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The 10 issues topping NCBA’s D.C. policy list in 2023

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association government affairs staff reported progress on issues to membership.

Jennifer M. Latzke

March 15, 2023

5 Min Read
Building column in foreground, U.S. Capitol in background
POLICY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.: NCBA government affairs staff gave an update to the organization’s members about the hot topics they’re working on in 2023 on Capitol Hill. Grant Faint /Getty images

When cattle producers gathered in New Orleans in early February for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meetings, they were able to hear from staff about the hot issues circling Washington, D.C. And they were able to share their concerns about legislative and regulatory issues that affect them at a more local level.

From a new farm bill to endangered species and more, here are the top 10 of the key issues cattle producers and NCBA are facing in 2023:

  1. Farm bill. Allison Rivera, executive director of government affairs at NCBA, led off her list of hot topics with farm bill negotiations, and NCBA’s efforts to be heard on Capitol Hill. “Remember, we have 218 members of Congress who’ve never voted on a farm bill,” she said. That requires NCBA staff to not only educate about what’s in the policy book, but also educate those new members about the farm bill and its importance to cattle producers.

  2. Budget considerations. The new rules of Congress require that any new spending must require funding cuts from some other place. Consider that the last farm bill cost in the ballpark of $850 billion, and estimates are that the next one could easily top $1.1 trillion in spending. While cutting spending is admirable, this will require some tough choices by legislators regarding programs. NCBA is currently educating on the importance of the animal vaccine bank, voluntary conservation programs, and disaster and risk management programs.

  3. War on drugs. Kathy Simmons, NCBA chief veterinarian, explained that fentanyl dealers have been found cutting their fentanyl with xylazine, known by many cattle producers by the brand name Rompun. While naloxone can reverse fentanyl overdoses, it has little to no effect when that fentanyl is cut with xylazine. The Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed making xylazine a Schedule 3 controlled substance, which would require increased regulations surrounding its manufacturing, distribution, storage and usage. NCBA and the American Veterinary Medicine Association both have concerns with this proposal, since currently it is a safe and effective tool used by law enforcement and veterinarians to sedate cattle, especially in situations where injured cattle could harm themselves or humans.

  4. International trade. Kent Bacus, director of international trade and market access for NCBA, says beef exports are a bright spot for cattle producers, with steady gains over the last few years. The first 11 months of 2022 saw exports exceed all of 2021 — a value of $10.9 billion. At the same time, he says, the U.S. has There’s slow progress being made in frameworks that would strengthen market access in the Indo-Pacific and the Americas. But NCBA has a lot of work to do to educate new House members who may not understand the need for rules-based, market-based, science-based trade agreements, Bacus said. Today, $452 of the value per head of cattle is attributed to exports, which is why trade is critical to cattle producers.

  5. Taxes. Figuring out how to pay for programs and ideas is a challenge every year. Bacus reminded cattle producers that estate tax relief is set to expire soon, and more than half of Congress wasn’t here when that was passed. There’s not that many people with experience on Ways and Means, or in writing tax bills — so there again is the need for more time spent educating members on the topic and the parts of tax legislation that benefit cattle producers. “So when they’re looking for new revenue-raisers, we want to remind them not to do that on the back of cattle-raisers,” Bacus said.

  6. Domestic markets. The cost of inputs has direct impact on producer profitability, said Tanner Beymer, senior director of government affairs and market regulatory policy. That’s why supporting tools that help cattle producers make sound risk management decisions and the tweaks the Risk Management Agency has made to improve the Pasture Range and Forage and Livestock Risk Protection programs are important. The rollout of the pilot Cattle Contract Library is another item that will help cattle producers. Our message, Beymer said, is that the U.S. cattle market is recovering well by itself — so don’t do anything to stymy any of that progress or roll it back.

  7. Traceability. Beymer said proposed rules regarding cattle traceability have been released. The big takeaway is that the rule opens up the methodology to any electronic ID format, meaning that the technology used is irrelevant in terms of applying the regulations. Cattle producers should understand that this is an effort to help the U.S. respond faster in case of a foreign animal disease outbreak, like foot-and-mouth disease. The faster we can respond to contain an outbreak, the faster we can get back to the normal speed of business and recover, Beymer added.

  8. Waters of the U.S. Mary-Thomas Hart, chief counsel, government affairs, says NCBA is not only working on Capitol Hill and in the administrative agencies, but also has the resources and support from the grassroots to fight regulation through the judicial branch. For example, NCBA has joined a coalition of other organizations to file a complaint in the Southern District Court of Texas to get an injunction against the Jan. 18 WOTUS final rule from the Biden administration. Hart says this move from the EPA — while the U.S. Supreme Court is considering arguments in Sackett v. EPA, a case about the WOTUS rule — is out of order.

  9. Environment and conservation. From climate-smart considerations for rule-making to endangered species and conservation in the farm bill, NCBA is making its voice heard in D.C. One item that is worth noting is 2023 is the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. NCBA members across the country have some interaction or another with ESA regulations — most recently in the Plains states, and with the listing of the lesser prairie chicken. NCBA members are asking: If very few species actually meet their recovery goals and get off the Endangered Species List, is the law working — or does it need tweaking?

  10. Transportation. NCBA continues to work with coalition partners to argue that livestock truckers should remain exempt from hours of service rules and electronic logging devices. The ELD delay is in effect until Sept. 30, and there’s work to make that permanent. The work continues to show rule-makers that livestock haulers can still operate safely and within animal welfare guidelines without meeting hours of service guidelines meant for truckers hauling consumer goods rather than live animals.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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