Japanese Prime Minister Announces New Cabinet

The newly elected Japanese Prime Minister yesterday (Wednesday) announced his incoming Cabinet, including Hirotaka Akamatsu as the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In remarks to NCBA members on Tuesday-the day before the announcement-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated that talks with Japan could not move forward until a new Agriculture Minister was in place. Now that the announcement has been made, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is urging the Obama Administration to reengage in trade talks with Japan, which understandably, had been on hold since the weeks leading up to the Japanese elections last month.

Japan continues to be NCBA's number one trade priority. Japan's 20 month and under age restriction on U.S. beef imports is limiting the U.S. to about 25% of pre-BSE levels of trade, translating to at least $1 billion in untapped beef export revenues each year. NCBA looks forwarded to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to increase access to this critical market.
In other trade news, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) export report released today, this is the strongest week of beef export sales since March, and the third strongest week of the entire year.Net sales of 15,100 MT were primarily for Vietnam (3,700 MT), Mexico (2,300 MT), Canada (2,000 MT), and Hong Kong (2,000 MT). Exports of 8,700 MT were mainly to Mexico (3,100 MT), Canada (1,400 MT), Japan (1,300 MT), and Vietnam (800 MT).

NCBA Wraps up Successful Legislative Conference

Nearly 160 cattle producers representing 31 states attended the 2009 National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Legislative Conference held this week in Washington DC. Highlights of the week included briefings by the new Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Senator Blanche Lincoln (http://www.lincoln.senate.gov/newsroom/2009-08-15-3.cfm) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. NCBA members also visited with their representatives on Capitol Hill to talk about legislative priorities for the cattle industry, including:

Food Safety: Beef safety is the #1 priority for cattle producers. As an industry, we're proud of the strong systems we have in place to ensure a safe, high-quality product for consumers, and we're constantly looking for ways to improve upon those processes. As the House and Senate continue to work out details of a food safety bill, we'll be working to make sure it meets our common goal of increasing food safety, without creating unintended consequences for industry or agriculture.

Antibiotic use in livestock: Congress is considering the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animals.The judicious use of antibiotics is a necessary and important tool to prevent, control, and treat disease in cattle. Prohibiting all low-level applications of antibiotics used in livestock will reduce our ability to address disease in cattle. All antibiotics used in beef cattle production go through a rigorous testing process before being approved by the FDA. In multiple studies, no connection has been found between antibiotic use in cattle and antibiotic-resistant foodborne or other pathogens. It's important that any decisions about the use of antibiotics are based on science, and not politics.

Climate change: The Cap and Trade bill-as passed in the House-could significantly increaseenergy prices.Increased energy prices would mean increased fuel, electricity, feed, fertilizer,equipment, and other input prices for cattle operations.Some economists estimate that the Cap and Trade bill could decrease farmincome by $8 billion in the short term and over $50 billion long termNCBA opposed the House bill because of concerns about increased operatingcosts and potential regulation, and is working with the Senate to improve thelegislation.

Death Tax: This year, estates valued at more than $3.5 million, or $7 million for a couple, are taxed at a 45% rate. If Congress doesn't act to reduce the estate tax, in 2011 it will revert to a staggering 55% tax on estates worth only $1 million or more. Most cattle producers have businesses that have been passed down through the generations for more than 50 years, and their families want to continue these traditions. Specific agricultural relief would benefit the American public through greater food security, maintenance of important open space and environmental resources while also helping to preserve valued traditions and lifestyle. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, one in ten farm estates (farms with sales of $250,000 or more annually) are likely to owe estate taxes in 2009. NCBA is asking Congress to support H.R. 3524, the Family Farm and Conservation Preservation Act, sponsored by Congressmen Thompson (D-CA) and Salazar (D-CO), and support additional estate tax relief for agriculture operations in tax extender legislation.

Transportation Reauthorization: Agriculture and cattle production are unlike the manufacturingindustry. During busy seasons, our transportation needs don'tcomply with normal working schedules. For that reason, cattleproducers need Congress to increase the allowable truck weightlimits for certain agricultural vehicles, which will increase productivity and make us morecompetitive with Mexico and Canada, which allow 97,000 lb trucks.Additionally, because of the varying conditions needed for pasturingcattle versus feeding cattle, livestock must frequently be transportedacross state borders. Uniform standards are critical for a smoothflow of commerce. NCBA is supporting H.R. 1799-The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009-would allow states to permit vehicles to haul agricultural productsup to 97,000 pounds with the addition of a third axle; HR 1220-the Farm Truck Bill-which would exempt agricultural haulers from federal commercial motor vehicle and operatingregulations and raise the federal definition of commercial vehicles from 10,001 pounds to 26,000 pounds; and S.639, aSenate bill which would provide similar measures.

