As you know, it is vital to stay engaged in the policy process, and NCBA makes it easy for you to engage with your elected officials and federal agencies.​ Please check out the specific policy issues in Washington, D.C., that affect America's cattle and beef producers, and be sure to get involved with the links below! 

Issues important to america's cattlemen and women


U.S. cattle producers understand and appreciate the role of taxes in maintaining and improving our nation. However, they also believe that the most effective tax code is an equitable one. Even prior to the unprecedented market volatility caused by COVID-19, fluctuating business costs and adverse weather events have always posed a unique set of challenges for family-owned agricultural businesses. Because of this, farmers and ranchers need certainty in the tax code. Whether it’s managing a tax burden that can change drastically from year-to-year or planning for the next generation, cattle producers rely on long-standing provisions in the tax code, such as stepped-up basis, like-kind exchanges, and the Section 199A Small Business Deduction to maintain viable businesses while ensuring that the next generation can take over the operation.
When it comes to bolstering a new generation of U.S. cattle producers, a major challenge facing farmers and ranchers is the estate tax, commonly referred to as the Death Tax. While the estate owner is technically responsible for the tax, their heirs are often the ones who have to make payments when taxes are due after the death of a primary owner. Many families are forced to choose between paying the legal and accounting costs associated with an estate plan or making investments in their business. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) temporarily increased the estate tax exemption amount to $10 million per individual or $20 million per couple – or, indexed for inflation, a basic exclusion amount of $12.92 million – and maintained a tax rate of 40 percent. The exemption levels will revert to $5 million per individual or $10 million per couple on January 1, 2026.

What is NCBA working on?

NCBA is committed to helping elected officials understand the detrimental consequences of changes to long-standing provisions in the federal tax code through reliable research. We have backed several studies, including an EY study and a Texas A&M study, that ultimately prove what we have been saying for a long time – family-owned businesses and the local economies they support would be hit hardest by changes to the federal tax code. Farmers and ranchers need a fair and equitable tax code for the next generation to build on the economic and environmental contributions of today’s farmers and ranchers.

In March of 2023, NCBA worked closely with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to secure introduction of The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2023. This legislation holds members of Congress accountable to maintain a public record of support for full, permanent repeal of the Death Tax.

Why does this matter for cattle producers?

With more than 40 percent of farmland expected to transition in the next two decades, Congress must prioritize policies that support land transfers to the next generation of farmers and ranchers. When doing this, lawmakers need to consider the complexity of the implications of taxes on family-owned agricultural businesses. In the case of farms and ranches, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 91 percent of assets are illiquid. This means that to pay off tax liabilities at the time of an owner’s death, surviving family members may be forced to sell off land, farm equipment and sometimes parts of the operation. If farmland is lost, and therefore transitioned out of production, the environmental benefits that come along with the deliberate stewardship done by farmers and ranchers will be lost as well. Federal tax policy that facilitates generational transfer and allows the next generation of producers to build upon the environmental and economic benefits of today’s farmers and ranchers is just as important for fifth-generation producers as it is for first-generation, veteran, and minority community producers who are breaking into and establishing a foothold in the industry. 

NCBA is leading efforts in Washington to make sure that fake meat – both current plant-based products and potential lab-produced products in the future – is properly marketed and regulated. First, we asked the USDA to work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing labeling laws for plant-based protein products. The FDA has the power to take action against products that use misleading labels to confuse consumers about the true nature of their product. Unfortunately, the FDA has a track record of lax enforcement on food labeling issues. Second, we are asking the USDA to assert regulatory jurisdiction over lab-grown fake meat products. No framework currently exists for regulating these new products, but USDA is the agency best-placed to ensure both fair and accurate labeling and the safety of lab-grown products for consumers. NCBA submitted comments outlining our principles on fake meat to USDA, and we will continue to lead the way as Washington decides how to regulate new products that are introduced in the marketplace. 

