Each year at the Cattle Industry Convention hosted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), there is a focus on policy issues that will be at the top of cattle producers’ minds. For 2019, a number of policy priorities from the previous year are rolling on with discussions and debates. These include trade, fake meat and further regulatory reform says Allison Rivera, NCBA’s Executive Director of Government Affairs.
Here are where things stand heading into the annual conference:
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed by leaders from all three countries during the G-20 Summit in Argentina. However, USMCA still needs to be ratified by legislative bodies in all three countries, including a split U.S. Congress, before it is finalized.
There are not expected to be any changes in beef trade between the three countries which should be welcome news for cattlemen. Mexico was the second-largest importer of U.S. beef by volume at 237,972 metric tons and the third-largest market by value at $980 million in 2017, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation. Canada is also a valuable market buying 116,561 metric tons worth $796 million, ranking fifth in both value and volume amongst U.S. beef export destinations.
“That agreement is very important to us, but there are other avenues where we’re going to have to work in a different manner to get things that we need in other parts of the world,” Rivera says.
Japan has been in dialogues with the U.S. about increasing beef access by lowering tariffs on beef to a level similar to Australia. The U.S. just regained access into China for beef in mid-2017, but an ongoing trade spat between the countries regarding steel and aluminum tariffs has simmered the enthusiasm. The European Union has also expressed interest in increasing the amount of beef imported from the U.S.
Fake Meat Oversight
A number of meetings have been held by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding lab-grown meat. These discussions have included stakeholders from across the meat industry and businesses who are seeking to produce lab-grown meat alternatives.
“Producers certainly need to pay attention to this conversation. I think the real action has just started,” Rivera says.
It will take some time to determine how FDA and USDA will regulate lab-grown meat because the products have yet to hit the market.
Rolling Back Regulations
With Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the House of Representatives being taken over by the Democrats it will be more difficult for deregulation to occur at the same pace seen previously during the Trump Administration.
Burdensome regulations like the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) continue to be hot topics. However, WOTUS could get some more clarity with the Environmental Protection Agency proposing new definitions in six waterway categories.
“When we talk about rolling back environmental regulations, it’s not just WOTUS at the top of the list,” Rivera says.
Also ongoing are potential roll backs for agriculture reporting requirements through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Modernizing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is vital for many cattle producers as populations of gray wolves and grizzly bears recover in areas of the country where grazing has been impacted.
Increased discussions regarding management of public lands through grazing could similarly happen during the upcoming year after a number of wildfires wreaked havoc in the Western U.S.