U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction against implementation of the Clean Water regulation, saying a group of 13 states was likely to succeed in their lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency regulation as unlawful. The judge gave two reasons for his decision: “(1)it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with requirements when promulgating the Rule.” Read more at AgWired…
TSCRA President Pete Bonds made a statement applauding the North Dakota federal court decision on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
“TSCRA applauds the North Dakota federal judge’s decision to block the EPA water rule from going into effect,” said Bonds. “Ranchers and landowners across the country have raised serious concerns about this rule and have worried about their private property rights being taken by the federal government. Even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which shares jurisdiction over the rule, finds the scientific basis of the rule severely flawed.
“The EPA is interpreting the court decision to apply only to the 13 states involved in the litigation, however there is a strong case being built to prove the ruling applies to the entire U.S. If the EPA water rule does not work for 13 states, there is no way it will work for the rest of the country.
“This court ruling, along with the many concerns raised by relevant stakeholders, should compel the EPA to scrap the WOTUS rule for the entire U.S. and start over with ranchers and landowners at the table.
“TSCRA will continue fighting against the federal government’s agenda-driven plan to expand its jurisdiction over our nation’s land and resources. We encourage state and federal elected officials to do everything in their power to force the EPA to eliminate the flawed WOTUS rule.”
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today filed an amendment to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork and chicken – required by Canada and Mexico to prevent billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. economy.
“As I’ve said before, whether you support or oppose COOL, the fact is retaliation is coming,” said Roberts.
“We need to protect the U.S. economy from potentially $3 billion in tariffs. Canada and Mexico have repeatedly stated that Congress can prevent retaliation and protect our vast exports by simply taking up the House-passed repeal bill, and I am offering an amendment to do just that.
“We can continue to discuss voluntary labeling programs similar to those already in the marketplace – once COOL is repealed.”
The U.S. Senate has debated COOL for nearly three decades. In what continues to be a divisive issue, Roberts has attempted to find a workable solution for all stakeholders that will also meet U.S. commitments to trading partners. However, the fact remains that Canada and Mexico have won their case at the World Trade Organization four times and soon will have the ability to impose potentially $3 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports every year.
The amendment was offered to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, commonly known as the highway bill. Co-sponsors include Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; David Perdue, R-Ga., James Risch, R-Idaho; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
Chairman Roberts has opposed COOL from its inception. The Senate Agriculture Committee in June held a hearingon COOL and trade retaliation.
Mark your calendar for Wednesday, Sept. 23, to Friday, Sept. 25, for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Policy Conference at the Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio.
The TSCRA Policy Conference replaces the traditional fall meeting and offers a format in which TSCRA members will have ample time to focus on policy issues of interest to association members and any others involved in ranching and the stewardship of private property.
By: Robert McKnight, second vice president, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
The federal estate tax, also known as the death tax, is a levy on the transfer of the estate of a deceased property owner. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) doesn’t believe death should ever be a taxable event.
The death tax is a topic that makes many ranchers, agricultural producers and landowners cringe. As a seventh-generation rancher who has dealt with this onerous tax on several occasions, I understand how difficult it can be, especially while coping with the loss of a loved one.
In 2012, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), narrowly avoiding a return to a $1 million estate tax exemption with a 55 percent tax rate. The ATRA set the estate tax exemption level at $5 million per individual or $10 million per couple, and the top tax rate was set at 40 percent. While this legislation provided some protection for ranchers from the estate tax, a full repeal is still needed.
We too often hear stories about how ranchers are adversely impacted by the death tax, however it doesn’t only affect ranchers, landowners and small business owners – this tax creates a ripple effect that causes the domestic economy to suffer.
According to the USDA, agriculture is responsible for 1 out of every 7 jobs in Texas and 1 out of every 12 jobs in the country. Each time a rancher or farmer is forced out of business to comply with the death tax, jobs are lost and the monetary output of the agricultural industry is negatively impacted, causing a major gut-punch to the economy.
Some see the death tax as a minor inconvenience for the wealthy, but this is simply not the truth. These individuals don’t realize many ranching and farming families are asset-rich and cash-poor. Most of their estate is attributed to the value of the land they own and use to raise cattle and grow food and fiber for millions worldwide. The amount of money a rancher’s property is valued at can easily trigger the estate tax. This is before including the worth of the other equipment and infrastructure on the property.
If Uncle Sam comes knocking on the door demanding millions in taxes, many have no other choice but to sell off assets to come up with the cash. Piece by piece, their family’s culture and heritage is sold off to pay the unreasonable tax bill. This forces ranchers to lay off skilled employees, leaving them jobless, while in-turn taking away their ability to feed and clothe their family. This costs the federal government more in reduced economic growth than it is as a source of positive tax revenues.
The middle-class takes one of the hardest hits from the estate tax. A study by the Joint Economic Committee reports that the estate tax hurts economic growth by discouraging savings and small business growth. It is a fact that many communities rely on their local farmers and ranchers to keep small businesses, such as feed stores, grocery stores and restaurants etc. operating. When a ranching or farming operation goes under due to the estate tax, each and every economic sector of a community can be harmfully impacted.
Many studies have indicated that ending the estate tax would actually increase the overall federal tax revenue by encouraging more investment. I know many ranchers, including myself, would rather focus on expanding livestock herds, re-investing in communities by creating jobs and continuing to produce affordable food for consumers.
In addition, we need to be thinking about the next generation. Our country will rely on millennials to continue building the economy. Many young folks are hesitant to take over their family’s ranching operations because they worry about inheriting a hefty estate tax along with the property.
Future generations deserve better, and we should always be encouraging them to take over and succeed in the family business. One thing is certain – American ranchers and farmers are hands-down the best producers in the world. They work tirelessly to provide food and fiber for millions and sacrifice to build and maintain operations to pass along to their children and grandchildren. The death tax puts us at risk of losing a generation of expertise that can’t be replaced to efficiently produce food and fiber.
TSCRA will continue to fight for a repeal of this unfair tax on family ranching operations. Until the death tax is fully and finally repealed, TSCRA will support legislation to keep the current 2012 levels in place. We appreciate Reps. Kevin Brady, Texas, Dist. 8, and Mac Thornberry, Texas, Dist. 13, for their efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the death tax, and we encourage more members of Congress to follow their lead.
Instead of saddling ranchers, farmers and small businesses with burdensome estate taxes, the federal government has a terrific opportunity to encourage a healthy economy by fully and permanently repealing the death tax.
Robert “Bobby” McKnight, of Fort Davis, Texas, raises registered and commercial Herefords and crossbred cattle on ranch land in Jeff Davis, Brewster, Presidio, Reeves and Crane counties. He became a TSCRA director in 1989, and he currently serves as the TSCRA Second Vice President. He also serves on the El Paso Federal Reserve Bank board of directors.
The House of Representatives has passed the Conaway/Costa bill (HR 2392) to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken. The bill passed Wednesday with a strong bi-partisan vote of 300 to 131. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Philip Ellis, of Chugwater, Wyo., said this strong action by the House sends a clear signal that this is a failed program.
“COOL has been without benefit to the U.S. cattle industry and producers like myself,” said Ellis. “And now with retaliation imminent from our largest trading partners, it is time this legislation is repealed. There is no other fix that can be put in place to bring value to this program or satisfy our trading partners.”
Canada and Mexico have announced they will seek $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs, raising prices for U.S. beef, pork, ethanol, wine and a host of other products.
“It is imperative that the Senate act quickly to pass this legislation,” said Ellis. “The governments of Canada and Mexico have been very clear that they fully intend to retaliate to the fullest extent allowed by the WTO and the only step before that happens is to determine the actual amount. Retaliation will be in the billions, and our economy cannot afford that hit.”
The USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that each dollar of agricultural exports stimulates another $1.22 in business activity and that every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports requires 7,580 American jobs throughout the economy.
“COOL retaliation will have a major impact on our economy and our trading relationships, now and into the future,” said Ellis. “Cattlemen and women support consumers in the information they seek, we are open and transparent, and we can do that without costly and trade distorting rules. We support voluntary labeling efforts that provide consumers with information they want and benefit cattle producers who can provide that information.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, issued a statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday night to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations, calling them unnecessary and costly mandates that bring the United States out of compliance with international trade obligations:
“The last thing Texas farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers need are onerous, unfair regulations that hamstring their ability to compete in the global market. The COOL regulations for beef, pork, and chicken need to go, and I applaud Rep. Conaway for leading the fight in the House,” Cornyn said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R, Texas – Dist. 11, is the author of HR 2393, the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act, which passed on a 300-131 vote.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works advanced legislation today to force the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite their “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, a move applauded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council.
During the markup, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso stated that the final rule, published on May 27, is actually worse than the proposed rule.
“No matter what concessions the EPA has claimed, they have added new provisions that greatly expand their authority,” he said during the markup. “Instead of clarifying the difference between a stream and erosion of the land, the rule defines tributaries to include any place where EPA thinks it sees an ordinary high-water mark; what looks like – not what is – what looks like an ordinary high-water mark.”
Barrasso added that even worse than the tributary definition, the EPA proposes to make these decisions from their desks, using aerial photographs and laser-generated images, claiming a field visit isn’t necessary.
Senate EPW Committee Chairman Inhofe expressed his concerns over the rule in a letter sent to the EPA. In the letter, he said according to the Army Corps, 60 percent of the substantive comments received on the proposed rule opposed the rule. Yet, the bill was finalized with problematic terms and little regard for stakeholders. The rule still claims jurisdiction over areas located within a 100-year floodplain and ambiguously defines areas with a significant connection to water ways.
“The EPA and Army Corps’ have no interest in listening to the concerns and considerations of those closest to the land,” said NCBA President Philip Ellis. “The rule puts yet another regulatory burden on the rural economy and private landowners. This bill will ensure that our private lands remain viable and productive, leaving landowners free to undertake stewardship and production decisions without interference by the EPA and the administration.”
Similar to S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, the House passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act in May. Without legislative action, the rule will go in effect by the end of summer, making it imperative the Senate pass this legislation without delay.
TSCRA President Pete Bonds made the following statement Wednesday after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The agency finalized the rule, which unilaterally expands its jurisdiction over water in our country, only 6 months after receiving 1 million public comments.
“The EPA claims the finalized Waters of the U.S. rule is an effort to keep our nation’s water clean and safe, but I fully disagree,” said Bonds. “I believe the rule provides another avenue for the agenda-driven, bureaucratic federal government to expand its jurisdiction through one of the largest land grabs in national history. This is only the latest example, out of a long line of instances, where the administration has abused its power to take away land and resources from hardworking Americans.
“This rule will unilaterally allow the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to regulate ranchers out of business by taking control of the water we rely on to raise cattle and provide a healthy food supply worldwide.
“The EPA also used an extremely flawed process for compiling the water rule. The law requires the EPA to read and consider all public comments submitted, but only after months of receiving one million comments, the agency finalized the rule. I find it very hard to believe the EPA took all of the comments into consideration. The agency blatantly disregarded the concerns raised by ranchers and other relevant stakeholders throughout the entire rulemaking process.
“TSCRA will continue opposing this flawed water rule and work to prevent the EPA from further infringing on Americans’ constitutional private property rights,” Bonds concluded.
“Nothing left unregulated” is the apparent motto of the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency finalized its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) proposed rule on Wednesday, Ma7 27, which unilaterally strips private property rights and adds hundreds of thousands of stream miles and acres of land to federal jurisdiction.
Under the guise of clarifying the Clean Water Act, the EPA and the Army Corps added ambiguous language to the law that leaves regulation up to the subjectivity of individual regulators across the country. By law, the EPA must read and consider all comments submitted on the proposed rule, but only six months after receiving over one million public comments on the proposal, EPA has finalized the rule. Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president, said this is a clear indication there is no intention of considering the concerns of those most impacted by the rule.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, that a flawed rule would come from a flawed process. Not only did the EPA write the proposal expanding the reach of the Clean Water Act without input from agriculture, the Agency implemented their own grassroots lobbying campaign to drown out the concerns of private property owners. The tax-payer funded campaign was promoted through social media channels and called for people to share EPA’s oversimplified and misleading talking points.
“The former Obama campaign officials that received political appointments at EPA are apparently putting their activist knowledge base to use,” said Ellis. “Soliciting endorsements and support is a far cry from simply educating the public, as EPA officials claim.”
The agency even went a step further during a press conference when Administrator McCarthy called the concerns of cattlemen “ludicrous.” This doesn’t sound like an agency interested in rural America at all. It’s an agency with an agenda.
In fact, the EPA used maps of waters and wetlands throughout the country that detailed the extent of their proposal, but it wasn’t until the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology was doing research in preparation for a hearing that the maps were discovered. The taxpayer funded maps, presumably kept hidden for years, painted an “astonishing picture” of what EPA intended to regulate, as Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, explained.
“The EPA has been spending taxpayer dollars employing a grassroots lobbying campaign, hiding information, dismissing concerns from stakeholders, and holding closed-door meetings with environmental activists,” said Brenda Richards, Idaho rancher and Public Lands Council (PLC) president. “There is no question that this rule will infringe on private property rights and usurp state authority over land and water use. Ambiguous language included will only serve to further jam courtrooms across the country with jurisdictional challenges.”
While NCBA and PLC are reviewing the details of the final rule, the entire process has been flawed and must be set aside; the final rule poses an unnecessary threat to private property owners and cattle producers across the country. The only fix is to start over with all stakeholders’ input and direction from Congress.
Around 100 ranchers, landowners and guests attended the second of TSCRA’s informational meetings in Navasota Thursday evening at the Grimes County Expo Center. Kyle Workman, president, Texans Against High-Speed Rail, was there to discuss the project and answer questions. TSCRA hosted a previous meeting May 14 in Corsicana at the Navarro County Exposition Center.
Many landowners within the proposed Dallas to Houston path of the railway have concerns regarding the possible environmental and financial impacts on ranchers, residents and the land.
After more than a decade and 2 administrations failing to successfully implement the rule, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, introduced legislation (H.R. 2393) to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Originally introduced in the 2002 Farm Bill covering beef, pork and chicken; and implemented in 2008, COOL has been detrimental to the U.S. livestock industry and without benefit to U.S. consumers. After multiple rulings against the U.S. by the World Trade Organization, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President and Chugwater, Wyo., cattleman, Philip Ellis said this action by Congress is long overdue.
“As a fifth-generation rancher, I am proud of the products we produce and we produce the best beef in the world, but mandatory labeling has only cost producers money without benefit,” said Ellis. “Continued economic analysis has shown that consumers do not use COOL information in their purchasing decisions, and despite implementation costs in excess of $1 billion for beef alone, these same reviews have found little or no economic benefit from this rule. It has resulted in discounts paid to U.S. producers like myself, and it is directly related to the closure of a number of processing plants and feedlots in the U.S.”
Ruling initially in 2011 on a complaint by Canada and Mexico, the WTO found that the U.S. COOL rule violates our international trade obligations by discriminating against livestock from our largest trading partners, adding costs and burdens to cattle solely based on their origin. Canada and Mexico are two of the top three export destinations for U.S. beef, accounting for over $2 billion in sales and nearly one-third of total U.S. beef exports.
“We support voluntary labeling efforts, efforts that give consumers the information they are looking for and reward producers all along the supply chain for meeting specifications,” said Ellis. “Programs like Born and Raised in the USA, Laura’s Lean, and Nolan Ryan’s Guaranteed Tender, that are run by the industry work; they don’t violate our trade obligations and they pay premiums back to the producer.”
“A large part of this conversation has revolved around what consumers say they want when they are surveyed,” said Ellis. “But in my business, consumers vote with their pocketbook. At the meat counter, consumers buy beef based on price and appearance, not origin labeling. We support industry-led labeling because we know the private industry can and does do better, marketing our product with eye-appealing labels and standing behind promises with a guarantee. For all the hopes and aspirations, COOL will never be that, and that is why I can say without a doubt that it is a broken program, failed legislation, that has no place in this country.”
In early 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture amended the COOL rule to mandate origin on the born, raised and slaughtered locations of affected commodities. A WTO compliance panel ruled that the amended rule still violated international obligations by adding costs discriminately to foreign livestock. Earlier this week, a WTO appellate body upheld the panel’s review and recommended immediate changes to bring the rule into compliance. Following that decision, and without action by Congress, Canada and Mexico will be awarded retaliatory tariffs once damages are proven.
“Secretary Vilsack has said that the USDA is at a loss on how to fix this rule, given the statutory language, supporting what cattlemen have long maintained; there is no regulatory fix that will bring this rule into compliance with our international obligations,” said Ellis. “The only solution on the table is full repeal.”
Following the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) fourth ruling that U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations violate global trade rules, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced his support for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway’s legislation to repeal the burdensome law.
This latest ruling would allow Canada and Mexico, America’s two largest export markets, to seek authority from WTO to use retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural and manufactured goods.
“The United States has now defended COOL regulations before WTO four separate times, and four times WTO has ruled that they violate global trade rules. For years Texas farmers, ranchers, meat packers, and food processors have had to comply with these costly and unfair labeling rules. I put my full support behind Chairman Conaway’s legislation to remove ongoing uncertainty for Texas producers and restore a healthy trade relationship with our North American neighbors.”
TSCRA welcomed members and local ranchers to an informational meeting Thursday evening in Corsicana on the proposed Texas Central Railway (TCR). Pete Bonds, TSCRA president, welcomed attendees and noted that the meeting was an opportunity to learn more about the project.
The featured speaker at the meeting was Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. Workman addressed all aspects of the proposed rail and took questions about the project from attendees.
If you missed this meeting, the second informational meeting will be held May 21 in Navasota. Details on the meeting are below.
DATE: May 21, 2015 TIME: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM LOCATION: Grimes County Expo Center 5220 F.M. 3455 Navasota, Texas 77868
Thanks to those who called Rep. Joe Deshotel urging him to schedule S.B. 474 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst for a committee hearing. Your efforts were successful and the bill is scheduled for a House Land and Resource Management Committee hearing on Monday, May 18 at 2:00 p.m. or upon adjournment of the House.
While this is a step forward, our work isn’t finished yet. It is important to tell the committee members to vote YES on S.B. 474, which helps level the playing field for landowners by requiring condemnors to pay the landowner’s litigation fees if the initial offer is too low.Please call the House Land and Resource Management Committee members and tell them to vote YES on this bill and pass it out of the committee on Monday.
Also, please come to Austin to testify or register in favor of the bill at the committee hearing on Monday, May 18 at 2:00 p.m., or upon adjournment of the House, at the State Capitol in Room E2.016. Call TSCRA’s Austin office at 512-469-0171 if you have any questions.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, spoke May 13 in support of H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Act of 2015. The bill, which would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to stop moving forward with the proposed “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, passed the House by a vote of 261-155.
Chairman Conaway’s floor statement:
I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015. I cannot stress enough the importance of this legislation to stop the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” proposed rule and its damaging impacts on our country.
This rule, in its current form, is a massive overreach of EPA’s authority and will impact nearly every farmer and rancher in America. It gives EPA the ability to regulate essentially any body of water they want, including farm ponds and even ditches that are dry for most of the year. The EPA’s defense of this rule is that it provides clarity to producers regarding what is and is not regulated, but in reality, this rule will allow nearly every body of water in the United States to be controlled by federal regulators.
What makes the rule ambiguous is the claim made by EPA and the Army Corps that the rule is not all encompassing, yet the agencies also declared they will use their best professional judgment on when they will regulate a water and when they will not. These vague statements hold little comfort for farmers and ranchers who will face steep civil fines for any violation.
For these reasons, I strongly support this legislation that forces EPA and the Corps to stop moving forward with the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule and do as they should have from the beginning – work with states and local stakeholders to develop a new and proper set of recommendations. It is imperative that the Administration listen to rural America.
TSCRA submitted comments on Friday, May 8 opposing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee;s (DGAC) report, which encourages Americans to consume less beef. The report provides recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) secretaries as they develop their plan for revised dietary guidelines.
“The DGAC’s report recommending Americans consume less beef is appalling and severely misguided,” said TSCRA President Pete Bonds. “There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that shows meat plays an important role in a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the advisory committee continues to ignore these findings.
“The federal government’s record of attacking our industry and spreading false information about beef seems to be a trend from Washington bureaucrats who are pushing their anti-meat agenda. This report, which suggests that plant based products are more sustainable than animal-based food sources, is the most recent example of this.
“As a lifetime cattleman, I am very proud of the fact that I work along with millions of other ranchers to produce the most nutritious and affordable beef in the world. Anyone who says beef doesn’t provide tremendous health benefits is falsifying information.
“TSCRA encourages the USDA and HHS Secretaries to swiftly reject the DGAC’s report. Rather than telling Americans to eat less meat, the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines should encourage Americans to practice moderation and eat more lean red meat paired with more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.”
To read TSCRA’s comments regarding the 2015 dietary guidelines, click here.
TSCRA is hosting two informational meetings on the proposed Texas Central Railway (TCR) in Corsicana on May 14 and Navasota on May 21. The featured speaker at both meetings will be Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. Workman will be available to answer questions about the project from attendees.
For more information please see the meeting details below or call TSCRA at 817-332-7064.
Corsicana TCR Informational Meeting: DATE: May 14, 2015
TIME: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
LOCATION: Navarro County Exposition Center
1921 North 45th Street
Corsicana, Texas 75110
Navasota TCR Informational Meeting: DATE: May 21, 2015
TIME: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
LOCATION: Grimes County Expo Center
5220 F.M. 3455
Navasota, Texas 77868
TCR is a proposed project to build a high-speed passenger rail line between the cities of Dallas, Texas and Houston. The project is expected to require more than 3,000 acres of right-of-way for the rail line and related infrastructure that will impact the private property of landowners in 11 counties.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recently submitted their dietary recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Health and Human Services (HHS). Their suggestions are very negative toward the meat industry. In fact, they are recommending a reduction in the consumption of red meat. The DGAC’s report will guide the USDA and HHS Secretaries as they finalize the 2015 Dietary Guidelines by the end of the year. The report is open for public comment until May 8, and it is extremely important for cattle raisers to voice opposition to these severely flawed recommendations. Take a stand against the federal government’s bureaucratic anti-meat agenda and submit comments telling them beef should always be on Americans’ plates. Read more…
House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, has rejected the latest recommendation to establish a generic mandatory label option, an option typically referred to as a “Product of North America” label, should the U.S. lose its World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) in the coming weeks.
The Department of Agriculture released two reports May 1 regarding country of origin labeling. One report acknowledges no measurable consumer benefits, but does in fact cite significant costs associated with this label mandate, and the other outlines options to comply with previous WTO decisions, which rejected the U.S. law as being trade distorting. In the report concerning compliance options, USDA acknowledged if the U.S. loses its latest WTO appeal, we will have no choice but to repeal the law or amend it by establishing a generic mandatory label for meat.
No other options are offered.
“The call for a new generic mandatory meat label identifying meat as a product of North America does nothing to help producers, provides no useful information to consumers, and worse, it does nothing to mitigate the threat of retaliation since the idea has already been rejected by our trading partners,” Conaway said. “If the governments of Canada and Mexico do not accept this option, retaliation would continue. Our trading partners have already said this option is unacceptable, so it is perplexing that USDA would ignore basic facts and put forward an approach that would only serve to exacerbate the current situation.
“It is apparent that the department is void of a workable, trade-compliant solution and producers, consumers and targeted industries deserve a straight-forward response stating as much. In order to avoid what could be devastating retaliatory sanctions against U.S. businesses if we lose, the starting point needs to be that mandatory COOL for meat is a failed experiment which should be repealed. The House Agriculture Committee is prepared to lead on this issue. Our goal, which is shared by industry and consumers alike, is to provide stability, not to create uncertainty.”
Under a generic North American label mandate, if an animal is born, raised and slaughtered in Mexico, Canada, the U.S., or any combination thereof, the meat derived from that animal would be labeled as being a product of North America.This idea has been floated and rejected by proponents and opponents of mandatory COOL.Ironically, this is the one aspect of the debate over COOL that both sides agree.
Furthermore, since any action taken by the U.S. to come into compliance would have to be agreed to by Canada and Mexico, previous statements by the Canadian government rejecting a generic North American label mandate should have been factored into USDA’s legislative recommendations. The WTO is expected to issue its ruling on the latest US – COOL dispute no later than May 18, 2015.
Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced Thursday, April 30, they are introducing bipartisan legislation to repeal the EPA’s Waters of the United States proposal, or WOTUS, a proposal that will jeopardize the rights of private property owners across the country.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) applaud the Senators for actively working to stop EPA’s aggressive attempt to expand federal jurisdiction over nearly all waters.
Under the proposal, nearly all waters in the country will be subject to regulation, regardless of size or continuity of flow. NCBA President Philip Ellis said Congressional action is imperative to stopping the rule from moving forward. S.1140 Federal Water Quality Protection Act requires the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the rule and re-write their proposal with consideration of stakeholders and review of economic and small business input, following through with the straightforward procedures EPA skipped the first time. The bill also requires EPA to adhere to definitions included in the bill, specifically limiting the reach of a new rule.
“EPA Administrator McCarthy has already sent her final rule to the Office of Management and Budget,” said Ellis. “Finalizing the rule only six months after receiving over one million comments sends a clear message that EPA has no intention of listening to the broad array of stakeholders and is pushing forward with a problematic rule.”
The EPA has made several claims that the rule does not expand the reach of the Clean Water Act and has even gone as far to say cattlemen’s concerns are “ludicrous.” Yet, the rule’s subjective language leaves regulation up to the whim of individual regulators. PLC President Brenda Richards called the rule no more than a regulatory land grab.
“The ranching industry prides itself on being a good steward of our country’s natural resources,” said Richards, who ranches in Idaho. “We maintain open spaces, healthy rangelands, preserve wildlife habitat, and provide the country with healthy and nutritious food we all love. To provide all these important functions, livestock producers must be able to operate without excessive and subjective federal burdens.”
Ellis added, “The rule is so problematic, there is simply no way for EPA to make a few quick fixes and make it work for cattlemen and women. The agencies need to start over, and this time, talk to stakeholders before drafting a rule.”
NCBA and PLC urge Congress to pass this important piece of legislation, along with the House version, H.R. 1732 Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, without delay to preserve state and private water rights.
By Jay Evans, chair of TSCRA Natural Resources & Environment committee
Ranching in South and West Texas will naturally expose a person to drought. I have always tried to understand how precious water is across the state, but the recent drought of record has raised awareness to levels many of us have never experienced.
We have been blessed with more rain since 2011, but we aren’t back where we need to be. When we look at the level of our reservoirs and stock ponds west of IH 35, a person realizes we have a long way to go.
Additionally, people are moving into Texas at a more rapid pace. While we are extremely proud of our state and realize how great it is to live here, this population growth will continue to create increased demands on our limited water supply.
As expected, water issues are coming to the forefront as the 84th session of the Texas Legislature progresses. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) leaders and staff have been tracking and weighing in on water related legislation to make sure landowners’ private property rights remain intact.
TSCRA is opposed to a bill that could require local groundwater conservation districts to give special treatment to power plants that have permitted groundwater wells.
Under this proposed bill, power plants could be allowed to continue to pump groundwater at their permitted amount while other permitted wells, such as irrigation, would be required to make reductions. In fact, these other permitted wells may have to take larger reductions to absorb the amount of reduction the power plants did not take.
A power plant could be granted up to 10 years to pump at their existing permit amount while every other permitted well would be required to reduce pumping.
This puts local groundwater conservation districts in a difficult position of having to pick winners and losers and it increases their liability.
The power plants that would benefit from the passage of this legislation have the right to a fair share like any other groundwater owner. However, if their fair share is not adequate, they have the same right as any other groundwater owner to purchase and/or lease more land and/or groundwater rights.
While TSCRA recognizes that providing reliable electric service is important, we do not believe that it is constitutional for state law to discriminate between permitted groundwater well owners based on type of use. After all, is generating electricity more important than providing food? This bill implies that it is and sends the wrong message. All groundwater well owners should be treated equally and be afforded the same due process.
TSCRA is also concerned about legislation that would create a separate permitting system for brackish groundwater, which is water that is generally not potable. With the population growth in Texas, entities are looking to increase efforts to tap into these brackish groundwater resources and use desalination technology to help meet our increasing water needs.
While TSCRA supports the development of brackish groundwater, we do not support legislation that would further complicate our current groundwater permitting system, give special treatment to brackish groundwater wells, and put additional pressure on the property rights of landowners.
Brackish groundwater has been, and can continue to be, developed under existing law. Additionally, we must develop reliable science with input of landowners and groundwater conservation districts, which will help us all better understand our brackish groundwater resources. TSCRA supports additional state funding for the development of this science.
As we look at the big picture of providing water for all Texans, we must make certain local control is preserved. The legislature decided years ago that local groundwater conservation districts are the preferred method for managing groundwater in the state and we must keep this in mind when working on these important groundwater issues.
TSCRA will continue working with the Texas Legislature to protect the private property rights of landowners, especially groundwater. I encourage you to keep a close watch on these and other issues and contact TSCRA if you have ideas, questions or concerns.
In the meantime continue to pray for rain, especially since we know you can’t legislate rainfall.
Jay Evans serves as president of Jay Evans Company, a ranch and resource management organization that provides services to ranchers and landowners in Texas as well as operating his own stocker program. Jay serves as chair of the TSCRA Natural Resources and Environment Committee and is a member of the TSCRA board of directors.
TSCRA Second Vice President Robert McKnight, a rancher from Fort Davis, made the following statement April 16 after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015. The legislation, which passed with a 240-179 vote, was authored and championed by Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas-Dist. 8.
“Many ranching families have worked hard and sacrificed to build operations to pass down to their children and grandchildren,” said McKnight. “Too often, when it comes time for ranchers to pass their property along to the next generation, the death of a family member also comes with a hefty federal estate tax. Unfortunately, this expensive tax frequently forces ranching families to sell their land and equipment so they can afford to pay it. This also forces ranchers to lay off workers, creating a ripple effect that negatively impacts the entire economy.”
“As a seventh-generation cattleman who has dealt with the death tax on multiple occasions, I can tell you how emotional and frustrating it can be. I am pleased that the House took action by passing the Death Tax Repeal Act. TSCRA appreciates Rep. Brady for his leadership on this legislation and we urge the Senate to promptly act on repealing the estate tax. Death should never be a taxable event,” McKnight concluded.
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House majority whip, discuss the death tax and why it is the wrong tax at the wrong time and hurts the wrong people, like ranchers and farmers. Read more at USAToday…
TSCRA President Pete Bonds made the following statement Monday after TSCRA submitted comments on Friday opposing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule proposal. The rule would redefine the term navigable under the waters of the U.S. to give the federal government jurisdiction over all water in the country.
“As a cattle rancher and landowner, the EPA water rule proposal causes me a great deal of concern,” said Bonds. “If implemented the federal government would have control over all water in the U.S., clear down to the water that falls off the brim of my hat when it rains.
“The rule goes even further to expand EPA’s authority to not only water, but also ditches and man-made conveyances that could hold water. Additionally, it would require landowners to obtain costly permits to apply pesticides, graze cattle, conduct construction projects and perform other routine maintenance on their land. These permits can take up to a year to receive.
“This rule amounts to the largest land grab in history and would not be good for the cattle industry or the landowners in our country. I hope the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will take our comments into serious consideration and realize the detrimental impact this proposal could have on our important industry if it is implemented.”
To read the comments that TSCRA submitted to the EPA, click here.
The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a rule proposal in March attempting to expand their authority over waters of the U.S. The EPA currently has jurisdiction over “navigable” waterways, meaning a body of water you could sail a large ship through. If adopted, the rule would redefine navigable to include jurisdictional tributaries, ponds, streams, creeks, ditches, puddles, man-made conveyances, wet areas on pastures, etc. Basically, the federal government would control every drop of water in the country. The rule proposal amounts to the largest land grab in history and would result in additional onerous regulations for you as ranchers and landowners.
TSCRA is urging you, your family, friends and neighbors to comment on this flawed rule proposal by visiting www.tscra.org and clicking on the “EPA Land Grab” button. The deadline for submitting comments is FRIDAY, NOV. 14, 2014.
Take a stand and let the EPA know we will not allow this rule proposal to be implemented. The future of the cattle industry depends on it. Please submit your comments NOW!
By Leslie Kinsel, TSCRA Legislative and Tax Committee chair, with Laramie Adams, TSCRA director of public affairs
Since the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) was established in 1877, one of the association’s top priorities has been to represent landowners by working to preserve and protect private property rights. This goal remains vital today as we monitor issues that could adversely affect the important rights held by ranchers and agricultural producers as stewards of our nation’s land.
TSCRA has recently been monitoring a new rule proposed by the Railroad Commission of Texas, in the wake of the 2013 Denbury case. This new rule attempts to clarify how oil and gas pipeline companies can obtain “common carrier” status when applying for a permit to operate a new pipeline.
Essentially, a pipeline operator transporting oil (or certain other products) “to or for the public” is a common carrier, and is thereby granted the right and power of eminent domain. This critical power carries with it the authority to seize private land for the pipeline right-of-way.
Currently, pipeline companies seeking the eminent domain rights of a common carrier merely register with the Railroad Commission by checking a few boxes on a T-4 permit application. Under the new proposed rule, pipeline companies would be required to submit documentation supporting their claim to be a common carrier, and the commission would have 45 days to review applications.
While the proposal may sound like a step in the right direction, TSCRA doesn’t believe it addresses many of the key issues landowners face when pipeline companies decide to lay pipe across private land. In fact, the new rule only adds paperwork to the current common carrier registration process.
TSCRA submitted comments to the Railroad Commission regarding the rule proposal. TSCRA stated that the revised T-4 application should include an acknowledgement from the applicant pipeline that they understand and agree the permit to operate a pipeline does not give a company the authority to utilize the power of eminent domain to acquire private property for its pipeline.
In other words, the Railroad Commission, in granting a permit, would not make a determination whether the pipeline is or is not in fact a common carrier. That question is far too important for a routine application review. Landowners need to retain their crucial right to contest in a court whether or not a planned pipeline is truly for a public use.
However, the right to make a court challenge is only meaningful if the landowner has timely notice of a pipeline project. TSCRA’s comments stressed that pipeline companies seeking a T-4 permit should be required to give potentially affected landowners actual notice by first class mail within 10 days of the application. The notice should describe exactly how the pipeline could affect the landowner’s property. Additionally, the commission should adopt objective routing standards, similar to those used by power lines.
Lastly, it should be clear that an individual T-4 permit can apply to only one distinct pipeline or gathering system. If a company receives common carrier status for one pipeline project, it does not automatically give them the power of eminent domain for another project.
It is TSCRA’s hope that the Railroad Commission of Texas will seriously consider our comments before adopting the new rule proposal. Ranchers and agricultural producers have always been stewards of the land as they work to provide an affordable, safe and abundant supply of food worldwide. We must make certain their private property rights are respected so they can continue doing what they do best. TSCRA will continue monitoring the Railroad Commission’s rule proposal and strive to keep our members informed.
Leslie Kinsel and her husband Dan operate ranches in south and central Texas and are active members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Leslie has served as the chair of the TSCRA Legislative and Tax Committee since 2013, and she previously served as the vice chair of the committee for four years.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples testified on Tuesday, Sept. 9 before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Committee members considered six bills to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Staples spoke in support of H.R. 4284, the ESA Improvement Act of 2014, sponsored by Congressman Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas 19.
“I commend and appreciate the leadership of Chairman Doc Hastings and the members of the House Committee on Natural Resources for their diligent pursuit of reforming the broken Endangered Species Act,” said Staples. “In Texas, we believe in sound decision making, private property rights, and the fact that government is not the answer to every problem. Over time, the act has evolved to conflict with these principles and has been a source of concern for Texans for decades.”
Approximately 95 percent of Texas land is privately owned. Texas leads the nation with more than 130 million acres devoted to farms and ranches. This means that landowners are largely responsible for the state’s natural resources and wildlife care. However, ESA gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) authority to list a land- or freshwater-based species as endangered or threatened. Once a species is listed, federal regulations begin, often resulting in burdensome costs to landowners and over-litigation.
H.R. 4284 would modify ESA by requiring FWS to coordinate with interested states on State Protective Action (SPA) plans. SPAs would preclude the need for a listing in many circumstances and keep species management authority at the state and local level, which will simultaneously protect stakeholders and species.
Currently, more than 100 species of plants and animals are listed as federally threatened or endangered in Texas. FWS is considering an additional 77 species for listing. This may not be necessary, however, as state- and landowner-led conservation efforts have proven successful in the past.
For example, Texas ranchers have grown the populations of certain exotic animals substantially. In 1979, there were 32 scimitar-horned oryx in a Texas breeding program. Since then, that number has increased to 9,000 animals. The population of addax increased from two animals in 1971 to more than 4,000 today. Less than 10 dama gazelles were in the state in 1979, but propagation efforts by private landowners have resulted in a population boom to almost 900.
“While the federal government is overwhelmed by litigation, states and landowners are eager to lead,” Staples testified. “I strongly encourage folks in Washington to work with state and local leaders to ensure proper and reasonable species management throughout Texas and the nation.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., said Monday that a proposed Environmental EPA rule would wreak havoc on farmers and possibly drive up food prices. The EPA has the authority to issue rules for bodies of water on farms to ensure runoff is safe and not damaging to the environment, but Republicans argue the EPA has been too heavy-handed and could end up regulating a drainage ditch instead of just streams and rivers. Read more at The Hill…
States could be facing upwards of 100,000 added regulated stream miles as a result of the “Waters of the United States” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. While the agencies continue to claim their proposal does not expand the scope of the Clean Water Act, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and Missouri Farm Bureau showcased new interactive maps on Aug. 14, 2014, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo.
“The maps highlight just how far the proposed rule would expand federal jurisdiction over waters across the country,” said Ashley McDonald, NCBA environmental counsel. “In Missouri alone, nearly 80,000 additional stream miles will be under the regulatory authority of EPA and the Corps. Logic and commonsense tells us that the surrounding land will also be regulated more than ever before. This rule just continues this administration’s regulatory rampage and enough is enough. Farmers and ranchers are not confused and are well aware of this administration’s blatant attempt to control every drop of water and every piece of private land in this country.”
The proposal goes as far to include ditches in the definition of a tributary. McDonald said any activity near a jurisdictional ditch will now require a federal permit and as a result, many farmers and ranchers will need to acquire permits for routine land use activities. “Instead of providing the clarity that so many people have asked for, the agencies have instead proposed a rule that muddies the water even further through their clever use of ambiguous and vague terminology,” said McDonald. “Their actions have only created more questions for farmers and ranchers. The agency’s proposed rule adds more layers of government bureaucracy and red tape and amounts to nothing more than a pervasive invasion of private property rights.”
NCBA is working with a multi-industry coalition to ensure private property rights are protected. If this proposed rule is not withdrawn, according to McDonald, family farmers and ranchers will find themselves at the “mercy of the regulatory whims of the federal government.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently talked to TSCRA President Pete Bonds about pipelines, due process, eminent domain and private property rights The Texas Railroad Commission has proposed a set of rules designed to provide more transparency when a pipeline operator seeks what is known as “common carrier” status: a designation that automatically gives the operator the power of eminent domain to seize land. According to the commission’s general counsel, the proposed rules would create a more developed process that would bring “greater confidence” in the common carrier classification and provide more “certainty for both pipelines and landowners.” The agency is accepting comments on the proposed rules until Aug. 25. Read more at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram…
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., introduced a bill Wednesday that would stop every regulation the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently developing and require a review of all existing rules. Graves’ legislation would prohibit EPA from taking action on any rules until its retroactive review is complete, and require congressional approval of all regulations that have an economic cost above $50 billion, including past ones. Read more at The Hill...
For years, farmers and ranchers have cast a wary eye toward new laws and regulations from Washington they fear will be costly and burdensome. Agricultural producers argue that they know the best way to take care of their land — not only to maximize production and, if they’re lucky, to make a profit. Farmers say their best practices also preserve the acreage on which they depend. Read more at the Argus Leader…
Texas beef producers will have the opportunity to vote for a Texas Beef Checkoff program beginning June 2 through June 6. My family has raised wholesome, quality Texas beef for more than a century. We are voting yes, and here’s why.
This is a self-help program initiated by Texas cattle producers. Producers from all sectors of the industry came together and requested a vote that would allow us to invest an additional dollar-per-head into a state checkoff program. If passed, this money will be used to promote beef and educate consumers. This is crucial because the Texas beef industry cannot survive, let alone thrive, if people no longer want to eat beef.
This is not a tax and affects only those of us who sell cattle. It was requested by, will be voted on, and will be funded and controlled solely by Texas cattle producers. It’s also fully refundable. I can’t think of a single tax that’s refundable.
The current dollar-per-head checkoff program, which was approved by producers just shy of three decades ago, has been successful and should be built upon. The checkoff producers voted on in the ’80s has helped to increase consumer demand for beef, which in turn has added value to all Texas cattle-whether it be organic, grain-fed, grass-fed, or large or small operations.
That dollar-per-head hasn’t changed since the ’80s, but the challenges our industry faces continue to grow. In fact, what was once worth a dollar is worth a mere 44 cents today, and frankly it just doesn’t cut it anymore. We are continuously fighting back well-funded anti-meat organizations who want to put us out of business, and we are constantly rebutting false claims about beef to consumers. We are doing this with fewer cattle and fewer resources. We need to face these challenges head on and help shape our own future.
If we want to continue to see the Texas beef industry thrive, we must invest in our own industry. We can do this by approving a Texas Beef Checkoff program June 2-6. My family will be voting yes, and we hope yours will join us.
3493 FM 539
Floresville, TX 78114
Jason Peeler is a rancher and feeld yard owner near Floresville, Texas.
Association leadership met with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Monday afternoon concerning issues important to cattle raisers and landowners at TSCRA headquarters in Fort Worth. Topics covered at the meeting included eminent domain in regard to pipelines; landowner surface water rights; the state of rural and farm to market roads, especially in areas of high use by oil and gas development; and border security.
The Obama administration is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take a middle-ground approach on a water dispute between Texas and New Mexico over management of the Rio Grande. A brief filed Tuesday by the U.S. solicitor general’s office didn’t take sides in the interstate dispute but said the Supreme Court should leave the door open for a quick resolution. Click here to read more at The Brownsville Herald from The Associated Press…
TSCRA urges ranchers and landowners to vote in favor of Proposition 6 during the Nov. 5 constitutional election. Texans can participate in early voting, which begins Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1. Proposition 6 is a constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas.
The funds will help finance priority water projects, including rural water projects, to ensure Texas has adequate water resources for the future.
“Texas is still coping with a historic drought that has left many ranchers and areas in rural Texas struggling to find adequate water supplies,” said Pete Bonds, Saginaw, rancher and TSCRA president. “At the same time that our water supplies are decreasing, our population is increasing. We need to ensure we preserve and conserve the water we do have so there is enough for all Texans, those in rural and urban areas.”
Bonds adds that Proposition 6 sets aside $2 billion already in the Rainy Day Fund for priority water projects, 30 percent of which are specifically rural water projects.
“Now is the time to ensure Texas continues to thrive well into the future,” said Bonds. “It’s crucial we pass Proposition 6.”
Amid continued uncertainty over the fate of comprehensive immigration reform in the GOP-led House, a congressional panel on Tuesday considered the issue of whether undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children should be able to pursue legal status and eventual citizenship. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a powerful Republican voice on immigration reform, said during a subcommittee hearing that those brought here as children “deserve to be considered from a different perspective” than undocumented immigrants who chose to break the law by illegal entry or visa overstay.Click here to read more at NBC Politics…
A Workable Fix for Working Immigrants by Pete Bonds, TSCRA first vice president
When I was a kid I worked outside on the ranch from sunup until sundown. When my girls were old enough, they did the same thing. Working right alongside them was a handful of migrant workers who helped us with the hard and physical labor of running a successful cow-calf operation.
These migrant workers weren’t just faceless workers. They were family. They spent their days working to support their families back home, and at Thanksgiving and Christmas they would sit down at the dinner table with the rest of us.
Unfortunately, our current immigration program doesn’t allow these workers to come here legally. Instead most of them travel here illegally, and in doing so they risk their lives to work and ultimately provide for their family. And employers who desperately need a labor force face charges and steep fines if they employee these workers.
This is a problem that must be fixed.
Washington is finally working toward reforming this country’s broken immigration system. I am glad to see that in both chambers of Congress, a true fix to our country’s guest worker program is being considered. However, I worry that the skewed notion that a practical guest worker program implies blanket amnesty might set back any progress.
Let’s be clear, ranchers don’t support blanket amnesty. Amnesty and citizenship should be a separate debate. Let’s also be clear that these workers aren’t taking away American jobs. At our ranch in Falls County – a county with a high unemployment rate—we can’t find U.S. citizens who will do the hard work of ranching. We go through 5 or 10 U.S. employees a year because, when we do find someone, they typically quit within a few weeks. Migrant workers are simply doing the jobs that most Americans refuse to do.
The livestock industry needs a steady, year-round workforce. This is why Texas ranchers support a plan that allows immigrants who want to work in the U.S. an opportunity to do so.
Both the Senate and the House have different ideas on how to accomplish this. The Senate has taken an all or nothing approach to comprehensive immigration reform, and as part of that, has included a guest worker program. The House is biting off the immigration overhaul in small chunks by introducing smaller, stand-alone bills including the Agriculture Guestworker Act, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
I don’t know which approach Congress will take to fix the issue, but I do know that we must have a practical program where willing workers can come to the U.S. on a work visa and stay for at least 3 to 5 years before they’re required to return home. Once they’ve returned home, they should be able to reapply for their visa and return to their job. This provides stability to an industry that simply can’t afford to continuously turn over new employees. A program that allows these folks to work here legally also allows them to be accounted for and take part in the economy by paying taxes.
Border security is crucial to any immigration reform, particularly in Texas. While a practical and effective guest worker program isn’t the single cure to securing our border, it will help reduce the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the border. This relief will allow authorities to focus on controlling people crossing illegally.
Whether Congress reforms our entire immigration program or not, they must come up with an effective fix to help provide Texas ranchers with a reliable workforce. This is the right thing to do for our country and those migrant workers wanting to make a better living for their family.
Pete Bonds has ranched his whole life. He operates the Bonds Ranch in Saginaw, Texas, where he also lives. He currently serves as the first vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He and his wife Jo have three daughters, Missy, Bonnie and April.
After a lengthy discussion, the House Agriculture Committee cleared its version of the 2013 Farm Bill during a markup session which ended late Wednesday night. The House markup follows the Senate Agriculture Committee’s much briefer markup of its farm bill Tuesday.
Portions of the House farm bill included priorities important to cattlemen and women such as permanent disaster programs along with the elimination of the livestock title, maintaining of conservation programs and a strong research title.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Scott George, a Cody, Wyo., cattle and dairy producer, lauded the House Agriculture Committee for including disaster assistance in the legislation, stating that it would provide certainty to cattlemen and women who are affected by disastrous weather events and continue to contribute to the nation’s strong agriculture industry.
“Farmers and ranchers endure extreme weather conditions – from drought to flood to freezes to the extreme heat – and still work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to provide the country and the world with food and fiber,” said George. “Including disaster assistance programs in the House farm bill is a positive step toward providing a strong safety net for our producers. We appreciate the work of chairman Lucas and his committee on this important issue.”
Also included in the House version of the farm bill is an amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prohibit states from setting production standards for foods brought in from other states. The amendment would render federal production mandates such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) / United Egg Producers (UEP) proposal, untenable.
“We are encouraged by the amendment introduced by Rep. King, which would keep decisions regarding how to raise livestock and poultry in the hands of farmers and ranchers, where they belong,” said George. “NCBA is supportive of the House version of the farm bill and we hope that both the full House and Senate take up their respective bills soon and continue to move forward with passing a 2013 Farm Bill which is positive for cattle producers and gives rural America much needed certainty.”
Texas HB 2748, a bill that would have modified how the Railroad Commission reviews and approves pipeline common carrier permit applications, was referred back to committee on the floor of the Texas House, Friday. This essentially puts a halt to the House version of this legislation. TSCRA would like to thank everyone who made calls to their state representatives last week.
Friday’s action in the Texas House was a win for landowners; however, two pieces of similar legislation were heard Monday in the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee. TSCRA Second Vice President Richard Thorpe III, Winters, testified on behalf of TSCRA in this committee.
TSCRA will continue to be involved in the action on the Senate side, and will keep you updated as the 83rd legislative session draws to a close. Please watch for action alert emails from TSCRA and stay tuned via Facebook and Twitter.
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., on Friday unveiled the first of several House measures designed to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. The Agricultural Guestworker Act would provide American farmers with a more efficient temporary guest worker program aimed at allowing them access to a reliable workforce.Click here to read more at the Richmond-Times Dispatch…