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adopted a formal agreement establishing a dual-oversight framework for lab-grown protein products. NCBA supported this agreement because it represents the best opportunity for equitable oversight of conventionally produced and novel lab-grown products alike. Under the agreement, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service will oversee the processing, packaging and labeling of lab-grown products derived from livestock and poultry cells. Daily, continuous inspections by USDA officials will protect consumers by ensuring these products are held to the same stringent food safety and production standards as real beef products, and USDA’s mandatory labeling pre-approval process will theoretically guard against deceptive labeling practices.   

NCBA is supporting the Fair and Accurate Ingredient Representation on Labels Act of 2024 (FAIR Labels Act) thar was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Roger Marshall (KS) and in the House by Rep. Mark Alford (MO) and Rep. Don Davis (D-NC). This legislation would end deceptive labeling practices on fake meat products and ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying at the grocery store. The FAIR Labels Act would require fake meat products to be labeled as “imitation” and lab-grown products would need to be clearly labeled as “lab-grown” with an included statement that says the product was not produced by traditional cattle production methods. Consumers deserve to know how their food is made and to understand that lab-grown products made in a bioreactor are not the same as the high-quality beef raised by farmers and ranchers. Lab-grown products are an emerging technology, and the FAIR Labels Act is an important first step for making sure consumers understand the difference between lab-grown or plant-based products and real beef raised by cattle producers.


U.S. cattle are part of a diverse and complex supply chain that includes seedstock producers, cow-calf operators, and backgrounders all across the country and cattle feeders that tend to be concentrated in the Great Plains and the Midwest, from the Dakotas to Texas. Cattle are primarily transported by truck and may travel great distances to the center of the country from cattle operations as far away as Virginia, Florida, and Oregon. Transporting live cattle from Point A to Point B in a manner that is humane, safe, and efficient is a top priority for our producers and the livestock haulers who transport live animals each day.


On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act into law, which required the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create and enforce an electronic logging device (ELD) rule. DOT published a final rule regarding the electronic logbooks that became effective February 16, 2016, stating that all motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to keep records of duty status (RODS) on paper must install and use an ELD no later than December 18, 2017. Since 2018, through the yearly congressional appropriations process, NCBA has worked with Congress to secure an exemption from the ELDs for livestock haulers.

In addition to ELD regulations, existing hours-of-service (HOS) regulations pose significant consequences for the livestock industry. Current federal law limits on-duty time to 14 hours, with a maximum drive time of 11 consecutive hours. The driver must then rest for 10 consecutive hours before returning to duty. Unfortunately, this is simply not enough drive time to accommodate the realities of hauling live animals across the country. Research also demonstrates that repeated loading and unloading of animals creates stress, potentially endangering livestock and the livestock hauler.

What is NCBA working on?

NCBA is working hard to ensure federal regulations covering livestock transportation are flexible enough to allow our drivers to do their jobs safely while also maintaining general road safety as well as the safety of the livestock they are hauling. Flexibility is critical to maintaining an efficient, reliable supply chain and keeping grocery store shelves stocked with beef.

NCBA will continue working with Congress to exempt livestock haulers from ELD regulations. The most recent exemption provided by Congress lasts until September 30, 2024. NCBA was successful in securing an exemption from the HOS regulations that allows anyone hauling agricultural commodities to be exempt from HOS rules until they are outside of the 150-air mile radius (172 road miles) of their starting point for the day. In addition, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, included an additional 150 air-mile exemption on the backend of livestock hauls to provide further flexibility during the unloading period. NCBA was instrumental in securing both exemptions. 

Why does this matter for cattle producers?

If cattle producers no longer have an exemption from the ELD regulations, and existing HOS rules become more restrictive, this may force some producers and small business owners out of the marketplace, it may have the unintended consequence of decreasing driver safety, and it may jeopardize the well-being of animals if they can no longer be hauled by trained, skilled drivers.


