereas in the past, we’ve always been thought of as a threat or an impact,” Lane said. “We’re now being embraced as a climate solution, which is rightful and really the right place for this industry, given the good work that we put on the ground—the conservation benefit that we provide.”
The retail sector was another focus for NCBA in 2021, especially after the pandemic-related events of 2020 and the Holcomb, Kansas, plant fire in 2019. There was finally some slack being taken out of the supply chain during the fall of 2021. They’ve continued a robust dialogue with the Biden administration on matters like packing capacity.
“We’re continuing to reiterate that message to the administration that we need to diversify, regionalize that packing capacity,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re looking for opportunities to create new packing capacity in areas that are underserved.”
Lane hopes the new packing capacity allows producers to have more opportunity to generate greater values for their product.
“(And get) more of that beef dollar back on the ranch rather than further down the supply chain,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of demand right now both nationally and around the world.”
NCBA is also continuing to focus on things like price discovery. Many producers are doing the legwork themselves to find ways to market more of their cattle on negotiated means.
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“It’s part of this effort to make sure we have the price discovery we need in this marketplace,” he said. “We know that’s not sustainable long term. And we’re going to need to find some options to make sure that producers first of all have the ability to choose the best marketing method for their cattle rather than a government mandate telling them how to market their cattle.”
Cattle producers need to be able to pick the best option for them, and for Lane that means making sure there’s a healthy, robust price discovery going on.
Plus trade trade in 2021 was dramatic for U.S. beef as exports exceeding $10 billion in foreign markets.
“The growth that we’ve seen in those markets has been absolutely unbelievable over the last couple of years,” he said. “If we had held this call two or three years ago, China would not even have been a discussion point—that’s now a billion-dollar market for U.S. beef and continuing to grow.”
Most recently, NCBA leaders have been in ongoing conversations with U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding funds set aside in various programs. They hope their suggestions on how to best spend the money takes into account drought conditions in many parts of the country as wells wildfires and severe weather events. Allison Rivera, executive director of government affairs at NCBA said a few weeks go NCBA requested USDA to include feeding flexibilities within the ELAP or Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish program.
As far as transportation goes, there were some wins in 2021, according to Rivera.
“Not only getting a transportation hard infrastructure bill done, which I think was a feat in itself,” she said. “Passing a package that large has been a multi-year effort.”
Getting flexibility in the hours of service into law was a big win for the cattle industry
“And now we have to work on making sure it gets implemented,” she said. “Right now we’re obviously sitting under an hours of service exemption due to the emergency declaration. It was just extended until Feb. 28, 2022.”
For more information about NCBA and it’s policies and work visit www.beef.org.
Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].