By Madi Kregel, OCJ field reporter
The 2020 Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet showed the bright future members needed on a very gloomy and rainy Saturday.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs, Ethan Lane, spoke multiple times during the event about key issues at the federal level for the beef industry. Lane explained the NCBA aims to continue to work with the current presidential administration’s interest in trying to help the agricultural community. On the regulatory front, NCBA had a significant recent victory with an announcement by President Trump promulgating new regulations to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
NEPA was first enacted in 1970 to “create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony,” and has not undergone substantive regulatory revision since 1986. Ranchers must undergo NEPA reviews for many reasons, but common examples include renewal of a term grazing permit, construction of range improvements, or to become eligible for participation in USDA programs. Over time, NEPA has evolved into a complex web of bureaucratic red tape with growing costs of compliance for many ranching families. Due to litigation, outside pressure, an abundance of caution, and a variety of other reasons, these costly processes are often delayed and create an uncertain business environment for many livestock producers. When finalized, the draft rules announced will relieve that pressure, clarify exemptions, and eliminate redundancies, Lane said.
Trade was also described as a “bright spot” by Lane. He said the Japanese trade deal gave competitive access to one of the largest trading partners for the U.S. beef industry. In addition, recent progress on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and Phase One of a deal with China on trade has incredible, positive implications for U.S. beef producers.
“It’s an interesting time to be in the trade world,” he said.
Sasha Rittenhouse, the outgoing OCA President offered some perspective of trade from the state level.
“We’re in a little different position in Ohio. There are none of the major packers near us. Our cattle have to be shipped out west near to where those packers are,” she said. “Every time you load and unload you risk injury, and you add stress and the cattle don’t do well under that stress. So it’s very important and we always strive to minimize that stress when hauling livestock.”
She explained how this situation adds importance to the challenges of switching from paper to Electronic Logging Device (ELD) with trucking livestock. In 2019, federal legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate aimed at reforming federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules in a way that ensures animal welfare, highway safety, and the well-being of livestock haulers. The implementation of ELDs for livestock haulers has been delayed as the rules are being reviewed, Lane said.
“If you’re hauling toilet paper, you can pull over on the side of the road. You can stop and take a rest. You can’t always do that when you’re hauling livestock,” Lane said. “So we have two different parts we’re working on — the hours of service and the delay that we’ve maintained in place on agricultural livestock producer haulers having to use that ELD. We try to have as much flexibility as possible to get these guys the time they need to get these animals safely to where they’re going.”
Highly processed alternative meat products have also been an increasingly common topic in media headlines (and the OCA), resulting in frustration for cattle producers and confusion for consumers.
“The folks behind the fake meat, and the Impossible Burger, they are very good at what they do, and they know how to market it,” Rittenhouse said. “It’s not healthy for you. It’s loaded with sodium and all kinds of ingredients that I can’t pronounce even if they were sitting in front of me. But beef is beef — it’s just one ingredient.”
At the close of the event, Rittenhouse handed the gavel to the new OCA president, Aaron Arnett of Delaware County. Arnett looks forward to continuing to cultivate interest in the cattle industry among the youth and growing membership in the OCA in his new role. As always, those who were named the best of the best in the industry were given the year’s OCA awards. The 2020 Ohio Cattlemen’s Association award recipients were:
Outstanding County Association Award: The Shelby County Cattlemen’s Association
Environmental Stewardship Award: Paul Detwiler of STgenetics, Ohio Heifer Center
Young Cattleman of the Year Award: Luke Vollborn, Gallia County
Seedstock Producers of the Year Award: Pam and Mike Haley, Wayne County
Commercial Producer of the Year Award: Fred Voge of Preble County
Industry Service Award: Rick Heffelfinger, Heffelfinger Meats
Industry Excellence Award: Roger Thompson, DVM, Franklin County.