Trade is vital to the success of the U.S. cattle and beef industry.  Every effort should be made to expand export opportunities for U.S. beef by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers through trade agreements and other terms of market access. Cattle producers support open markets and science-based standards that allow them to capitalize on strong demand for U.S. beef in overseas markets in Asia and Latin America.

Exports provide American producers with opportunities to maximize carcass values by marketing beef cuts such as tongues, liver, and short plate, that are less popular among American consumers but often fetch top dollar in international markets. Added value from exports benefits every segment of the beef supply chain. 

What is NCBA Working On?

Thanks to a decade of trade policy wins, U.S. cattle producers have experienced record-setting beef export sales. Trade agreements have been instrumental in removing trade barriers, ensuring that foreign buyers have greater access to high-quality American beef.

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) benefits American producers because it protects our duty-free, unrestricted access to Canada and Mexico, and cements science-based trade practices throughout North America. NCBA worked closely with Congress and the Trump Administration to secure USMCA, which went into force on July 1, 2020.

Japan-U.S. Bilateral Trade Deal

Japan is one of the largest export markets for U.S. beef, accounting for nearly $2 billion in sales annually. In 2019, the Trump Administration secured a critically important bilateral trade deal with Japan that leveled the playing field for U.S. beef producers by reducing Japan’s tariff from 38.5% to 9%. This agreement took effect on January 1, 2020.

U.S.-China Economic and Trade Agreement

As Chinese consumers see higher incomes, their demand for American beef is growing at a rapid rate. For 13 years, China banned American beef based on BSE concerns and other non-tariff trade barriers. The U.S.-China Economic and Trade Agreement (commonly referred to as the China Phase One Trade Deal), removed many of the non-tariff trade barriers and opened the massive Chinese market to U.S. beef. Even though the agreement has only been in effect since Spring of 2020, China has already emerged as a top five export market for U.S. beef. 

Trade Promotion Authority

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) authorizes the President to negotiate trade agreements with the assurance that Congress will consider the final agreement with only an up-or-down vote. Under TPA, Congress sets the objectives of trade agreements but gives flexibility to the President to negotiate the specific details with Congressional oversight. Unfortunately, TPA expired in July 2021 and has yet to be reauthorized by Congress. As an essential tool for trade negotiations, NCBA is working with Congress to reauthorize TPA.

Increase Bilateral Trade with the United Kingdom

As a result of Brexit, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union and has the liberty to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with new trade partners. The U.S. and U.K. share many similarities in cattle production and consumer expectations – particularly our commitment to sustainably producing healthy cattle. Expanding trade with the U.K. will reinforce our shared commitment to higher standards in animal health, animal welfare, and sustainability.

Why Does This Matter for Cattle Producers?

American cattle producers raise high-quality, nutritious beef. NCBA is committed to helping producers capture the highest value for their beef by strengthening the business climate both at home and abroad. Foreign markets present an opportunity for American producers to gain additional value for their cattle, and NCBA works with policymakers and trade negotiators to open more markets for high-quality American beef. 


The current Farm Bill will expire on September 30, 2024, after being extended last November. Over the next several months, Congress will hold public hearings to draft a new Farm Bill that reflects the needs of U.S. farmers and ranchers. NCBA will continue working with Members of Congress in support of our priorities that were set by cattle producers at the 2022 NCBA Summer Business Meeting in Reno, NV.  NCBA’s priorities include protecting voluntary conservation programs, strengthening risk management and disaster programs for producers, and strengthening the animal health provisions NCBA secured in the 2018 Farm Bill.

NCBA's 2023 Farm Bill Priorities

  1. Strengthening risk management programs that provide producers with added protection against weather events and price decline. 
  2. Supporting disaster recovery programs that help producers return to normal operations following adverse weather, attacks by predators, or extreme conditions like drought and wildfire. 
  3. Promoting voluntary conservation programs that recognize the value of producers’ nationwide conservation activities, and support implementation of these practices free from government mandates. 
  4. Protecting animal health through programs that guard against the spread of foreign animal diseases. This includes support for programs like the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB), which currently houses the Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine for U.S. producers. NCBA previously advocated for this vaccine bank and livestock producers recognize the danger that a foreign animal disease poses to the industry and the protection this bank provides. 
  5. Oppose a livestock title that may open the door to unnecessary overregulation and harmful government mandates and may undermine support for the Farm Bill.

