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Published March 04, 2013, 09:41 AM

Policy priorities

National Cattlemen's Beef Association outlines key issues in 2013.

By: Philip Ellis, Agweek

As a fifth-generation rancher and policy division chairman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, I am outling the association’s policy priorities for 2013. These priorities, along with other issues affecting cattlemen and women across the country, will serve as the focus of NCBA’s policy team in Washington.

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, left much to be desired for the cattle industry. The Senate reintroduced its version of the bill 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 that NCBA and its membership fought for last year, such as no livestock title, along with the maintaining of conservation programs and the research title. NCBA supports the passage of agriculture policy that will provide certainty to farmers and ranchers, and we will continue to engage Congress to pass a future full farm bill that is positive for cattlemen.

The Animal Drug User Fee Act is also at the top of NCBA’s policy priority list. The legislation amends the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and authorizes FDA to collect fees for certain animal drug applications, in support of the review of animal drugs. ADUFA is up for reauthorization in 2013.

NCBA fully supports the reauthorization of ADUFA 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. NCBA thinks new animal drug user fees should be utilized solely to support and facilitate the new animal drug approval process, and we will work to ensure the ADUFA law does not contain amendments that hinder the drug evaluation process.

Environment

Environmental issues are front and center in 2013, which makes the potential expansion of the Clean Water Act part of NCBA’s policy priority lineup.

The expansion of the law is one that could cripple cattle operations 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 the animals and nurture the land. Expansion of the Clean Water Act would hamper the ability to maintain clean waters. This proposed guidance would give EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all types of waters and would amount to one of the largest land-grabs by the federal government.

NCBA has included immigration and border security as one of its priorities. In 2011, NCBA members voted to establish policy on immigration reform to represent cattle producers living along the U.S. 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. NCBA supports legislation and authority for law enforcement to secure international borders.

Trade

Trade is off to a positive start in 2013, with Japan recently opening its market to U.S. beef from cattle 30 months and younger. Trade is a priority for NCBA and cattlemen fully support open markets, level playing fields and science-based standards in international trade. We support expanding export opportunities for U.S. beef. The free trade agreements enacted last year offer potential to increase market share in key markets for U.S. beef in Asia and South America.

It is critical that we expand our opportunities to sell beef in the international marketplace if we want to keep American family farms in business.

Editor’s Note: Ellis is a rancher from Chugwater, Wyo.

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