NCBA and CBB bury the 'hatchet'

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2012 -The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Cattlemen's Beef Board buried the hatchet last week during their joint annual meeting in Nashville and vowed to work together to ensure a successful and sustainable U.S. beef industry.

“We're not going to be fightin' and fussin' with each other anymore,” NCBA President Bill Donald declared at the outset of what turned into a four-day love fest witnessed by a record 8,217 attendees.

It was almost as if the $200,000-plus in accounting errors, eavesdropping on private phone calls, and public questioning of each other's motives that poisoned the relationship between the checkoff board and its largest contractor the past two years - not to mention the USDA Inspector General audit of  the beef promotion and research program's finances ‑  never happened.

 Together we can feed the Bees

Time and again, officials of CBB and NCBA cited increased transparency and trust between the groups about how checkoff dollars are invested and accounted for.

“This meeting we've got going here is one of a different attitude, it's a different frame of mind, folks are smiling, shaking hands and having a big time,” CBB Vice Chairman Weldon Wynn told Agri-Pulse.

CBB gets 50 cents of every dollar generated by the checkoff. In 2011, its share amounted to $42.1 million, the lowest amount since 1987. Checkoff revenues are expected to stabilize in 2014, Wynn said.

Cattle producers arrived in Nashville riding a wave of momentum fueled by high market prices, record exports and recent legislative and regulatory wins in Washington, DC.

Whether you're a cow-calf producer or a cattle feeder, whether you're 20 or 70, we are facing the opportunity of a lifetime,” NCBA CEO Forrest Roberts said.

Cow-calf producers, in particular, are in the driver's seat as they look to rebuild herds decimated by a combination of high feed costs and the worst drought in the southwestern U.S. since the 1930s.  The 2011 beef cow herd was the smallest since 1962, marking the 13th time in the last 15 years that inventories had declined.

Cattle-Fax, an industry analyst, forecast calf prices this year in a range of $162 to $188/cwt and penciled in a nearly $150/cwt average for feeder cattle. 

“We're already seeing clear signs of expansion in the Northern Plains and Midwest regions where more heifers are being staged today and we expect those heifers will be exposed to bulls this spring and summer and we'll start to see the cow herd actually grow in 2013 in those areas,” Cattle-Fax CEO Randy Blach said.

NCBA leadership cited a slew of unsuccessful regulatory proposals from the EPA, the amended USDA GIPSA proposed rule on livestock marketing, and a Transportation Department proposal that would have required cattlemen to acquire commercial driver's licenses as examples of the group's “successful pushback of burdensome regulations.”

But Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said NCBA wasn't ready to declare victory just yet.

“We had some positive moves, absolutely…but to come out and say ‘we slayed the dragon,' no, because there are still a lot of challenges out there in front of us,” he said, pointing to the Labor Department's on-farm child labor regulation.

NCBA's top priority for the 2012 Farm Bill is eliminating the Livestock Title, in part, to deprive the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) of a potential vehicle for inserting the United Egg Producers-HSUS agreement on mandated production practices for egg-laying hens.

The controversial agreement “opens up a Pandora's Box on Capitol Hill,” Kristina Butts, NCBA executive director of legislative affairs, said. “While this bill currently only applies to the egg industry, it's not a far stretch to see it applied to all of animal agriculture.”

Reminders of the perceived threat that HSUS represents to cattle producers were present throughout the Cattle Industry Convention - and in the most unlikely of places. Attendees were greeted with a video message promoting an upcoming HSUS pet show when they checked in to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The hotel apologized to NCBA and removed the “commercial” from all television screens, including the hotel bus, reported.


Original story printed in February 8, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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