Livestock, grazing groups update producers
Deadwood, S.D. – Representatives from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), American Sheep Industry Association and the Association of National Grasslands (ANG) updated producers on political, regulatory and association activities during the Public Lands Council (PLC) Annual meeting in Deadwood, S.D. on Sept. 4-7.
Phillip Ellis, policy division chairman for NCBA, reiterated the importance of partnerships between NBCA, PLC, its affiliates and livestock and producer groups in forming agriculture policy and fighting activist groups.
Ellis said since Congress is now focused on the problems in Syria, it is unlikely a new farm bill will be in place before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“There weren’t many legislative days in September anyway, so since the Farm Bill is set to expire Sept. 30, nothing is probably going to happen, and we will refer to the 1949 law,” he said. “I think they will work toward putting something together toward the end of the year.”
Ellis said he hopes Congress will address issues through the Farm Bill, like disaster relief from last year’s drought, immigration and border security.
NCBA is currently monitoring the EPA and watching carefully for any new mandates that could hurt cattle producers.
They are also monitoring pending legislation like the 30-minute break rule on the Federal Motor Carrier Standards Act. Ellis said the legislation is currently in a 90-day comment period that will end in October. The legislation will impact livestock hauling during hot and cold periods, he said.
The group is also monitoring Country of Origin Labeling legislation and watching for a decision from the World Trade Organization (WTO) whether this rule will be thrown out.
“We are siding with our trading partners Mexico and Canada,” he said. “We have over a million dollars in sales in both of those countries. Mexico and Canada have both said it won’t work the way it is written and have appealed to WTO to throw it out. It will cost producers a lot of money to have to implement it.”
Lastly, Ellis discussed continued work toward passing the Grazing Improvement Act.
“We bring it out of the House each year but have problems getting it passed through the Senate,” he explained. “We may need to get some different people elected in the Senate in order to get it passed.”
Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association, discussed work they are coordinating with other resource groups to map out Bighorn sheep habitat by congressional district.
In addition to documenting every change that has taken place in each of these habitats over the last 20 years, they are also developing a strategy.
“We intend to have this completed this fall to give us some direction,” Orwick said.
The issue effects 25 percent of the sheep industry in this country. Forty-six percent of all the ewes in the U.S. spend some point of time on public lands and Bighorn habitat, he noted.
Orwick said predator control issues remain a concern for sheep producers.
Through the Livestock Indemnity Act, producers were trying for legislation for predator control and predator reintroduction. Birds like eagles, ravens and vultures cause a lot of damage, and producers were hoping they would be included under predator control.
Orwick said last year, producers were going to be reimbursed for all predator losses until it was determined it would cost $1 billion a year to fund the program, so it was dropped from the act.
State governments in South Dakota and Utah are teaming up with livestock producers and sportsmen to develop legislation for their own predator control.
In South Dakota, Orwick said they have been able to generate over $100,000 from hunting fees to use for predator control.
“I think that other states need to work off the models started by these states because the federal program probably won’t be there in the future,” he said.
Lastly, Orwick discussed the lamb market.
“We went nine years straight with the lamb market being a little better every year, which is unprecedented in the industry. In 2011, they ramped it up, and it didn’t work,” he said. “Lambs were over $2.50 a pound before they got to feedlot, so in 2012, $2.50 lambs became 85 cent lambs.”
“That obviously doesn’t cover the market, so they were working on $1.13 to $1.19 this year. We are hoping they can get prices up done soon enough to cover cost of production for producers,” he added.
Myron Williams with the Association of National Grasslands discussed revisions that are needed to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), citing the current litigation by Humane Society of the United States to use the act to prevent the horse processing plant in New Mexico from starting up.
Williams also discussed prescribed burns as a tool that can be used at times but needs better monitoring.
“I believe there is a place for it, but there are other times when livestock could be used instead of controlled fire,” he said.
Lastly, Williams discussed introduction of the black-footed ferret to control prairie dogs.
Williams favors introduction of the animal, since it is a natural predator of prairie dogs, but believes the amount of land the ferret is allotted to needs to be monitored.
“These endangered species laws need updated,” he said. “Some of these programs were developed in the 70s and haven’t been updated with the times.”