Well, it’s been an interesting (but comparatively quiet) week here at the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association government and public affairs office.
It seems almost all the oxygen is being consumed by conversations about COVID-19, aka the coronavirus pandemic. In Washington, Congress has closed its doors to visitors through at least April 1, leading the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to cancel its planned 2020 Legislative Conference. Here in Austin, House and Senate hearings have largely been postponed or moved to an online-only format.
As government agencies and elected officials — who were already transfixed on the election — turn their focus to the coronavirus outbreak, it will likely distract from other issues. However, government remains open for business, and a lot will continue to happen behind the scenes. We will remain vigilant to ensure nothing slips through while the headlines are focused elsewhere!
Earlier this year, we mentioned a bill in Congress that would increase the number of ag inspectors at U.S. ports of entry. Happily, President Trump signed that legislation into law last week. It will provide for more staff and canine teams to keep pests and diseases from entering the U.S.
Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Filemon Vela of Texas are both quoted in the Senate press release here. It was a rare display of Washington bipartisanship. You don’t often see Republican and Democratic members sharing the credit and publicity for passing legislation.
The presidential election also continued this week with Democratic primaries in six states. Michigan was the biggest prize of the night, with 125 delegates to divide amongst the two contenders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders. As expected, Biden increased his lead over Sanders and is now widely considered the front runner. More primaries are scheduled for next week with four states and 577 delegates on the line for Democrats.
On the trade front, USDA announced China has followed through on promises to lift a ban on imports of beef and beef products from animals over 30 months of age. This was one of the highlights of the Phase 1 trade deal between the U.S. and China announced in January.
Trade discussions between the U.S. and United Kingdom are also continuing, though negotiations will not formally start until the end of the month. The U.K. is set to part ways with the European Union later this year, opening the door for a new agreement. We’re hopeful the negotiations will result in a deal that provides access to the British market for American beef.
I think that’s all for this week, and remember, a steak a day keeps the doctor away!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association