NCBA policy goes beyond BSE, trade issues

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 14, 2005
by WLJ
— New Mexico group granted reaffiliation.
While BSE and ongoing trade battles with Canada and Japan took a lot of focus of NCBA members during the group’s annual meeting Feb. 1-5 in San Antonio, TX, several other policy objectives were passed on other situations important to U.S. cattle producers.
On the marketing side, NCBA members passed policy that still calls for a more producer friendly, voluntary country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) law. Specifically, NCBA members have asked for self certification of origin for livestock producers; protection of personal records; simpler, easier-to-understand COOL retail labels; and tempering of penalties during implementation. Under a similar subject matter, NCBA members also tentatively passed policy calling on the organization to defeat efforts to label beef and beef products as “North American Beef” or any similar language that has the intent of grouping beef from other countries with that from the U.S.
Packer ownership of livestock remained a hotbed of debate during the convention, however, existing policy upholding NCBA support of “captive supplies” was renewed. That policy was set aside during the group’s general membership meeting on Saturday, Feb. 5, however. Less than 20 members voted against renewing that packer ownership directive after it was debated for about 10 minutes.
The approved packer ownership policy said, “Be it resolved, NCBA oppose federal legislation which would eliminate packer ownership/control of livestock because the legislation would eliminate value based pricing, reduces risk management options and/or eliminates a significant number of buyers of cattle in the U.S.”
From a federal lands standpoint, NCBA members voted in favor of removing national grasslands management out from under the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). However, the policy did not state what other agency or agencies should take over that responsibility. Staff from NCBA’s Washington, DC, office said that policy is just stating the simple fact that current management of those lands is unacceptable and that USFS needs to either change their protocol or give it up to somebody that can manage them better. Some NCBA members indicated that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) might be better suited for that task.
From a cattle health aspect, policy was tentatively passed to ask USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for rules that would allow regionalization of bovine tuberculosis areas within individual states an that cattle from and around the Greater Yellowstone Area be allowed to be shipped across state lines under the auspices of guidelines set forward by the Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force.
The longest policy debate during the annual board of directors meeting, held the morning of Feb. 5, was over the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). After 15 minutes of debate the policy that was unanimously agreed to was “Be it resolved, NCBA opposes whole field enrollment in (CRP) in the next reauthorization of the Farm Bill. Be it further resolved, NCBA shall work to target new CRP acres in riparian corridors, in an effort to increase wildlife habitat and address water and air quality issues. Be it further resolved, NCBA supports giving farmers and ranchers the option of enrolling their expiring CRP acres in an incentive-based Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)-type program dedicated to keeping acreage in grassland for grazing or forage harvest.”
Another conservation program policy that was passed was on asking USDA to allow custom operators to participate in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in the exact same way that direct operators are allowed.
NCBA members will be sent a mail ballot concerning all policy initiatives and directives that were passed by both the board of directors and the general membership. NCBA officials said those ballots will be sent by Feb. 18, and members will have at least a month to send them back. For the mail ballot to be formally utilized by NCBA, 20 percent of the members from four of the association’s seven regions must be returned.
One non-policy vote of note happened when the association’s board of directors voted unanimously in favor of allowing the New Mexico Stockgrowers Association (NMSGA) once again be accepted as an affiliate member of NCBA. The state organization voted in favor of leaving NCBA last year, however, at its annual convention last November the group voted to reaffiliate.
“This will probably be a yearly occurrence, at least in the near future,” said Caren Cowan, executive vice president for NMSGA.