Why does this matter for cattle producers?

FMD is a threat to both the livestock industry and to American agriculture, as a whole. It is a highly contagious, viral disease affecting cloven-hoofed livestock such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. Morbidity can reach 100 percent in susceptible populations, and mortality can reach 20 percent or more in young calves, lambs, and piglets. While there has not been a U.S. outbreak of FMD since 1929, the disease still poses a significant threat to the U.S. cattle herd. FMD is found in many areas of the world, and international trade and travel create opportunities for the virus to enter the United States.

In the past, the U.S. response to an FMD outbreak relied predominantly on the depopulation of infected animals. Currently, industry leaders and regulatory authorities have shifted the strategy for managing outbreaks toward using vaccination. Prior to the creation of the NAVVCB in the 2018 Farm Bill, the United States relied on a much smaller FMD vaccine bank that we shared with Mexico and Canada.


Cattle producers play a vital role in the conservation of wildlife species. Many NCBA members dedicate significant time and resources to the maintenance of critical wildlife habitat, even when that work means a financial or operational loss for the operation.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law in 1973 with the admirable goal of protecting species at risk of extinction and funding efforts to recover them. Unfortunately, this law has since become one of the most ineffective statutes on the books. As of October 2020, only 3.7 percent of the total number of species listed since 1973 have been delisted. The ESA was designed with four distinct phases — identification of species at risk, listing as “threatened” or “endangered,” recovery efforts to boost populations, and delisting when the species is fully recovered. Congress saw these as equally important parts of the process. Over the last 50 years, imbalanced focus on the listing phase with a failure to develop recovery plans has crippled many recovery efforts. When combined with unclear or constantly-changing population targets and inefficient procedures within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), species have languished on the list long after FWS has publicly declared them as recovered. This wastes time and prevents limited taxpayer funds from going to the animals that truly need help.

In August 2019, NCBA and the Public Lands Council worked with state wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and other stakeholders across the political spectrum to secure reforms that modernized the ESA. In June 2021, FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service announced their intent to rollback these reforms.

What is NCBA working on?

As federal agencies consider changes to the implementation of the ESA, NCBA is focused on the following priorities:

  • Cattle producers need a voice in the process. ESA listings have a direct impact on cattle producers’ ability to be responsible stewards of the land and water. Federal regulators must consider the good work already done when evaluating a species’ status. Cattle producers’ work should be recognized and included. FWS must also consider not only the economic harm imposed on producers and rural communities by unnecessary listings, but also the unforeseen side effects of preventing producers from actively managing landscapes and ecosystems.
  • Cattle producers need the flexibility and incentives to pursue voluntary conversation projects. Ranchers and farmers do a tremendous amount of voluntary environmental work each day, even when it comes at a financial or personal cost to their operation. Their work includes reducing fuel loads for wildfire; improving soil health and increasing carbon storage; fighting invasive species and restoring native grasslands; repairing waterways; and more. ESA listings discourage or prohibit much of this voluntary work, resulting in unintended residual harm to wildlife and the entire ecosystem.
  • Species must be efficiently delisted when they are fully recovered. The ESA was never intended to be a permanent waiting room. Species that are listed must be targeted with a specific, strategic recovery plan and when recovery has been achieved, they must be delisted. Rampant litigation threatens FWS’s ability to ever delist species, which was never the intent of Congress. NCBA is involved in litigation to defend the delisting of the gray wolf, and we will continue to push back against the overreach and abuse that arises from failure to delist recovered species.

Why does this matter for cattle producers?

From grizzly bears to gray wolves, prairie chickens to panthers, wildlife is constantly impacting and shaping the way that cattle producers do business. Our members need the freedom and flexibility to conserve wildlife habitat, protect at-risk species, and make responsible management decisions for their land. ESA reforms are a necessary part of that equation.



