Looking into a crystal ball and determining what’s in store for the beef industry in terms of policy and regulations is pretty much impossible. Especially when you consider that in 2011, several unexpected issues turned up for the beef industry.
"We didn’t fully expect the GIPSA [Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration] rule to be the top issue of 2011," says Mike Deering, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) communications director. "We also didn’t foresee the onslaught of bizarre regulations coming from several agencies of this administration. The most recent example is the Department of Labor’s proposed regulations for on-farm child labor."
Industry groups like NCBA will be on the watch for agency regulations that have a negative impact on farmers and ranchers. But the major issue on the plate this year will be the 2012 farm bill. The current 2008 farm bill contains what has been termed the "livestock title." The title was added in 2008 and is responsible for mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and the GIPSA rule. Those two issues alone are dividing cattle producers, with some for and some against those rules.
This past November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) sided with Canada and Mexico in a complaint against the mandatory COOL law, saying it was inconsistent with U.S. obligations under several articles of the WTO agreement.
The labeling law must be re-evaluated before it impacts trade with other countries—especially since U.S. beef exports are expected to increase this year.
NCBA and other agriculture groups are seeking to expand beef export opportunities into other countries following the approval of three key trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea this past year. The U.S. Meat Export Federation projects beef exports for 2012 to increase to 1.3 million metric tons at a value of $5.57 billion. That would raise the percentage of total production exported to 15% for beef and beef variety meats, which translates into an export value per head of fed slaughter of about $218.
In addition to that, let’s not forget the estate tax, also called the "death tax." It continues to be an issue each year—that’s why many in the agriculture community just want to see a full repeal.
So keep an eye on what regulators and legislators are doing, and the potential impact their decisions will have on your business. Then let them know what you think by contacting your representatives.