TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 2, 2013- While the traditional Gasparilla Pirate Fest and industry sustainability are official themes during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) convention this week, one recognizing that government is “regulating rather than legislating” is also prominent.   

NCBA President-elect Scott George told more than 5,000 convention attendees in Tampa, Florida, that the federal government “has been one of regulation more than legislation.” He noted that NCBA won several battles over the past year, but “we still have a fight in the year ahead of us.”

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall noted that “we are preparing ourselves for an onslaught of more rules and regulations” in the next few years, “especially from the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency].”

The sentiments of NCBA leaders seemed to coincide with Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney, who in an opening session speech to the group said the economic panic of 2008 changed the nation’s politics. “We became a country that is all government all the time,” he said.

One example of an NCBA regulatory victory in 2012 is the defeat of proposed child farm labor regulations from the Department of Labor. As noted by exiting NCBA President JD Alexander, NCBA members “actually flooded the phone banks in DC and put a halt to those operations in the Department.” 

He also emphasized disagreement with the EPA over the feared “dust standard,” which NCBA’s Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald said would have doubled the current coarse particulate matter regulations. However, EPA retained the current standard in December. If allowed to double, the standard “would have made a huge swath of the West and Midwest one big non-containment area,” she said.

“This is what happens when you get overregulated,” Alexander commented during Wednesday’s opening session.  

McDonald described the EPA’s retention on these coarse particulate matter standards, or National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), as a “win” for cattlemen in 2012. She said NCBA was the prominent force pushing back on the EPA regarding the rule. 

In November, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said continued battling over the proposed “dust standard” is superfluous, since the EPA had assured the agriculture community it would not pursue an increased standard.

However, “we don’t rely just on what people say, we look at what’s on paper,” McDonald said, noting that although not officially proposed, a doubling of the coarse particulate matter NAAQS had been suggested within the EPA.

“I’m 100 percent confident that without NCBA’s efforts, they would have doubled that standard,” she said.

McDonald also emphasized a Clean Water Act guidance that redefines “waters of the United States” as a high priority in the coming year. Woodall explained the issue relies on whether those waters are described as “navigable” or not. 

“The guidance document would have expanded the definition of waters of United States to virtually anything,” McDonald said, but the guidance remains in the Office of Budget and Management, and has for about two years. However, she said they are expecting a proposed rule to emerge in the next few months. 

“That is something we will fight to the bitter end,” Woodall said regarding the CWA guidance.

Exiting President Alexander told NCBA members that he regarded the biggest accomplishment during his presidency as the estate tax exemption within the American Taxpayer Relief bill. Passed in the fiscal cliff legislation in early January, Congress set a permanent estate tax exemption for land valued at $10 million, instead of reverting to $1 million. While the new rate is set at 40 percent, higher than the previous 35 percent rate, it is more appealing than the 55 percent top rate on $1 million estates that would have become permanent without a new deal.

Noting he his proud of NCBA for its efforts regarding the estate tax, Alexander added that he is “disappointed” with the 40 percent rate, but “at least now we have some permanency.”



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