USCA concludes first fly-in of 2013 to D.C.

Farm Forum

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) concluded its first fly-in of 2013 to Washington, D.C. recently. Members representing Virginia, Montana, North Dakota, Maryland, Kansas and Indiana made the trip to D.C. for the week’s schedule of meetings. The USCA delegation spent a full day on Capitol Hill meeting with their respective delegations and targeted committees and another day was dedicated to meeting with agency and administration officials. Issues of focus for the fly-in included: support for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and passage of the Farm Bill, trade, animal disease traceability and funding for livestock disaster programs.

The delegation urged their elected members to continue pressing for action on the farm bill and urging Congressional members to pass a comprehensive bill prior to the current extension’s September 30th deadline. The producer contingent relayed concerns regarding the lack of funding for livestock and additional agriculture disaster programs. USCA recently sent a letter to the full Senate in support of such funding, and USCA members urged their representatives in the House to support companion legislation to that introduced in the Senate, S. 141, by Senators Baucus (D-MT), Stabenow (D-MI) and Blunt (R-MO).

The USCA delegation also spent a portion of their time in D.C. meeting with officials and staff of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The CFTC recently closed a comment period on a proposed rule that would direct changes to current futures trading firms and other regulated entities that play an integral part in the futures market that is heavily utilized by those in the livestock industry. Allan Sents, USCA Director, McPherson, Kansas, commented on the CFTC meeting, “USCA was able to relay our concerns regarding the proposed changes and their potential impact on individual producers or independent feeders who engage in the futures market. It was extremely beneficial to follow-up with our members of Congress after these meetings on the need to continue oversight regarding the collapse of MF Global and the Peregrine Financial Group, as the necessary changes to any current regulations should be directed at those who fell short in their role in ensuring these large groups were held accountable for their actions,” said Sents. “USCA will remain engaged on this issue and will provide the necessary input to ensure individual producers and small firms are not hampered in their involvement within the futures market by these regulatory changes.”

USCA also met with officials within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to relay USCA’s ongoing efforts in support of COOL and to ensure a plan of action is taken by the Obama Administration that will bring the U.S. into compliance with the WTO ruling by the May 23rd deadline while still maintaining the legitimacy and intent of the program. The delegation also discussed issues pertaining to animal health and their impacts on international trade and market access. USCA discussed this particular issue with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in regards to potential impact on current trade agreements and future access to critical trading partners.

First-time fly-in participant, Joe Vassau, Forsyth, Montana, reflected on his time in D.C., “Before coming to D.C., I figured a majority of our time in meetings would be more of a formality. I quickly realized that these fly-ins are highly productive in giving those in Washington a face to put to these issues and a hands-on approach as to how the policies they are focused on will actually impact those in the country.” Vassau summed up his thoughts as, “USCA members have made significant inroads in D.C. in terms of establishing relationships with policymakers. I realize now how important it will be moving forward to remain engaged in these issues and to encourage my fellow ranchers to make the trip out to D.C. and have a voice in the matters that impact us on a daily basis.”

Kelly Fogarty, USCA Deputy Director of Industry and Government Relations offered the following reflection on the fly-in, “On behalf of USCA we would like to extend a special thanks to all of the individuals who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with the delegation. In the current D.C. setting, we know that time is of the essence more than ever and the generosity by those on the Hill, USDA, CFTC and USTR was greatly appreciated by our members. The ability to see first-hand that policymakers are genuinely invested in spending time with their members and representatives of the industry makes the difference in the message that is brought back to the countryside by fly-in participants.”