I hope everyone had a fantastic Independence Day and enjoyed some good steak and family time to celebrate!
Despite the holiday weekend, it has been a busy two weeks. A lot of mainstream news is once again focused on coronavirus as places like Texas endure a resurgence, but unlike earlier this year, governments are continuing their regular business.
In Washington, much of the discussion has been on appropriations bills working their way through the House. These bills will provide funding for a myriad of federal agencies that impact cattle producers, including USDA. Appropriators like to use the legislation to push their agendas, so it can be an interesting process. It’s still early in the process, but rest assured, we will be keeping a close eye on the stuff that could impact you.
The House also introduced a couple of bills last week to expand the options available to small meat processors. More capacity at small processors will help reduce the packer bottleneck and give ranchers another potential outlet for their cattle.
The Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2020 introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota would allow meat processed at state-inspected facilities to be sold directly to consumers across state lines through e-commerce.
The Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP UP) Act, would provide federal grants for existing meat processors to move from state to federal inspection, which will similarly allow for increased interstate meat sales.
In case you missed it, you can check out TSCRA President Robert E. McKnight’s statement on the two bills here.
We also released a statement after USDA announced its initial $27.1 million purchase of FMD vaccine for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. For cattle producers, the vaccine bank was a major part of the 2018 Farm Bill and will help fix prior shortcomings in our ability to address a major FMD outbreak should one ever occur.
Another of our major priorities took effect on July 1 — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. The agreement preserves the tariff-free trade of beef and cattle between the three countries that was first established 25 years ago under NAFTA. The enactment was a welcome and successful conclusion to years of work by cattle producers to preserve our market access to consumers in Mexico and Canada.
We have been getting a great response to our recent editorial from TSCRA director Carl Ray Polk Jr. If you haven’t already seen it in The Cattleman magazine or our email update, you can read Defending Rural Texas on our website.
Last but not least: Be sure to vote! Primary runoff elections are happening across the state on Tuesday, July 14. You can visit www.votetexas.gov for more information on races that may apply to you.
I feel like I’m forgetting to mention something, but I guess there’s always next week. Until then!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.