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D.C. Update: ‘We are better off today’

By Kindra Gordon   |  
02/05/2018

“Are we better off today than a year ago?”

That’s the question Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), posed in Phoenix, Ariz., Jan. 30 as he addressed attendees at the American National CattleWomen (ANCW) Annual Conference. The conference was hosted in conjunction with the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show.

Woodall, who serves as NCBA’s chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill, provided a “D.C. Update,” beginning his remarks by recognizing that President Donald Trump has marked one year in the White House.

“He is polarizing,” Woodall noted, “and I wish he’d put the phone down a little bit, but I’m not in the camp that thinks he should stop tweeting altogether.”

Woodall credited Trump with putting together a strong administrative team that, he said, “has proven he has the beef industry’s best interests in mind.”

To answer his initial question of whether we are better off than a year ago, Woodall said, “It’s an unequivocal yes.”

To this point, Woodall cited the rollback of the BLM Planning 2.0 Rule; reduction of the size of two Utah national monuments; and killing both the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Rule as victories the Trump administration has achieved in the past year.

Woodall noted that for the first time since 1986, a comprehensive tax reform plan was passed — and it doubled the exemption amount for the death tax, while also maintaining a step up in basis. “We were fortunate to get both,” he stated.

Return of beef to China was another success.

“It’s not a perfect agreement, but it’s a foot in the door,” shared Woodall.

“So, overall, 2017 was pretty good to us,” he observed. “Now we’ve got to look ahead, because 2018 is short because of the mid-term elections. … We have from now until about Memorial Day [when election campaigns kick in] to get things done.”

On the docket, the farm bill will expire in September 2018.

“History tells us we’ll probably see an extension,” Woodall noted, “but we have two fiery chairmen in the House and Senate who are working to get it done.” Woodall said he anticipates seeing an initial markup of the farm bill in the House of Representatives by mid-February.

Among the issues Woodall and his NCBA staff are working on are immigration reform to ensure a labor force for agriculture, getting clarification on the Superfund legislation for agricultural operations, and pursuing what Woodall called an urgent need to set up a vaccine bank to protect American producers and their livestock from a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

“We are at risk without it,” Woodall stated.

Additionally, Woodall noted, “Fake meat can’t be called beef,” and indicated NCBA will work toward legislation to prevent that.

Woodall shared that the D.C. staff is working to find a solution to the electronic logging device (ELD) rule as it relates to truckers transporting livestock. As well, staff members are already drafting a replacement rule for WOTUS.

“When we are done, we want to be confident it will protect private property rights and, more importantly, that another administration can’t come in and undo it.”

Looking ahead, Woodall noted that the tax reform that was passed will sunset after 10 years.

“We need to continue to work on and get permanent legislation in place,” he said.

In closing, when asked about trade, Woodall acknowledged that NAFTA is an area in which NCBA does not agree with Trump.

“NAFTA’s been good to us,” he said. “We don’t want to renegotiate. Our message, to the President has been: ‘Don’t jeopardize our access; don’t pull out.’” Woodall said there are two more rounds of NAFTA talks, with a goal of trying to wrap up the agreement by March.

He noted that President Trump also wants to renegotiate the current trade agreement with South Korea (called KORUS).

Woodall said he anticipates the NAFTA and KORUS agreements might be finalized in 2018, but he does not anticipate trade talks with Japan or the United Kingdom to come to fruition this year. “Trade is important because with an increasing domestic cow herd, we have to move more [beef] product,” he emphasized.

Editor’s Note: Kindra Gordon is a freelance writer and cattlewoman from Whitewood, S.D. This article was written as part of Angus Media’s coverage of the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix, Ariz. Jan. 29-Feb. 2. See additional coverage in future issues and online at www.angus.org.