WASHINGTON – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association 2011 policy priorities were announced ahead of the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Tradeshow taking place Feb. 2-5 in Denver. Five major priorities will be discussed in great detail during the annual gathering: trade; transportation; environment; competition; and healthy herd – cattle and consumers. The event’s theme is sustainability.

“The days of allowing others to define sustainability for this industry are over,” said Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs, NCBA’s policy staff in Washington. “We will discuss these five priorities at the upcoming convention and determine how we can develop policies that ultimately sustain the future of this industry for generations to come. Our five priorities are critical to sustainability, profitability and longevity of the beef industry.”

US beef exports were near record levels in 2010, a trend he said is likely to continue in 2011, Woodall said. He added the signs are in place to suggest another strong year for beef trade but emphasized the importance of ratifying pending free trade agreements and pursuing additional opportunities for US beef.

Woodall said NCBA is focused on making transportation more efficient for cattle producers by passing policy that makes weight limits the same in all states.

Environmental issues will continue to be at the forefront of policy priorities, he added. Many regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and, most recently, the Department of Interior (DOI), will regulate cattle producers out of business without sound scientific justification, he said.

“The EPA has gone on a regulatory rampage,” he added. “The Department of Interior recently announced new rules that would threaten producers’ ability to graze their livestock on public lands. This practice, which is good for the land, wildlife and livestock is absolutely critical in the West.”

Competition, Woodall said, is multifaceted but the timeliest component of this policy priority is the US Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s proposed rule on livestock marketing that will be, according to Woodall, the most invasive example of government overreach in the history of the beef industry.

In regards to the healthy herd priority, Woodall said the focus will be food safety, nutrition, disease management and the judicious use of antibiotics.

“When we talk about sustainability, we need to focus on ways to make the industry better by working with farmers and ranchers to do what’s best for the land, consumers, animal well-being and more,” said Woodall. “There are some that like to pass blame to farmers and ranchers for a whole slew of issues. These people are out of touch and need to realize that sustainability is only attainable by enabling America’s farmers and ranchers not by stifling their ability to do their job.”