Jan 16, 2009

NCBA working to make it a positive 2009

Dear Pete: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the challenges facing livestock producers in the coming year (“Positive New Year,” Western Livestock Journal, Jan. 5, 2009). National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NC- BA) is the only national cattlemen’s organization that has done our homework on all of the issues you highlighted in your column. I can assure you NCBA has been at the table in discussions with the Obama Transition Team representing the interests of cattlemen and women across the country.

Our input has been well received, and we are pleased with the dialogue to date. As the oldest and largest national association representing beef producers, NCBA has worked with seven Democrat and 12 Republican administrations since 1898. With each new administration, we face new challenges. Our continued success is based on representing the interests of cattlemen, regardless of which party is in power. Some years are tougher than others and 2009 will not be easy, but NCBA is fully engaged and already at work on these issues.

NCBA has led the industry effort to pass Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea and Colombia while ensuring open access to American beef. While the Colombian FTA is pending approval in Congress, South Korea began accepting bone-in and boneless American beef from cattle under 30 months of age in June 2008, and the South Korean market is expected to reach a value of at least $500 million in 2009. NCBA opposed mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) as originally drafted, voicing the concern of our members that it would be a major headache for U.S. producers. When COOL became law, we worked to make it less burdensome by helping create the affidavit that is accepted by USDA and being used industrywide to provide proof of origin. COOL remains a challenge for our two largest export market partners and NCBA will work to resolve those issues to the benefit of U.S. producers.

Throughout the entire food versus fuel debate, NCBA members have opposed ethanol subsidies, asking Congress to allow beef producers to compete on a level playing field with the ethanol industry. While our members support the development of alternative fuels, we oppose government intervention in the marketplace.

It was NCBA who stood up for beef producers when the Humane Society of the United States released video of cattle being abused at processing facilities and livestock markets. NCBA spokespeople appeared in more than 100 network news broadcasts, most notably the Today Show, to maintain consumer confidence in beef. We continue to fight against anti-meat activist efforts to legislate and regulate livestock production practices. For example, NC- BA was successful in preventing a full house vote on a bill that would have included a criminal penalty under the ill-advised horse slaughter ban. NCBA is the only cattle organization addressing all the issues that can impact ranchers’ and farmers’ ability to be profitable and pass a successful operation on to their sons or daughters. As president of NCBA, I pledge we will continue to fight for our 31,000 national and 270,000 state affiliate members to make the cattle and beef business profitable and sustainable for the next generation.

We will only be successful if we speak with one voice. Your ongoing support is much appreciated.

Sincerely, Gary Voogt NCBA President-elect