CERCLA and EPCRA were enacted by Congress to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills. Neither of these laws were intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom odor emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life. To make this clear, in 2008, EPA finalized a rule to clarify that farms are exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, specifically, were also exempt from EPCRA reporting. Activists sued the EPA, forcing a bad court decision in 2017 that resulted in upward of 200,000 livestock operations being put on the hook for reporting low-level odor emissions to the government. To add insult to injury, it is practically impossible for the vast majority of cattle producers to calculate the odor emissions that need to be reported with any degree of certainty.  

Even the people who receive these odor reports do not want them and have said that receiving them would actually hurt their ability to respond to emergencies. The National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, which represents state and local emergency response commissions, notes the EPCRA odor reports "are of no value to [Local Emergency Planning Committees] and first responders" and that the reports "are generally ignored because they do not relate to any particular event." The U.S. Coast Guard, who receives the CERCLA odor reports, stated that early calls from farmers have "increased [initial notifications] from approximately 100-150 calls per day to over 1,000 phone calls per day." This influx has negatively impacted the Coast Guard's ability to coordinate responses for true emergencies. The bottom line is CERCLA and EPCRA were designed by Congress to deal with toxic waste spills and chemical explosions, not odors from a cattle ranch or feedlot.

What does this mean for cattle producers?

NCBA’s successful advocacy campaign led to a change in the law to protect livestock producers from the onerous CERCLA reporting requirements. Starting March 2018, farms across the country are exempt from a law originally written to target toxic waste sites, not cattle ranches and feedlots.   As a follow-up to the success we’ve had in eliminating CERCLA reporting for livestock producers, in late 2018 the Trump Administration proposed an EPCRA exemption for farms. NCBA filed robust comments in support of this exemption and on June 4, 2019 EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the final rule exempting cattle producers from EPCRA reporting. These exemptions represent critical relief for cattle producers


NCBA is closely monitoring the Dietary Guidelines process to ensure that all decisions are science-based, and that anti-animal agriculture activists do not try and skew the process in their favor. Some activist groups have proposed including “sustainability” considerations in the new guidelines – code for saying that beef consumption should be heavily reduced or eliminated. Eliminating meat from the world’s diets will not end or even significantly impact climate change, and it will make the world’s consumers less healthy and more at risk for malnutrition.

What does this mean for cattle producers?

In July 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released their scientific report, which represents an objective assessment of the latest available science on specific nutrition topics and is designed to inform the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as they develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Since 1980, new DGAs are published every five years, and as the cornerstone of all federal nutrition policy,  influence policy makers, health professionals, and federal nutrition programs alike.

Even though the 2020 guidelines are generally balanced and evidence-based, there were missed opportunities to further reinforce beef’s role in healthy diets and NCBA was proactive in launching a campaign to drive producer comments on the scientific report. Thanks to widespread grassroots support from cattle producers across the country, this was one of NCBA’s most successful comment campaigns ever. Over 700 producers submitted letters to help DGAC recognize where they can improve their work, when they release the Dietary Guidelines for 2020-2025.  Stay tuned for more to come this winter as the Dietary Guidelines are finalized.

Read NCBA's Dietary Guidelines policy here.


For years, NCBA fought against the widely overreaching 2015 Waters of the United States rule. On September 12, 2019, the Trump Administration finalized the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and in April 2020, finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The NWPR, unlike the 2015 WOTUS rule, did not subject ephemeral streams or isolated water features to federal regulation. Additionally, the NWPR provided much needed agricultural exemptions for stock ponds, prior converted cropland, and other agricultural features. NCBA defended the NWPR in federal courts across the country, but unfortunately it was struck down by the U.S. District Court in Arizona on August 30, 2021.

What is NCBA Working On?

