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Iowa Cattlemen’s Association sets 2020 policy

In December, Iowa cattlemen from across the state gathered at the Iowa Cattle Industry Leadership Summit to determine policy priorities for 2020. This annual event is where the Association’s grassroot policy development takes place and policy for the following year is set to guide the direction and priorities of ICA.

ICA’s three policy committees (Business Issues, Cattle Production, and Beef Products) each met to take up interim policies, discuss new policy ideas, and review resolutions and directives that were scheduled to sunset this year. Together we reviewed, amended, and enacted more than 40 policies! The recommendations from the policy committees were presented and ratified the following day at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Annual Meeting.

The Policy Committee Meeting was led by Policy Committee Chairs: Mark Putney (Business Issues), Mike Schwarck (Cattle Production), and Tom Hiler (Beef Products), with the support and input from Vice-Chairs Bob Butcher (Business Issues), Matt Winters (Cattle Production), and Will Longinaker (Beef Products).

A big thank you to Mark and Bob as they finish their time as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Business Issues Committee. Your efforts to help guide policy development, inform membership, and lead ICA are appreciated.

Business Issues

In the Business Issues Committee discussion, members supported new policy focused on amending the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Master Manual to restore flood prevention and protection of property as top priorities. This policy specifically addressed concerns related to the regulation and management of the Missouri River, which remains top-of-mind for many of our producers who experienced flooding in the western part of the state earlier this year.

Much of the Business Issues Committee discussion was centered on anaerobic digestion and manure management best practices. These innovative policy recommendations, brought forth by ICA member Bryan Sievers, support the research and development of anaerobic digestion systems and similar technology, equitable monetization of dairy and beef cattle manure, and stewardship of our resources.

Cattle Production

The Cattle Production discussion began by reinstating current policy, including support for continuation of the 2019 Green/Gold Tag Task Force. This task force includes representation from the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA), the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), and producers. The purpose of this task force is to assess the efficacy of the current preconditioned, green tag, and gold tag programs, while considering potential improvements. We look forward to continuing this important discussion on into the new year.

Next, the discussion shifted to traceability. Per a directive, ICA has established a Traceability Task Force to list and weigh the pros and cons related to an animal disease traceability (ADT) system. Many members representing various sectors of the beef cattle industry have been actively engaged in this task force. The main focus of this task force is ADT, but other value-added opportunities have been discussed. Questions about technology, implementation, information management, and cost have been raised by members. The work of this task force will remain a priority for ICA due to rising concern surrounding foreign animal disease and potential for outbreaks.

Most of the Cattle Production Committee meeting was focused on cattle marketing, and more specifically, market transparency and negotiated cash trade. The Feedlot Council, comprised of 9 active producer-members from across the state, have held numerous meetings this fall to address cattle marketing concerns of Iowa cattlemen. ICA staff have diligently worked to provide members with access to information and opportunities for grassroots input. In October, ICA held five listening sessions throughout the state. These listening sessions were focused on market transparency and negotiated cash trade. ICA staff provided historical context, current policy, and potential policy solutions to participants. Most importantly, we dedicated time to hear your thoughts.

The listening sessions, in conjunction with an online survey to all members, helped inform the Feedlot Council meeting discussion on Dec. 4. Members discussed current cattle marketing issues, and reviewed a variety of policy proposals. The Council came to a consensus on a few new policy proposals, which were ultimately introduced to membership at Leadership Summit.

The first significant change included the introduction of a new directive to “examine programs that would provide an economic incentive for cash negotiated fed cattle sales.” Current ICA policy encourages membership as well as NCBA to require all major cattle feeding regions to market 50 percent of more of their cattle on negotiated cash trade, with the ultimate goal of increasing price discovery. While the Iowa/Minnesota region consistently trades over 50 percent negotiated cash, other regions, such as Texas/New Mexico/Oklahoma rarely exceed 10%.

The second policy change focused on increasing transparency in formula transactions, specifically by changing Livestock Mandatory Reporting requirements.

A third policy proposal supported adjustment of reporting regions that are utilized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999 requires USDA AMS to publish mandatory data on meat and livestock price trends, contracts, and supply and demand conditions to provide market transparency to the public, all while protecting the identity and transactions of reporting entities. In order to maintain confidentiality for said entities, the Livestock Mandatory Reporting program uses a confidentiality rule, also known as the 3/70/20 rule.

According to USDA AMS, the rule is as follows:

●      At least three reporting entities need to provide data at least 50 percent of the time over the most recent 60‐day time period;

●      No single reporting entity may provide more than 70 percent of the data for a report over the most recent 60‐day time period; and

●      No single reporting entity may be the sole reporting entity for an individual report more than 20 percent of the time over the most recent 60‐day time period.

Some states/regions do not meet these parameters, and therefore do not report out to the public. To help address this issue and improve market transparency, ICA supports combining Colorado and Wyoming for price reporting, and adding South Dakota and Illinois to the Iowa/Minnesota regional market.

The fourth policy proposal supports an 11:00 am daily report from USDA-AMS providing the average carcass weight of cattle harvested the previous day. This policy reflects current reporting that occurs in the swine industry, with a much greater volume of harvests in any given day.

Beef Products

The Beef Products Committee meeting, led by Tom Hiler, began by reinstating policies focused on food safety and consumer education.

When the opportunity presented for additional feedback from membership, engaged members brought forth discussion focused on Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL). ICA staff provided brief context regarding MCOOL and current ICA policy, which supports the repeal of MCOOL that occurred in 2015. This lively discussion ultimately led to a proposal to establish a directive for the ICA Board of Directors to develop a task force to assess the potential market impact of MCOOL.

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