Ohio Cattlemen’s Association focuses on national political challenges

Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Beef Association, spoke to producers in Columbus, Jan. 8, during the Ohio Cattleman Association’s annual meeting and awards ceremony. He said new rules for packaging and warehouse law and environmental concerns are catching the attention of political leaders. (Photos by Jill Cake)

COLUMBUS – In the fast-paced world of Washington, D.C., politics, few issues have caught the attention of politicians for long, but recently the US Congress and President Joe Biden took a closer look at the beef industry, according to Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the Bovine Breeders Association. National.

Lane spoke to the producers, in Columbus, Ohio, on January 8, during the Ohio Cattleman Society annual meeting and awards ceremony.

“Whether we like it or not, Capital Hill is paying attention to the livestock industry,” he said. “Let’s make sure we give them really clear instructions.”

a lot of attention

On January 3, President Biden met with meat industry leaders to discuss the administration’s plans for a more equitable and resilient meat and poultry supply chain, Lin said. Earlier, Biden issued an executive order on enhancing competition in the US economy that included guidance on meat packaging and meat labeling.

Meanwhile, Congress held hearings on the same issues.

“This level of attention, for so long, on a range of issues is somewhat unprecedented,” Lin said.

Lin explained that the Biden administration is in the process of developing rules on packaging law enforcement. He expects that the new rules relating to the poultry farming championship system will be finalized first, as they have been the focus of further discussions within the administration.

Progress on other proposed changes is slower.

“I think they’re still trying to figure out where they want to go with the competition harm standard,” he said. While it’s important for the USDA to oversee the meat industry through the Packers and Stockyards Act, the rules should reward the playing field without removing competition in the market, Lin said.

“We want to be really careful not to create a dynamic where the government ensures equality of outcome,” he said. “We don’t want the federal government to say that everyone’s livestock has to be of the same value or someone can sue.”

Lin added that while the new rules are being developed, producers should be prepared to provide their input. Initially, the management had plans to hold producer introduction sessions across the country to gather ideas from various sectors of the beef industry.

“I’m sure hope they don’t skip that step,” he said. “We have to make sure we have real product input into the process.”

Fantastic Opportunities

Lane said meat labeling remains a topic of debate in Washington, although the focus is developing. The WTO rulings made clear that the United States could not institute a mandatory COOL labeling program without incurring $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico.

Instead of a mandatory labeling program, the meat industry is moving toward voluntary marketing labels that offer producers premiums for things that retail customers want.

This isn’t necessarily a US label, Lane said, “what consumers say they want Ohio beef. They want Shenandoah Valley beef. They want those regional products, they want specific production practices.”

At the same time, Lane added, the current naming rules for the USA should be reviewed.

“It’s an unverified label, and it’s not a label that actually speaks of the origin,” he said. Instead, the label indicates where the beef is being processed.

climate sustainability

Lin said the sustainability of the beef industry is also a topic of discussion in Washington.

“We set our industry climate sustainability goals last summer,” he said. “The US cattle industry will be able to prove that we are climate neutral by 2040.”

That’s a strict goal, he said, but he believes the data will show the industry is really close to achieving it.

Lin said the United States already has the most efficient beef production system in the world. Unlike some other countries, the United States does not cut down rainforests to produce beef.

“We use the land the way it was meant to be used to produce a quality product,” he said. “We have that efficiency and that low environmental impact because of that.”

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