By Matt Reese
The 2019 installment of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet featured a wide array of topics and a great crop of award winners.
The Outstanding County Affiliate Award was presented to Clark County Cattle Producers; the Environmental Stewardship Award was presented to Andy, Erin and Brian Stickel of Wood County; the Young Cattleman of the Year Award was presented to Brad Thornburg of Belmont County; the Commercial Producer of the Year Award was presented to Allan and Kelly Robison and Thad and Amanda Robison of Champaign County; the Seedstock Producer of the Year Award was presented to the Lee Miller family of Paint Valley Farms in Holmes County; the Industry Service Award was presented to Tom Price of Delaware County; and the Industry Excellence Award was presented to Bob Agle of Clark County.
Among the discussion topics was the fair amount of criticism recently regarding sustainability in the beef industry. Sara Place, with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is working to correct the misinformation out there and share the very sustainable story of U.S. beef production.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about greenhouse gas emissions and beef. Methane is a greenhouse gas and that is something we get attention on with cattle. There is no doubt that cattle make methane and they haven’t just started doing that in the last few years. It is a greenhouse gas,” Place said. “However, when we look at data sources like the EPA puts out in a greenhouse gas emission inventory, the total direct emissions that come from beef cattle production are 2% of emissions. Transportation is 26% of the emissions and electricity is about 30%, just to put it into context. We produce greenhouse gas emissions [in the beef industry], just not to the extent that sometimes the media attention would lead you to believe.”
In contrast, beef production has many positive benefits for the environment.
“The value proposition for beef is really strong. We call it upcycling. Cattle are taking things that are of little to no value to people and making a much higher value product. They are making more high quality protein for the human food supply than they use. Most of the production land we use for beef can’t be used for anything else, so we are expanding the land base available for producing food,” Place said. “Even in the agricultural industry it can be hard to know what is true and what the facts are. There are a lot of different views out there about eating animals. One question I have gotten is, ‘Have you ever looked into a cow’s eyes and seen its soul?’ People have different views and that really drives these conversations. Most people just interact with animals like their cats and dogs. Food production is a little different for most people to grasp.”
Allison Rivera, the executive director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, covered some of the legislative highlights from 2018 and the challenges for 2019.
“We just got a farm bill passed right before the shutdown, so that is great. We were pleased with that and we would love to start implementing some of the wins that NCBA got. The foot and mouth disease vaccine bank and the Conservation Title are wins for our producers but we have to get USDA back up and running so that we can start implementing some of those wins,” Rivera said. “We are working with appropriators on the fake meat language and making sure that the food safety aspects of these cell culture products go through the rigorous inspection process that our producers’ products go through. We have a lot of members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — in a good place on this, but while we are in this shutdown all that is at a standstill.”
The shutdown has also caused uncertainty for livestock haulers operating under the electronic logging device (ELD) exemption. Currently, transporters of livestock are not required to have an ELD and drivers do not need to carry any documentation regarding this exemption. The statutory exemption will remain in place until further notice.
“We are sitting in a ‘until further notice’ for ELD delay for livestock haulers,” Rivera said. “What that looks like moving forward is based on what Congress gives us when they come back. We hope they continue to give us that ELD delay until Sept. 30 of 2019.”
These and other issues, including trade, remain up in the air for the duration of the government shutdown.
“At the end of the day, Speaker Pelosi and President Trump are going to have to come together and find some common ground on the border issue. We have a lot of producers down at the border and this is of great concern to NCBA,” Rivera said. “We’re going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on. We hope the government gets up and running soon because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation and Department of Interior are very important to our producers and we want to continue working with them.”