In early 2021, the Biden Administration announced their intent to repeal and replace the NWPR. Starting in August 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers held public listening sessions. At these sessions, NCBA, state affiliates, and numerous cattle producers provided comments in support of NWPR. Unfortunately, the court decision striking down the NWPR left EPA to interpret WOTUS consistent with the pre-2015 regulations until further notice. The Biden Administration finalized a new WOTUS rule on December 30, 2022, that did not include exemptions for isolated and ephemeral water features. NCBA filed a lawsuit to stop this burdensome rule in U.S. District Court, while the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to issue a ruling on the WOTUS rule in Sackett v. EPA

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Sackett family in Sackett v. EPA – the court’s most recent consideration of which features are subject to federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. In its holding, the court soundly rejected the contentious “significant nexus” test included in the WOTUS rule. NCBA’s amicus brief to the Court, highlighted the unconstitutionality of imposing criminal penalties for violations of vague standards under the Clean Water Act. The Court recognized and reversed the Significant Nexus test, in part due to the constitutional due process risk that it created. NCBA strongly supports this ruling as it provides regulatory relief to thousands of cattle producers, many of whom had to retain costly legal services to protect their operations from federal overreach under the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule. 

What Does this Matter for Cattle Producers?

The 2015 and 2023 WOTUS rules overregulated the types of isolated or temporary water features commonly found on ranches, such as stock ponds. For years, the WOTUS rule was tied up in litigation leaving cattle producers with regulatory uncertainty while courts decided whether the rule could be enforced. In August 2023, EPA issued a final rule amending the 2023 definition WOTUS that provides the clarity that is needed to continue implementing the Clean Water Act, while moving forward with infrastructure projects, economic opportunities, and agricultural activities. The major amendments that will benefit producers include the elimination of “interstate wetlands” from the list of jurisdictional waters, removal of the significant nexus test when identifying waters as federally protected, and redefining “adjacent” as “having a continuous surface tension” when evaluating water features. This revised WOTUS definition is an important step toward bringing the EPA more in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling and all the agricultural exemptions that NCBA fought for remain in the updated rule. 


U.S. beef production is the most sustainable in the world thanks to decades of improvement and innovation by American farmers and ranchers. Today, the U.S. produces 18 percent of the world’s beef with just 6 percent of the world’s cattle due to scientific advancements in animal nutrition, genetics, and production practices. To highlight the commitment of American cattle farmers and ranchers to continued efficiency and sustainability, NCBA released the U.S. cattle industry sustainability goals at the 2021 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. These goals are the culmination of grassroots, producer-led policy discussions and showcase the industry’s dedication to environmental, economic, and social sustainability. A truly sustainable food system is only possible by balancing these three types of sustainability. Beef production must remain economically sustainable to be environmentally conscious, while also investing in animal husbandry and workforce safety.

What is NCBA Working On?

Cattle producers have long implemented conservation and sustainability practices on their farms and ranches. Building on generations of sustainable practices, NCBA’s sustainability goals set targets for future improvement and provide a benchmark for measuring success.

The goals include:

  1. Demonstrate the climate neutrality of U.S. cattle production by 2040.
  2. Create and enhance opportunities that result in a quantifiable increase in producer profitability and economic sustainability by 2025.
  3. Enhance trust in cattle producers as responsible stewards of their animals and resources by expanding educational opportunities in animal care and handling programs to further improve animal well-being.
  4. Continuously improve our industry’s workforce safety and well-being.
 Building a sustainability legacy

To meet these goals, NCBA is sharing educational resources with producers through the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. BQA helps farmers and ranchers implement good animal husbandry practices that demonstrate the industry’s commitment to animal care and workforce safety. 

 beef quality assurance

Why Does This Matter to Cattle Producers?

