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Second shutdown, imminent?

By Lindsay King   |  
02/13/2019

Positive projections for the cattle industry in the coming year was not the only message echoed at the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention (CIC) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Trade Show in New Orleans, La., Jan. 30-Feb. 1. Cattle producers far and wide inquired about the past, and possibly impending, government shutdown, and what it meant for them moving forward in their operation.

“The gang in Washington is not playing well together,” said Ethan Lane, Public Lands Council executive director. “We are not seeing the kind of chatter from behind the curtains that would be indicative of a bigger movement. Usually you hear about how far apart or close we are to a decision. Since we are not hearing anything, we are confident we will shut down again.”

The longest government shut down on record to date – 35 days – left cattle producers on edge about a number of topics. One of those concerned their grazing permits on government land.

“If the government does shut down again, there will be no preturnout meetings,” Lane added. “Receiving your bill and paying it will be a producer’s authorization to turn out on time. Even if a grazing fee is not calculated for 2019, the minimum fee [$1.35 per animal unit month (AUM)] will be applied and then a second bill will be sent when the fee is calculated for the year.”

This leaves a heavy burden on producers’ shoulders when it comes to recordkeeping to prevent litigation from activists. Lane’s advice? Stick to the guidelines, and be strict with yourself. Keeping immaculate records will be key if threatening questions are hurled at the cattle industry.

The very real possibility of reintroducing foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United States was realized during the shutdown. International travelers breezed through U.S. customs, even after visiting foreign agricultural operations. Proper procedures for disease transmission were clearly tossed aside during the shutdown.

“Terror groups have access to the disease and know it wouldn’t take more than a pen full to cause an absolute disaster for us as an industry,” said NCBA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall in a legislative update. “It is not a matter of if we see it, but when. The shutdown illustrated that we are not prepared for it.”

The U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) introduced the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate just last year. NCBA has successfully negotiated exemptions for livestock haulers from ELDs grasp, for now.

“We successfully maintained that during the shutdown,” Woodall added, “which is huge. I believe we will continue to maintain this exemption until we get Congress to pass a bill in our favor.”

The past shutdown, and possible second one, boils down to one topic of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans: building a wall on the southern border. Woodall said NCBA supports border security, whether that is a wall or something else.

Discussions are predicted to continue right up until the deadline – Feb. 15.

“I am an optimist, hopefully we can avoid another shutdown,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, during a press conference at CIC. “The American people expect both parties to work together in a way that makes for the best outcome for the American public.”