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Our Views

Our Views Columns

Date: 3/14/2013

Title: Bridging the Gap

By Philip Ellis, NCBA Policy Division Chair

Springtime in Washington, D.C., is quite nice. Temperatures are typically in the 50s and 60s, the sun is shining and the famous cherry blossom trees which dot the city and line the Tidal Basin are in full bloom. Also present in our nation’s capital is the 113th Congress, which is why it is important for cattlemen and women to attend the 2013 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Legislative Conference, scheduled for Apr. 16-18.

Attending the NCBA Legislative Conference will give farmers and ranchers the opportunity to bring their “hats to the hill” – literally. This important event provides NCBA members the chance to meet with key congressional and agency influencers and articulate policy priorities of our industry for the future. A strong showing of NCBA members in Washington is vital to our association and to the beef industry. Often times, cattle producers are very busy on their operations and believe that what goes on in Washington is a world away. The reality is that decisions made inside the Beltway have a direct impact on families providing food and fiber to a growing population, which is expected to increase from 7 billion today to 10 billion people by 2050. Our legislators need to hear from those in the countryside about how legislation and regulations impact cattle operations nationwide. A very important part of this engagement is from young farmers and ranchers. The next generation of farmers and ranchers must talk one-on-one with our lawmakers to ensure bad decisions – intentional or not – are not made that prevent young producers from taking over the family business.

If farmers and ranchers think that their voices fall on deaf ears, rest assured that does not happen. Let me cite a couple of examples in which the cattle community has come forward to express their thoughts on proposed regulatory issues, successfully beating back regulations which would have had negative effects on producers nationwide. Last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rule related to on-farm child labor. It was obvious that this rule was created without hearing from farm families about the importance of having young people acquire the skills and passion for farming and ranching. DOL wanted to essentially prohibit youth from being exposed to farm and ranch work. This has little to do with farm safety and a lot to do regulatory officials refusing to venture away from the city sidewalks and talk to real people in rural America. Due to an overwhelming reaction from the agriculture community, DOL withdrew the proposed rule.

Another example in which producers were heard loud and clear was when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to lower the particulate matter (PM) standard, commonly known as the dust standard. A stricter dust standard would have had devastating effects on cattle operations, especially those in arid parts of the country where they have a difficult time attaining compliance with the dust standard at its current level, and must implement costly practices in order to mitigate dust. NCBA, state cattlemen’s associations and members submitted comments encouraging EPA to maintain the current dust standard. In December 2012, the agency announced that it would keep the standard at its current levels. Once again, a victory for our industry because of involvement at the grassroots level.

Farmers and ranchers need to be here in Washington next month to tell these officials the facts, to tell them their personal stories. The gap between country roads and paved highways must be bridged in order for the cattle industry to remain strong and vibrant. I encourage cattlemen and women to come to Washington, D.C. for this year’s conference. I also encourage young producers to attend. Participation by future industry leaders is crucial to maintaining a strong position in Washington. To register for the 2013 NCBA Legislative Conference, click here.