At the table: NCBA participates in national discussionsWritten by Christy Martinez
In addition to lean, finely textured beef and the nation’s fourth case of BSE, Alexander says the organization is also hard at work on the estate tax.
“By the end of this year, it will revert to a $1 million exemption, and anything above that will be taxed at 55 percent,” he says. “That is our number one priority, and our main emphasis in the halls of the legislature. We have staffers who continuously talk to all of our legislators from across the nation, to make sure we provide them the correct information and explain the effect this would have on our producers.”
“NCBA’s role is to protect the producer and make an environment where they can operate successfully, so we are constantly working on the Hill to watch for these things that have a detrimental effect on us,” he continues.
Alexander says NCBA also works with its state affiliates, who also work with their individual congressional leadership, so the message is uniform and solid.
Farm Bill priorities
In addition to the estate tax, NCBA is also working with the 2012 Farm Bill.
“We’ve got to make sure the Farm Bill doesn’t have clauses that are detrimental to cattle producers,” says Alexander, noting that NCBA is looking out for three major things – research funding, conservation programs and the livestock title.
“We want to ensure adequate funding for land grant universities to continue research on livestock, which is a broad function and includes food safety,” he explains. “The great thing we see through research is a better understanding of products and E. coli, and its instance in beef has dropped almost tenfold, much of which is attributed to research. Research and working together with universities is very critical to the Farm Bill.”
“We want to also make sure the Farm Bill contains funding for conservation programs like EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), which has been very important for producers to be more progressive in working on environmental issues,” he notes.
Regarding the livestock title, Alexander says, “It has been controversial in the past, with packer ownership of cattle and GIPSA rules regarding how you can sell cattle. We want to ensure that the livestock title is not in the Farm Bill, so that we can continue to operate in a free and open marketplace. We want everybody to be able to make a decision on how they market their cattle, in their best interest, without having to worry about if they’re breaking the law. We want to keep producing a better product, and we don’t want interference to keep us from improving our product.”
Avoiding more regs
“In government, if you can’t legislate, you regulate, and we’ve seen more and more regulation with this administration day in and day out,” says Alexander of politics in 2012. “We’ve been successful in keeping a lot of it out of our industry, but we recognize that, if this administration gets back in, it will be tougher and tougher, and some of the things we’ve been successful in removing will be reintroduced.”
Alexander says NCBA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) is recognized as one of the major PAC contributors in D.C.
“I’m proud to say NCBA works across the board,” says Alexander of the West’s sage grouse challenges. “We don’t duck an issue anywhere, and it sometimes can be daunting, but we’re out there looking at every aspect of our industry, and sage grouse is one.”
He adds that it’s important for those in the cattle industry, and agriculture in general, to belong to organizations.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, and that’s true for not only the national, but state and local levels, as well,” he says. “If you’re not represented, you’re not present and your voice isn’t there to be heard, and someone else will be there to speak on your behalf.”
Alexander says he became involved in NCBA because he wanted to make sure his voice was heard.
“I did not want someone else to speak on my behalf about our industry. You’ve got to be represented, and that’s why it’s so critical to be a member of groups like the Wyoming Stock Growers and NCBA,” he says.
Producers drive checkoff decisions
“Part of NCBA’s role is as a major contractor to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. We also have our Federation, a division of NCBA where we bring together the 45 qualified state beef councils to form a unified message and gain collaboration, cooperation and efficiency,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President J.D. Alexander of NCBA’s relationship to the beef checkoff.
“We are always looking at ways to work with the states to utilize funds, and we have certain states with a lot of cattle but not many people,” he says. “In Nebraska, we collect a lot of dollars through the checkoff, and our board recognizes that we can use those funds in better places than in Nebraska, and we utilize the Federation to work with other states and CBB.”
“It’s up to the producers to decide how much money leaves the state,” says Alexander. “The checkoff is producer-run, and driven by each qualified state beef council. Fifty cents of what they collect will go to the national checkoff, and, in Wyoming, the other 50 cents is spent according to how the board of the Wyoming Beef Council wants to spend it. That is where the producers have their say-so. If they want to keep it all in the state, that is their prerogative and their right, but the board also recognizes where that state money can do the most good for their industry, and the most good in increasing demand. The more demand we can increase for beef, the more profitability will exist for Wyoming producers.”