U.S. beef product is the most sustainable in the world. Here are the facts:

  • The U.S. has had the lowest beef greenhouse gas emissions in the world since 1996.
  • Direct emissions from cattle account for only two percent of the United States’ overall greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Between 1961 and 2018, the U.S. beef industry, through continued sustainability efforts and improved resource use, has reduced emissions by more than 40%.
  • Today, greenhouse gas emissions from beef production in the United States are 10-50 times lower than other regions around the world.
  • Cattle production on private and public land provides $24.5 billion of societal value in the United States, including job creation and land preservation.
As climate change becomes a greater focus in Washington and among consumers, NCBA is sharing the message that U.S. beef production is a sustainable way to feed the world while demonstrating that cattle are part of the climate solution.

climate cards


The cattle industry is home to some of the most complex markets in the world. The way producers choose to sell their live cattle varies greatly by individual business model, market conditions, geographic region, and a host of other factors. 

When calves reach approx. 800 pounds, they are considered “feeder” cattle. Feeder cattle are sold to feeders, who put cattle on a specialized diet for approximately 4-6 months. Once the cattle reach finished weight, typically 1,200-1,400 pounds at 18-22 months old, they are considered “fat,” “fed,” “finished,” or “live” cattle. Live cattle are then sold to packers and processors, who slaughter and process the animals to produce boxed beef. Boxed beef is sold to wholesalers, who in turn sell to retailers and food service providers, until the final product lands on the plate of a consumer. 

There are four basic transaction types used to trade live cattle:

  • In a negotiated cash trade, the price of the live cattle is the result of a direct negotiation between the feeder (seller) and the packer (buyer). This is the most straightforward type of marketing.
  • In a contract, the buyer and seller agree to a pricing mechanism for cattle to be delivered at a later date.
  • In a negotiated grid sale, the buyer and seller directly negotiate a base price. Premiums and discounts are then applied to the base price according to traits exhibited by the live cattle. This kind of transaction is intended to reward traits that reflect consumer demands or preferences and penalize undesirable traits. This is an example of value-based marketing.
  • Formulas are any form of trade that doesn’t meet the definition of the other three transaction type. In most cases, a base price is determined by some external factor – this could be fed cattle futures, market data available through USDA AMS, etc.

Over the past decade, alternative marketing arrangements or AMAs (contracts, formula sales, and grid sales) have become an increasingly popular over negotiated cash trade. This poses a problem because although AMAs help many cattle producers manage risk and get a better price for live cattle, the prices dictated by AMAs rely upon the value that is assigned to live cattle, at a specific point in time, via negotiated trade. This concept is called price discovery. When many people are using AMAs and too few people are using negotiated trade, buyers and sellers are unable to achieve robust price discovery – and the market becomes dysfunctional. Robust price discovery does not guarantee that someone selling live cattle will make money, but rather it provides critical information to ensure that prices reported are the true value of cattle. 

What is NCBA working on?

Fair, competitive, and transparent markets are essential for cattle producers in every sector of the industry. Working to encourage competition and transparency is a major part of NCBA’s larger goal of supporting producer profitability. No matter how our members choose to market their live cattle, we want to return market leverage to the side of cattle farmers and ranchers so producers in every sector of the cattle industry can get the prices that they deserve from the packers. 

NCBA is tackling this urgent need from multiple angles:

  • NCBA is working with USDA and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support the expansion of processing capacity, specifically among small- to mid-sized, independent, regional, and local packing facilities. Right now, there is a greater supply of live cattle than the packing sector can handle. This imbalance of cattle and “hook space” or processing capacity leads to an imbalance of power in market transactions – cattle producers do not have as many opportunities to sell their animals, and packers have an abundant supply to choose from, taking away leverage from the producer. Disruptive, “black swan” market events like the COVID-19 pandemic and 2019 Tyson fire in Holcomb, Kansas exposed the severe need for more processing capacity, but the issue precedes either of these events. NCBA is working with Congress and USDA to increase financing available through loans and grants, lower regulatory barriers, and conduct relevant research to support the expansion of processing capacity.
  • NCBA is working hard with partners in Congress to secure reauthorization of Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR). This legislation requires packers to report market information to USDA AMS, who then report it to the public. The law also requires AMS to keep packers’ “proprietary business information” confidential. This confidentiality requirement sometimes prevents any price information at all being publicly available in major cattle feeding regions like Colorado. By reauthorizing LMR and clarifying the intent behind the law, Congress can have a direct impact on available market data and help improve price discovery.
  • NCBA was the first and foremost industry voice to call for a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into anticompetitive or antitrust practices taking place in the packing sector, and we have continued to work with industry stakeholders and lawmakers to apply pressure to DOJ. Our members deserve to know whether or not the challenges they are facing in cattle markets can be attributed to anticompetitive practices by packers and processors. DOJ must swiftly conclude their investigation and make their findings available to the public. 

