Looking ahead: NCBA’s 2013 policy priorities

Farm Forum

As a fifth-generation rancher and Policy Division Chairman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), I am pleased to announce our association’s policy priorities for 2013. These priorities, along with other important issues affecting cattlemen and women across the country, will serve as the focus of NCBA’s policy team in Washington, D.C. This organization is producer-owned and member driven. It’s important that the policy priorities set by NCBA are geared toward sustaining this industry for future generations.

A full, five-year farm bill remains an important priority for NCBA. The fiscal cliff package passed by Congress in January, which extended the 2008 Farm Bill through Sept. 30, 2013, left much to be desired for the cattle industry. The Senate re-introduced its version of the bill (S. 10), in late January, but did not announce a timeline for when to discuss the future of farm bill legislation. This version of the farm bill incorporates the priorities which NCBA and the organization’s membership fought hard for last year, such as no livestock title, along with the maintaining of conservation programs and the research title.

The Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) is also at the top of NCBA’s policy priority list. The legislation amends the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and authorizes FDA to collect fees for certain animal drug applications, in support of the review of animal drugs. NCBA fully supports the reauthorization of ADUFA in order to provide resources for the FDA to conduct timely evaluations of new animal drugs for safety and effectiveness. During the reauthorization, it’s possible that special interest groups will try to insert amendments in ADUFA to support such activities as evaluations for antimicrobial resistance. NCBA does not support using ADUFA reauthorization as a vehicle to authorize or fund post-market activities. Our organization believes that new animal drug user fees should be utilized solely to support and facilitate the new animal drug approval process, and we will work hard to ensure the ADUFA law does not contain amendments which hinder or slow down the drug evaluation process.

Environmental issues are front and center in 2013, which makes the potential expansion of the Clean Water Act (CWA) part of NCBA’s policy priority lineup. The potential expansion of the law is one that could cripple cattle operations across the country, and if it becomes a reality, farmers and ranchers could be required to obtain permits for everyday activities such as driving a tractor near an irrigation ditch. Cattlemen rely on clean sources of water to feed our animals and nurture our land, and expansion of the Clean Water Act would hamper the ability to maintain clean waters. This proposed guidance would allow the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all types of waters, and would amount to one of the largest ever land-grabs by the federal government.

NCBA has also included immigration and border security as one of its priorities in Washington, D.C., an issue that is sure to be an important topic of discussion in the 113th Congress. In 2011 NCBA members voted to establish policy on immigration reform in order to represent cattle producers living along the United States border. The resolution called for full authority for federal agencies as well as state and local authorities to secure the border, including the suspension of all pending legislation and funding for federal-land designations along the border. Border security is paramount to the health and welfare of the livestock industry.

Last year was a successful year for international trade, and 2013 is off to a positive start, with Japan recently opening its market to U.S. beef from cattle 30 months and under, up from 20 months. Trade remains a policy priority for NCBA, and cattlemen and women fully support open markets, level playing fields and science-based standards in international trade. The free trade agreements enacted last year offer great potential to increase market share in key markets for U.S. beef in Asia and South America. It is obvious that with 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside U.S. borders, it’s critical that we expand our opportunities to sell beef in the international marketplace if we want to keep American family farms in business.

With 98 new members in the 113th Congress, NCBA has a great opportunity to educate them on the importance of farm policy and what it means to the cattle industry. NCBA is committed to pushing for commonsense action by Congress to address our policy priorities. Without a doubt, NCBA’s policy team will continue to fight for U.S. cattlemen and women on Capitol Hill.