Addressing the Intervet/Schering Plough Cattle Feeders Summit this week, Chandler Keys, VP of government affairs & industry relations at JBS Swift, discussed the climate in
The atmosphere in the nation’s capital, he says, has changed dramatically over the past year, with the new administration and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. The center of gravity has shifted from Wall Street to
Keys notes that the economy, two wars and health-care reform will dominate the political landscape for at least the rest of this year, as other issues take a back seat. Climate change has been in the forefront as the House of Representatives made legislation a priority this year, but Keys says he doesn’t expect the Senate to address the issue for some time. Infighting among Democrats, he adds, will cause delays as much as resistance from Republicans.
Food safety is getting a lot attention in D.C. and Keys says the entire beef-production system needs to make eliminating E. coli O157:H7 a top priority.
On the environmental front, the environmental community is back in power, Keys says, wielding more influence than they have had since the Carter administration, and they will exert pressure on legislation affecting agriculture.
On a related note, he expects there will be a big push to remove antibiotics from use for “growth promotion” in livestock. He questions how activists and politicians will define growth promotion, as some products are used at levels that promote digestive health, which allows better weight gains.
Animal welfare issues will continue to gain momentum. Keys points out that
Ethanol production is mandated and is not going away, he says, “unless there is a wreck in the food industry. And that has not happened yet, except at your (farm) level.” The general public, he adds, does not care about farm prices and will only pay attention when the issue hits their pocketbooks. The
Industry concentration and competitiveness are high on the administration’s agenda, and Keys says he expects USDA to pursue changes in the livestock market structure.
The current emphasis on sustainability and local food production at USDA also concerns Keys. Less than 200,000