WASHINGTON D.C. - The policy wins cattle producers scored during the 106th Congress will provide the foundation to build an increasingly profitable beef industry in the upcoming years, the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association said today.

Lawmakers over the last two years addressed and passed many critical pieces of legislation that will create a climate in which cattle producers can affordably raise the beef that consumers are wanting in greater quantities.

"The policy gains are significant tools," said Lynn Cornwell, a cattle producer from Glasgow, Mont., and NCBA president-elect. "We now have mechanisms in place to increase demand for our product abroad. We also have the means to provide greater market transparency, which will benefit individual producers."

The good news this year for cattle producers is that beef demand has continued to climb every quarter. This positive movement can be attributed to many factors, including positive legislative and regulatory strides made during the 106th Congress.

PNTR – Cattle producers lobbied congressmen and the administration for more than a year to support Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China. The president signed the bill Oct. 10. Under the agreement, tariffs on beef imports will drop from 45 percent to 12 percent over five years. Economists predict beef exports to China will more than triple from 23,000 metric tons annually to 70,000 metric tons.

Carousel Retaliation – Cattle producers successfully urged Congress to pass carousel retaliation because it is crafted to pressure the EU to comply with international trade law. The European Union, in the dispute over U.S. beef raised with growth promoters, has not complied with international trade rules. Carousel has also provided the impetus to bring the EU to the negotiating table.

Mandatory Price Reporting – The mandatory price reporting (MPR) legislation Congress passed in late 1999 will provide increased market transparency. USDA published a final rule in late November. Once the U.S. Department of Agriculture implements the MPR rule, cattle producers will have daily access to regularly updated market figures such as price and volume information regarding negotiated and non-negotiated purchases of cattle and boxed beef sales. Packers will also report retail prices of beef exports and imports.

Death Tax – Support continues to grow for death tax repeal. Although the president twice vetoed different pieces of legislation that would have phased out the death tax, both houses of Congress passed the measure with bipartisan support. In fact, the measure passed with even greater bipartisan support the second time.

TMDLs – Cattle producers took a stand when the Environmental Protection Agency published a proposed rule that would place overly burdensome and costly restrictions on the cattle industry. Congress, as a result, passed a measure that would bar FY2001 funding for implementation of new Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL), effectively preventing EPA from implementing its controversial new regulations for at least one year. The delay buys the cattle industry time to lobby for positive, science-based changes to the regulation.

Property Rights – The House approved a property rights bill that calls for protections to landowners when they have to take their land out of production due to government regulations. Protecting private property rights will continue to be an NCBA priority.

CARA - NCBA aggressively lobbied against this bill, which passed the House early in the year but eventually failed. Congress passed a scaled-back version of the measure called the Lands Legacy Act, which calls for more congressional oversight of federal lands acquisitions and input from states.

Federal Lands – The interior appropriations bill includes language allowing the Bureau of Land Management to grant new ten-year permits even if the BLM has not completed all necessary environmental reviews. The bill also includes an additional $488.3 million for the Interior Department's fire-related activities. This 168-percent funding increase covers fire prevention, fire fighting and public lands restoration.

Agriculture Appropriations – Congress passed an agriculture appropriations bill that includes additional funding for disaster assistance, agriculture research and food safety initiatives. Lawmakers approved about $490 million in disaster assistance, $40 million for pasture recovery and $10 million for livestock indemnity payments. The measure also provides $500,000 in funding to the National Research Council for an evaluation of food safety.

Regulatory Wins Dietary Guidelines – USDA earlier this year released a set of dietary guidelines. Cattle producers successfully worked to make sure daily portions of meat remains part of the government guidelines for a healthy diet.

Soy Rule – Cattle producers also successfully fought to push USDA to revise its soy rule, which determines how much alternative protein sources such as soy can be used in the school lunch program.

Other regulatory and legislative issues on which NCBA worked during the last two years include:

  • Rescinding USDA quality grade - NCBA believes providing grades such as USDA prime on imported meat misinforms consumers.
  • Voluntary labeling - NCBA worked with a coalition of other commodity groups to present a proposal to USDA that would mark U.S. beef as made in the USA.
  • Inequities between meat and poultry - NCBA continues to work to get USDA to reform rules that allow poultry to have significantly more added water weight than beef.
  • Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 1999 - This measure reforms the crop insurance system. It includes provisions to assist livestock producers with risk management.
  • Interstate shipment of state-inspected meat. Versions of this bill were introduced in the House and Senate. The bill would allow state plants that live up to the same standards as federal plants to ship their products outside state borders.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association