by Hughes Abell, president, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
At the Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo this March, I will conclude my term as president of Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. This is an ideal opportunity to reflect upon our recent struggles and successes. It’s also a great time to think about what lies ahead for cattle producers.
The COVID-19 pandemic, a new U.S. president, a Texas Legislative Session and a historic winter storm made the last two years memorable, to say the least. Each of these events brought its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.
As we enter our third year of life with COVID-19, many still have memories of empty store shelves from early 2020. Labor shortages, supply chain issues and inflation troubles persist and will require a concerted effort from our industry and the entire nation to resolve. However, these concerns have shone a light on the cattle industry that we have not enjoyed for quite some time. Consumers and lawmakers alike were reminded of where their food comes from.
The recent pressures prompted federal policymakers to confront longstanding problems within cattle markets. As a result, the current administration has directed funding to start and expand independent meat processors, which will help create alternative marketing channels and increase competition. If passed by the Senate as it was by the House, legislation like the extension of Livestock Mandatory Reporting and the Cattle Contract Library Act will improve transparency. These are vital industry issues Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association will continue to tackle, but I’m encouraged by the progress made so far.
Similarly, the 2021 Texas Legislative Session brought significant challenges with COVID-19 protocols and long odds for passing legislation. Lawmakers were consumed with issues surrounding Winter Storm Uri, COVID-19, fierce partisan battles and redistricting. Yet, 2021 proved to be one of the association’s most successful legislative sessions in recent history.
Beneficial legislation was passed to expand the Farm Animal Liability Act, increase rural broadband access, protect cattle from pests and disease, improve property tax valuation processes, and reform the eminent domain process. But, just as importantly, we defeated legislation that would harm your ability to raise cattle and use your land as you see fit.
We also laid the groundwork for legislation to label fake meat products accurately. That effort will continue in the next legislative session, along with others that are sure to arise.
Association leaders and staff will also be busy in Washington. The previous administration enacted beneficial reforms on Waters of the U.S., Clean Air Act reporting, Endangered Species Act listings, trade, taxes and more. Unfortunately, the Biden administration is working to roll back much of the progress. We have already won a significant battle to derail the Build Back Better Act, but must continue to fight to ensure other dangerous ideas do not hurt our land and livestock.
I am proud of what Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has accomplished throughout the past two years and honored to have been a part of it. However, like raising cattle, the work is never done. I am excited to see what’s next for this storied organization.