TSCRA members meet to discuss policy issues

Jul 15, 2011

Discussion in New Braunfels, TX, about ‘declines’ this summer hasn’t been limited to conversation about the drought-driven ‘decline’ in the water level of the Guadalupe River. The river, which courses through the town, attracts thousands annually that challenge the whitewater rapids in kayaks and canoes... Or simply float around in their inner tubes.

But this June, discussions about other ‘declines’ could be heard in conference rooms in New Braunfels where the Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) held their annual summer meeting. The topics relative to ‘declines’ ranged from the shrinking national cow herd to state budget cuts with potential impacts on programs important to the agricultural industry.

Attendees of the TSCRA summer meeting listened to speakers including the Texas comptroller of public accounts, Susan Combs, and representatives from Mexican and Canadian cattle producers’ associations. Speakers discussed decisions made by the World Trade Organization and on the Country of Origin Labeling issue.

Also during this meeting, TSCRA directors met to obtain recent information about numerous topics and to review issues relevant to ranchers, landowners and others involved in the agricultural industry. One of the goals of the directorship was to establish policies regarding certain issues that are beneficial for their membership.

With cattle producers facing a ‘perfect storm’ due to a shrinking national cow herd, more land being taken out of production, and higher cattle prices, the Ag Research Committee focused on planned, straight-forward approaches to managing the most important piece of a producers’ operation; the grass. Featured TSCRA members discussed different approaches to pasture management in diverse geographical regions of the state. Included in the session was information on rotational grazing and the significant difference it can make to ranches’ carrying capacity.

The TSCRA Animal Health Committee heard updates from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), which suffered significant budget cuts to the brucellosis program this year. Joe Parker Jr., rancher and TSCRA president, emphasized that it is critical that Texas maintain its brucellosis free status and that any budget-driven changes to the state’s program should not appreciably increase the risk of the disease in Texas cattle herds. TSCRA supported several changes to the state program necessary to meet the challenges created by the budget cuts including discontinuation of the mandatory requirement of first point brucellosis testing at all auctions, private and show sales. They endorsed establishment of first point and packer level surveillance procedures to measure compliance with federal requirements.

New and existing tools in the fight against fever tics were also addressed. Discussion of the status of FDA approval of the highly effective molasses tubs infused with ivermection was on the agenda as well as the problem of tic fever disease control due to the prevalence of the disease in deer.

The Texas 82nd Legislative Session drew to a close at the end of May and attendees were given updates on key pieces of legislation affecting members. These included SB 18, the eminent domain reform bill, and SB 332, the groundwater ownership bill. These bills have been a top priority of TS- CRA for the past few legislative sessions. TSCRA staff and leaders involved in this effort were recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. TSCRA Legislative and Tax Committee discussed where their focus needed to be, both in Washington, D.C., and in Austin, to continue to serve their membership.

Considering that more than three million acres of Texas lands have been burned this year, the state’s malignant wildfire situation was a ‘hot topic’ presented at the summer meeting. Representatives from the Texas ArgiLife Extension Agency updated committee members on the status of the Texas wildfire situation. A representative from TAHC and a panel of cattle raisers affected by fires were invited to speak also. Logistic and communication difficulties the agency and others had experi enced while working these past few months were discussed. The majority of the problems dealt with management of wild fires in rough country and the Texas Forest Service (TFS) unfamiliarity with the lay of the land.

TFS Executive Director Tom Boggus was invited to speak and acknowledged that problems ensued with their unfamiliarity of the terrain and local management of wildfires. He added that TFS has already made changes in the last few weeks to better their part in working with area firefighters, volunteer departments, ranchers and the county judges who play a key role in the co-operative management of these fires.

A more controversial is sue addressed by the Marketing Committee was the recent actions by the leadership of the Beef Checkoff Program creating division within the cattle industry. The committee discussed these developments and answered questions from attendees about the status and future of the beef checkoff. Featured speakers included Dee Likes, CEO of the Kansas Livestock Association, and Richard Wortham, executive director of the Texas Beef Council.

Other committee programs included TSCRA membership retention, updates from Special Rangers on branding cattle and horses, and the H-2A Temporary Ag Workers Program.

Wrapping up what was considered a highly successful summer director’s meeting was the Wildlife Committee’s review of how the state’s wildlife populations are faring. Dr. Dale Rollins, professor and ArgiLife wildlife specialist, updated the recent research in disease, encroachment of habitat, and predation by feral hogs in regards to declining numbers of quail.

Committee members also heard officials from the Texas Parks and Wildlife describe the how they will be affected with the state’s tight budget.

TSCRA has more educational events scheduled for the summer, with their fall meeting to take place this September in Lubbock, TX. — Ginger Elliott, WLJ Correspondent