Clean Water Restoration Act: NCBA is working to defeat this Act. The existing Clean Water Act has been highly successful thanks to the strong partnership that exists between the federal and state governments which allows states flexibility to manage their own land and water in a way that makes sense. According to legal experts, there is ample authority under current statutes to regulate clean water. The proposed Clean Water Restoration Act is not about clean water; it's about total watershed control by the government. At a time when our resources are already stretched thin, it makes no sense to expand the government's responsibility to mud holes and other wet areas with little to no environmental value to the public.

In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, members also participated in meetings with key officials at the Agriculture Marketing Service, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, Global Change Program, Marketing Regulatory Programs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Unique Partnership Promotes Conservation through Ranching

A group of respected ranching and conservation organizations have come together to form a unique broad based coalition to enhance ranching practices that consider important conservation issues throughout the West. The Coalition for Conservation through Ranchingis a new multi-stakeholder partnership between national conservation-minded groups that share an interest in promoting open space for ranching and healthy landscapes. The recently signed agreement marks the beginning of the unique relationship. Steering committee members of the coalition include the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Family Farm Alliance (FFA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Other organizations that have joined the coalition at this time are the American Farmland Trust, the American Forage and Grassland Council, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Society for Rangeland Management, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Wilderness Society. The Bureau of Land Management serves as an advisor to the group.

"Cherished iconic western landscapes depend upon productive partnerships between ranchers and conservationists. The Coalition for Conservation through Ranching will promote solutions that will keep western landscapes healthy and in the process benefit working ranches, wildlife and other natural resources," says Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain Regional Director, EDF.

"Intact working ranches that are managed with wildlife in mind can help support habitat for grassland birds, mammals, and fish, all of which face uncertain prospects without the large spaces they need to survive. By working together we can encourage ranching practices that ensure the preservation of wildlife, and develop incentives that help ranchers to do so," says Martha Kauffman, Managing Director WWF Northern Great Plains Program.

The coalition formed by six leading ranching and conservation organizationswill support ranching on public and private lands in the West that is conducted in an ecologically sustainable way. "Maintaining a sustainable business environment and keeping ranchers on public lands allows our Western landscapes to remain open for wildlife habitat and recreational use and also provides for conservation efforts that might not otherwise occur," says Skye Krebs, President of PLC and rancher from Ione, Oregon. "Together, the members of this coalition share a common interest in supporting working ranches and healthy landscapes."

"As cattlemen, we rely on healthy land to produce healthy livestock. And one of the biggest gauges we can use to judge the health of our land is the co-existence of wildlife alongside of our livestock," said Gary Voogt, NCBA president and rancher from Marne, Mich. "America's farmers and ranchers are always looking for ways to increase efficiencies and build upon existing stewardship practices to keep our land and animals healthy and continue providing safe, high-quality food for America's families. By bringing together leaders from industry and the environmental community, we can help further these goals in a way that benefits our nation's land, animals and citizens."

This collaborative conservation effort will provide for a more efficient use of resources, increased outreach opportunities, and a holistic approach to problem solving. It will also help to increase the understanding of complex issues between ranching and conservation and provide a forum to discuss the interaction between natural resource management and ranching.

"Conservation districts-located in nearly every county across the nation-address natural resource issues on a local level," says NACD President Steve Robinson. "NACD is eager to collaborate with private landowners, government officials and members of this newly-formed Coalition to ensure that the health of our public and private lands is maintained and improved."

The coalition will work on common ground issues which may include a pro-grasslands agenda, including grassland research projects, specific species conservation projects, and climate change including raising the awareness of the important role of grasslands on carbon sequestration, as well as other issues of common interest.

NCBA Weighs in with USTR on Trade with Korea

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) submitted comments on Tuesday to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) regarding the importance of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS FTA). The KORUS FTA is a critical component of the U.S. beef industry's formula for its continued and future success.

NCBA members recognize that international trade is a key to economic growth and creates opportunities to help U.S. cattle producers grow demand for our product and enhance our profitability. We support international trade policies that aggressively pursue expanded market access for U.S. beef, enforce trade agreements based upon internationally recognized standards and guidelines, and hold our trading partners accountable for their international trade commitments.

