Positive outlook, WSGA, NCBA emphasize good news in beef industry
Casper – “As we look forward, we have to be thankful that we live here and the majority of us have received moisture,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) President Jim Wilson. “And I don’t think anyone can complain about the cattle market or the prices we have received.”
“We are pretty fortunate,” he added.
Wilson addressed the opening general session of the 2013 WSGA Winter Roundup, held Dec. 2-4 in Casper.
With the good news in the industry, Wilson noted that young people have increasing opportunities available.
“In Wyoming, we need to be proud that we have produced and raised a product cherished by every feeder in America,” Wilson said. “Not every state can say that about their product.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Region Five Vice President for Policy Tom Hougen mentioned, “As I travelled around this year, I can see that in the northwest corner of the U.S., all the issues are very similar.”
Hougen marked water as an issue that comes forward across the country, with endangered species as a close second.
“Every meeting it comes up,” he said. “I don’t care if we are talking about sage grouse, which is the big issue right now, or other species.”
Along with endangered species or candidates for listing, such as prairie dogs, grizzly bears, various fish or small creatures like snails, Hougen added, “Activists always come up with something that will affect U.S. ranchers.”
Elk, he noted, also provide problems across the U.S.
“A number of states are dealing with elk,” he commented. “Some of the problems have been brought on ourselves or by landowners who are coming in and buying ranches.”
Those landowners desire elk on their property without the realization that the animals make a major impact on their neighbors.
Other issues triggered by wildlife include disease problems such as brucellosis.
Grazing and land issues also create problems for U.S. ranchers.
“The other problem that keeps coming up is grazing permits,” Hougen said. “Whether we are talking about BLM or Forest Service, it is an endless issue, and we have to continue to fight regulations brought on by environmental groups.”
On lands across the West, wildfires also provide a continual threat.
“Most of the problems I see in with fire are government related and government driven,” he continued. “We will have these wildfires as long as we don’t do timber harvest.”
At the same time that an increasing number of challenges prevail across the U.S., Hougen noted that NCBA is working hard in Washington, D.C. to create solutions.
“We have been trying to get a Farm Bill passed,” he said. “We have been told that in December, the Senate and House will only be together five days, and the Farm Bill needs to get passed.”
While he also noted that many ranchers do not use farm bill provisions often, their necessity becomes painstakingly apparent when they aren’t available.
“For ranchers in South Dakota right now, we can see how vital the Farm Bill is,” said Hougen. “We need disaster assistance.”
The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is important to ranchers as well, and research funding is also necessary.
“We need this funding if we are going to keep moving forward,” he added.
Other legislation and programs
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation also create burdens on agriculture.
“EPA’s impact is endless,” Hougen continued. “Right now, they are trying to take the word navigable out of the Clean Water Act.”
The result would affect every rancher.
“Pretty soon, the result could mean that government officials would try to tell us how to do what we do best,” he continued. “We are working with our friends in Congress to stop that.”
The Department of Transportation’s rule requiring rest periods for cattle also creates challenges in shipping.
“Trade is also an important part of what NCBA does,” Hougen said. “We are working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership now.”
The trade agreement would provide access to the Pacific Rim countries, but currently beef is not included in the agreement.
“Access to Japan and China is important,” he noted.
Moving forward, Hougen said that 2014 elections will be even more important.
“We have to get people in Washington, D.C. that support us,” he said. “We need to make sure the people there are helping agriculture.”