NCBA has a lot to be proud of in 2012. We continue to be the trusted leader and definitive voice serving the U.S. beef industry. We continue to successfully represent cattlemen and women in Washington, D.C., making sure that rural America’s voice is heard loud and clear. As I look back on this year a few important events come to mind.
One of the highlights of this past year has been the great opportunity I have had to travel the country and meet so many outstanding cattlemen and women. Over the past several weeks I have been fortunate to have a chance to attend a number of state conventions. Many of them have seen record attendance this year and it has been good to see old friends and make new ones along the way. Over the past several years I have traveled a great deal and attended more state events than I can recall. During that time, what always stands out the most is how strong and how important the state and national partnership is between NCBA and its affiliates. We may face a difficult political environment and challenges from Mother Nature, but because we face them together we have been able to put points on the board for the cattle industry despite those difficulties.
We have seen positive outcomes in many of the regulatory battles we fought this year. The most recent win came in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to retain the current dust standard. It wasn’t the permanent solution rural America was hoping for and we’ll face another review of the standard within five years, but for now it provides us with a solution. We’ve seen other important wins in 2012. We were successful in pushing back on the Department of Labor’s proposed regulations to limit on-farm labor by our nation’s youth. At a time when we need labor and young people need an opportunity to develop a passion for agriculture, it shows just how out of touch many in our government are with the needs of farm and ranch families across the country. Another regulatory victory was on the transportation bill. NCBA secured provisions to give farmers and ranchers relief from CDL and hours of service regulations, and we defeated attempts to criminalize hauling horses on double deck trailers.
Of course trade is a topic that is important to cattlemen. It is extremely refreshing to see more than five years of work on the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea paying off. Agreements with South Korea – the biggest bilateral trade agreement in my lifetime – and Colombia – an essentially untapped market – have been implemented. Also, the United States-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA), entered into force in October. This agreement immediately eliminates the 30 percent tariff on prime and choice beef cuts and all other duties will be phased out over the next 15 years.
But just because the year is over does not mean that we will rest on our laurels. As one year ends, another begins, with continuing issues that affect cattle producers. We hope to see a full farm bill in 2013, along with relief from the devastating estate tax. Our policy remains that we seek full and permanent repeal of this outdated, job killing tax. NCBA continues to work with our coalition partners to urge Congress to pass permanent estate tax relief.
Our team in Washington, D.C., is working hard to educate members of Congress and their staff members about the issues that are important to members of both NCBA and our state affiliates. By educating our regulatory agencies and legislators we’re able to proactively work against damaging regulations that would hamper our ability to operate our farms and ranches. At the same time, we’re able to build alliances that will benefit our members in the future. But it isn’t just our staff in Washington, D.C., that can make a difference. By interacting with the district staff of our elected officials cattlemen and women can help educate them and strengthen NCBA’s work at the national level.
I encourage all cattlemen and women to attend the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, Feb. 6-9, in Tampa, Fla. You have a stake in the future of the cattle industry. By attending convention you are making sure your voice heard is in the decisions that shape our industry. Attending the convention is one of the most important investments you can make in your operation.
It has truly been an honor to serve the hardworking men and women of the cattle industry as NCBA president. I will be passing the reins of the organization to Scott George when we gather in Tampa for the convention, but I will continue to work on behalf of this industry and its great people.