Prior to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003 in the United States, and the subsequent closure of over two-thirds of our export markets, the United States was the second largest beef exporter in the world. For decades, we have been the world's largest beef importer with the vast majority of these imports marketed as hamburger. We export our higher value, grain-fed beef and beef products, and import lower value products of which we have a deficit. Given a fair chance, we are willing and able to compete anywhere in the world.

NCBA staunchly supports the KORUS FTA and believes that it will result in one of the most significant economic benefits to our industry since the passage of NAFTA, an agreement that has boosted U.S. beef exports to Mexico by more than $1.2 billion since its entry into force. Not since the U.S.-Japan beef-citrus agreement of 1988 have U.S. beef producers had within our grasp an opportunity to expand market access for our products in Asia as we have with this successfully negotiated KORUS FTA.

The improvements in market access included in this agreement are long-term (15 years) and have been hard fought. NCBA is extremely concerned that Korea is moving ahead with other free trade agreements involving Australia and the European Union. These countries are major meat exporters who know full well the terms of how to position themselves to outmaneuver the KORUS FTA. We appreciate the past support of the Bush Administration and members of Congress in working towards the full restoration of U.S. beef exports to South Korea. We're pleased with the efforts of the Obama Administration to date on beef market access issues, and we continue to urge the Administration to send the KORUS FTA to Congress for ratification as soon as possible. Failure to do so will very likely mean that U.S. ranchers will lose any tariff advantage. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to secure ratification of this historic FTA.

Agriculture Community Urges Continued Public Outreach on H1N1

On Monday, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) joined with a group of 10 national agriculture organizations in thanking the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for its efforts to clear up public misinformation about the nature of the H1N1 virus. The groups also urged the FAO to continue these efforts as the fall flu season approaches. The following is the text of the letter sent on Monday to Director GeneralDr. Jacques Diouf:

"On behalf of America's pork, beef and poultry producers, we would like to thank you for the efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to convey to the public and the media the facts about the Novel H1N1 Influenza, particularly that the virus is not transmissible through food and that it did not originate from swine. We also greatly appreciate your prompt collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health to assist government efforts to protect the pig sector from the novel H1N1 virus by confirming there is no direct link to pigs, increasing animal disease surveillance and maintaining response readiness.

"The initial misnaming of the H1N1 virus as "swine" flu caused the North American pork industry to suffer significant losses. U.S. pork producers were losing just under $10 per head on April 24, the first day the H1N1 flu received wide media attention. That number soared over $30 per head as consumer demand for pork fell and some U.S. trading partners closed their markets to U.S. pork despite the large body of evidence demonstrating that the virus is not transmitted through food. Between April 24 and August 18, pork producers lost nearly $1.2 billion more than would have been the case if the live hog futures prices on April 24 had been sustained.

"Even the U.S. beef and poultry industries, which weren't directly tied to H1N1, have suffered losses because export markets were closed in reaction to H1N1 in the United States. Beef producers estimate losses of nearly $1 million during the weeks after the flu outbreak was first reported, and poultry producers suffered similar economic losses. The estimates understate the true impact of the market closures since they do not take into account the significant market disruptions that occurred in the United States because of the increase in pork supplies on the U.S. market.

"Your efforts helped temper those losses and helped focus attention where it was needed - on the public health response to the human-to-human transmission of the H1N1 flu.

"As the fall flu season nears, the U.S. pork, beef and poultry industries again will be looking to FAO to assure the public that the Novel H1N1 Influenza is not spread through eating or handling food, that pork, beef and poultry are safe to eat and that the virus is not of swine origin and should not be labeled "swine" flu. We also would request that any influenza virus be referred by its technical name rather than linked to a food animal."

The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation; American Meat Institute; National Cattlemen's Beef Association; National Chicken Council; National Meat Association; National Pork Board; National Pork Producers Council; National Turkey Federation; U.S. Meat Export Federation; and the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Don't miss NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen!

Don't miss NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen, September 22-26! We'll learn about an upcoming Ohio ballot initiative which aims to take a proactive approach to animal care. We'll also visit the home of J.D. Alexander, NCBA's Federation Division Chairman and we'll learn about how Ft. Dodge and the National Cattlemen's Foundation are helping students pursue careers as food animal specialists and large animal veterinarians.

NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen debuts Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and airs again Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m. (all times are Eastern). Don't forget, you can watch NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen online anytime by visiting www.cattlementocattlemen.org. Follow us on Twitter at NCBA C2C and become a fan on Facebook by searching NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen.