ISSUES & POLICY Where We Stand
Representing TSCRA Members in 2018 Farm Bill Discussions
By Richard Thorpe, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association president
The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) is deeply committed to ensuring that the voices of ranchers across Texas and the Southwest are heard by lawmakers, who are now examining the 2018 Farm Bill.
An important step in that process happened July 31 at the West Texas Legislative Summit. House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) held a Farm Bill Listening Session on that day to hear from Texas agriculture producers on the new Farm Bill.
TSCRA helped organize that hearing and several members attended. As president of TSCRA, I testified at that hearing and was also proud to serve on a Farm Bill Panel at the West Texas Legislative Summit the following day. It is my privilege to discuss the priorities of cattle raisers with our government leaders.
The Farm Bill is a complex instrument that is extremely important to our members and all cattle raisers. The policy set forth by TSCRA members will help guide the actions of your volunteer leaders when we work on legislation. There are many topics we will be watching and hope to address in the 2018 Farm Bill. Among those priorities are enhancing international trade, promoting free markets, preserving private property rights in conservation policy, maintaining a strong animal health program and preserving funding for research and farm programs.
International trade is of vital importance to the cattle and beef industry. In 2016, the U.S. exported more than $6.3 billion in beef and beef products. Texas alone exported more than $1 billion in the same period. With 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the U.S., we must recognize that our livelihoods are closely tied to our ability to sell and market our products to international customers. We support market promotion programs in the Farm Bill that aid in developing opportunities for international trade.
Free markets are also vital to the cattle industry, and we support private enterprise solutions to marketing and risk management over government programs. Free markets and private property rights are issues that go hand-in-hand.
There are more than 142 million privately owned acres in Texas, and ranchers are among the very best stewards of that land. The health of their land dictates the health of their business.
Federal policy in the Farm Bill should work to enhance the individual right of free choice with respect to land use and soil and water conservation. Voluntary programs such as those at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, that assist ranchers in meeting those objectives, should be continued. One prominent example is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which has been very successful in helping ranchers do even more to protect our resources.
Producers face many threats on the animal health front, so maintaining funding for animal health programs within the Farm Bill is also extremely important. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one such threat, as it is one of the most contagious and economically devastating livestock diseases. We strongly support full funding in the bill for a FMD vaccine bank to respond to any potential outbreaks.
Finally, the 2018 Farm Bill must contain strong agricultural research provisions. We support increased funding for research on production practices, genetics, animal diseases, economics, nutrition, food safety, environmental impacts and the impact of environmentally sensitive lands and species on agricultural operations as a critical component in advancing animal agriculture. Continued investment in this type of research is vital to the security and viability of our agricultural industry and food supply. ❚
“2018 Farm Bill Discussions” is from the September 2017 issue of The Cattleman magazine.