Sold out: NCBA convention draws record attendanceWritten by Christy Martinez
“There was a lot of optimistic talk about the current cattle markets,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, who attended the full convention. “Certainly, if there was any one thing that predominated the convention, it was a sense of optimism. Things have been good this year, and people generally anticipate another couple of good years.”
“Cattle producers in this country are in the midst of a tremendous opportunity,” says NCBA’s new President-elect Scott George, a Cody beef and dairy producer. “We’ve got really strong domestic demand, good strong exports and international demand, and a very limited supply throughout the whole world. We’ll face a couple years of extreme profitably.”
“The convention was positive, energized and had a strong aura of cooperation and teamwork. It was inspiring to see a record number of cattlemen attending and working together,” says Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann of the event.
George says exports are aided by the fact that U.S. beef is developing strong bases throughout the world, and isn’t dependant on any one nation.
“If something goes haywire with one export country, it won’t have near the devastating effect of the 2003 BSE case, because we have other countries importing our products,” says George.
“According to U.S. Meat Export Federation statistics, exports add $262 per head to every fed animal coming out of our feedyards, and those are even products we don’t use that much,” he continues, saying that another positive of exports are the trade agreement that were passed in 2011. “When they’re implemented they’ll add even more opportunity for us.”
“Many people want to eat beef, and our producers in Wyoming, where so many are cow/calf operators, have wonderful opportunities this year and next,” says George.
Balance needed in domestic demand
Addressing strong domestic demand, which is driving up retail beef prices, George says those in the beef industry need to be careful to not become too high-priced and push beef to a specialty market.
“Part of the demand building that NCBA has been a part of is developing other cuts from parts of the carcass that have normally gone into grind. They’re value cuts and lower priced items, which gives people the opportunity to purchase less expensive cuts,” he comments. “We’re excited about the work NCBA has done as a contractor to the checkoff in helping bring forward those value cuts.”
“There’s a delicate balance – we don’t want to drive the consumer away, but we do want to have a nice profit for our producers,” he adds.
NCBA turns to 2012
Looking forward in 2012, George says a priority for NCBA will be resolution of the Death Tax.
“Right now, the exemptions are $5 million per individual, and $10 million per couple, and taxed at 35 percent after that,” he explains. “At the end of this year, the tax reverts back to $1 million per individual, and taxed at 55 percent. It doesn’t take long for producers in this business to have $1 million in assets, and a tax at 55 percent will cause our operations to fold. That tax is one of our top priorities.”
George says transportation will also be a 2012 priority.
“When we transport cattle across the country, we’d like to see uniform transportation weight limits across the states so a trucker won’t have to load in one area for another state with lower weight limits,” he says. “We’d also like to see them give the truckers the opportunity to add another axle and up their weights.”
Yet another 2012 priority is the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
“Along the Pacific Rim they’re trying to create an agreement that would allow trade without tariffs,” notes George, explaining that an agreement would bring Japan’s restriction to cattle 20 months of age and younger up to 30 months of age.
“Japan loves beef tongue,” he comments. “We can sell it for $10 per pound in Japan, where it might only bring $1.50 here.”
George says NCBA will also focus on making sure the 2011 Free Trade Agreements are implemented as written.
Wyo. producers step up to serve
As the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn. came to a close, beef industry members from Wyoming had gained several key leadership positions within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the beef checkoff.
Scott George of Cody was elected as NCBA’s president-elect, and Phillip Ellis of Chugwater is now policy division vice chair. Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann was elected by her fellow state beef council executives to serve as the chairman of the Federation Advisory Council, which serves as a liaison between the state beef councils and national contractors, as well as the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
Irv Petsch and Spencer Ellis of Lovell both serve on the beef checkoff’s operating committee now. Petsch is on the 20-member committee from the Federation of State Beef Councils side, while Ellis represents the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. The committee members are split evenly between the two groups.
“They will help make the decisions about where our checkoff dollars are spent on the national level,” says George.”
Dave True remains as NCBA treasurer, which is an appointed position.
“Wyoming producers are being heard loud and strong,” adds George, noting that Petsch also heads up the Beef Steering Committee of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “Wyoming has a lot of people out there, working at the national level.”
“I think the Wyoming producers are pretty well educated on what’s going on with their industry, and they have a great desire to see it succeed,” says George. “It’s very personal to every one of us – we’re all totally dependent on the beef business, and we’re really committed to it – this is how we live or die.”