Why does this matter for cattle producers?

When markets malfunction, cattle producers at every stage of the supply chain – from cow-calf operators to feeders – cannot get the prices they deserve for their cattle. This a complex and often controversial issue. There is no one silver bullet, and reaching a solution that is research-driven, industry-led, and beneficial for every segment of the supply chain will require transparency and nuance. 

Learn more about the complex U.S. cattle and beef supply chain. 


Over the past few years, NCBA petitioned and called for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to close a loophole in labeling rules that may allow imported beef to carry a “Product of USA” labeling claim. NCBA underscored the importance of making sure origin labeling remains voluntary, verified, and trade compliant. In response, USDA conducted consumer surveys and developed new guidelines for origin labeling claims. On March 18, 2024, USDA published the final rule for “Voluntary Labeling of FSIS-Regulated Products with U.S. Origin”, which will replace the current guidelines for “Product of USA” labels. Those who choose to use voluntary origin claims must comply with the new FSIS requirements by January 1, 2026.

How Does the New Labeling Work? 

Under the new rule, products such as steaks and ground beef that are specifically labeled as “Product of USA” and “Made in the USA” may do so if the product is derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States, and those steps are verifiable.  

The new rule also allows for qualified claims that indicate that a preparation or processing step of the product is of U.S. origin. (Ex. Processed in USA; Fed and Processed in USA; etc.) The new rule applies to products that carry origin claims for states, territories, and localities. The new rule only applies to the domestic market, and export products must comply with the applicable export market. In the rule, USDA reinforces that the new rule will be voluntary in application and will comply with our international trade obligations – in recognition of the retaliatory tariffs that will be imposed by Canada and Mexico if Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) is reinstated. 


While fewer than 20 percent of our country’s population lives in rural areas, the small communities there are the backbone of our agricultural and manufacturing industries. Infrastructure investments are an important step toward ensuring American cattle producers and their communities have access to necessary resources to achieve success in the 21st century. For rural America to thrive and for farms and ranches to be competitive in a global marketplace, investments in roads, bridges, water infrastructure, and reliable high-speed internet are critical.

What is NCBA focused on?

Livestock haulers rely on modernized roads and bridges as well as flexibility in hours-of-service (HOS) requirements to safely complete hauls. Cattle are often raised in remote areas of the country and then hauled long distances to the areas of the country where feedlots and processing plants are located. Without flexibility in HOS requirements, some cattle producers may not have the ability to compete in the global marketplace and there would be significant challenges in ensuring grocery store shelves remain fully stocked with beef products.

Connectivity is the foundation for progress. Precision agriculture technology will play a central role in increasing our global food system’s resiliency – ensuring that our supply chains remain environmentally sustainable while feeding an ever-growing global population. However, the use of this technology relies on the broad accessibility of reliable, high-speed internet. In the agricultural industry, internet access opens doors to increased efficiency, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.

Western farmers and ranchers have experienced the most severe drought the U.S. has seen in years. Now more than ever, water infrastructure projects need to be completed without the obstruction of bureaucratic government processes. In addition, funding to mitigate wildfires will contribute to necessary land management techniques that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.  

"We truly feel the NCBA... a grassroots organization and there is power in numbers. Where else have you been part of a crowd of 6,000 people who salute the flag and say prayer before an annual conference?"

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