USCA wraps up successful fly-in
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association wrapped up its "Ranchers Wrangling the Recession" 2011 fly-in recently in Washington, D.C. Ranchers from throughout the country traveled to the nation's capitol to bring their personal stories about issues affecting today's cattle industry. The week consisted of meetings with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as well as a full-day spent on the Hill talking with each of the members' elected officials. USCA members participating in the fly-in were Jon Wooster, California; Alan and Deanna Sents, Kansas; Eddie and Debbie Shelton, Virginia; Chris Abbott, Nebraska; Destry Brown, Nebraska; Justin Tupper, South Dakota; Kathy Waltmon, Texas; and Adam Redland, Wyoming.
The priority issues addressed by ranchers throughout the week centered on beef trade, Equal Access to Justice Act reform, restraining the Environmental Protection Agency's growing influence, as well as the Beef Checkoff program and market reform. USCA member Eddie Shelton from Union Hall, Va., commented on the group's advocacy efforts with EPA during the fly-in saying, "EPA's growing regulatory influence in matters that will adversely affect agriculture is reaching a breaking point. The most recent action taken in the Chesapeake Bay region is not to be overlooked by ranchers out West. The EPA's action on the East coast serves as a benchmark for what is to come throughout the entire country. USCA addressed this issue throughout their Congressional meetings and urged lawmakers to reign in the aggressive power of EPA."
USCA members also spent considerable time addressing the U.S. cattle industry's current status within the international marketplace. Taking the latest updates given by the USTR, USCA members advocated for increased access within Asian markets. Justin Tupper, manager of St. Onge Livestock Market in St. Onge, S.D., noted, "The untapped potential for increased beef trade in Asian markets will be critical for the U.S. cattle industry to explore in the coming months. We've seen first-hand how access within foreign markets can drive domestic prices and the industry must capitalize on any efforts to increase access. However, one issue the industry must address is the regionalization of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina that allows beef imports into the U.S. Given the recent events in South Korea regarding the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak and the catastrophe that has unfolded there, USCA members urged policy-makers to adopt a moratorium against any U.S. access from a known FMD-affected region. There is no need to rush such a crucial decision until the aftermath in South Korea can be analyzed."
USCA members touched upon issues regarding the basic framework of the domestic cattle industry as well. USCA member and fly-in participant Chris Abbott stated, "The U.S. cattle market is experiencing some of the highest prices ever, and while producers are benefiting from these positive markets, volatility in the value of the U.S. dollar is an issue that directly affects the cattle industry."
Abbott continued saying, "USCA is a supporter of the Beef Checkoff program and members have asked for efforts to improve the program. In light of the nation's contracting cow herd, it will be crucial to producers to know exactly how their checkoff dollars are being utilized, which requires full transparency by those charged with checkoff oversight. The checkoff is a crucial part of the cattle industry's continued viability, but changes in the program's structure and governance are overdue."
USCA member, Adam Redland, a rancher from Ten Sleep, Wyo., brought an invigorated and inspired message to Washington, D.C., on behalf of producers across the nation, "This was my first time in Washington, D.C., and I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the regulatory and law-making process. The week's agenda was productive and all-encompassing. One minute we were talking about the issues surrounding the basic functions of the cattle industry, and the next minute we were involved in talks on China beef trade potential. I was happy to be able to bring a young producers' perspective to D.C."
USCA President Jon Wooster, San Lucas, Calif., stressed the importance of addressing the issues that the members focused on while in D.C. "Now is the time to follow-up and place some pressure on policymakers to take a hard look at the issues facing today's cattle industry," he noted. "We are in need of a critical review of the marketplace and it will be crucial to maintain funding for the proposed GIPSA rule so that the industry can have the opportunity to see what USDA has compiled from the substantial number of comments they've received. It will also be necessary for members of Congress to enact meaningful EAJA reform. This act's original intent was to allow citizens the chance to file lawsuits if they felt they had been wronged by the federal government. This act is now being abused to further the agenda of environmentally-extreme groups and ranchers are being hurt in the process. USCA members advocated for the need to address these among several other issues and we hope those in D.C. will take into consideration the nation's cattle industry when addressing these topics."
"It is very effective to have ranchers in Washington, D.C. to meet with, and deliver personal messages to policy decision-makers and agency regulators," continued Wooster. "I want to thank those who participated for their commitment of time and resources to do so."
Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its efforts in Washington, DC to enhance and expand the cattle industry's voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington, giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on policy development. For more information go to www.uscattlemen.org.