Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs, talks about legislative and regulatory issues that have the potential to impact the U.S. cattle industry during a presentation at the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference. The proposed change to the Clean Water Act was one issue he highlighted, encouraging all cattlemen to submit a comment to the EPA to show there is a “grassroots outcry” in regard to a change that removes the term “navigable” from the definition of the waters of the U.S.
Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs, talks about legislative and regulatory issues that have the potential to impact the U.S. cattle industry during a presentation at the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference. The proposed change to the Clean Water Act was one issue he highlighted, encouraging all cattlemen to submit a comment to the EPA to show there is a “grassroots outcry” in regard to a change that removes the term “navigable” from the definition of the waters of the U.S.
BETTENDORF, Iowa — All elections are important, and the upcoming mid-term election on Nov. 4 is no different.

“Put Nov. 4 on your calendar — there is no reason for you not to vote,” said Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs. “Whether you vote absentee, through early voting or showing up on Election Day, you need to get out and cast that ballot.”

U.S. congressmen are working from 6:30 on Tuesday nights until 3 p.m. on Thursdays, said Woodall during a presentation at the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference.

“That’s not a lot of time to get the work done,” he added.

After the July 4 holiday, members of the House and Senate will be in Washington, D.C., for about 12 days, he said.

“They will be gone all of August and half of September,” he added. “After returning in September, they will get home by Oct. 1 so they can spend the rest of the fall driving toward Election Day.”

This schedule does not include a lot of time for the congressmen to get much accomplished.

“And, unfortunately there’s a lot of things we need to get done,” Woodall stressed.

One of the major issues is a proposal to change the definition of the waters of the U.S. in the Clean Water Act.

“This is one of the biggest changes we’ve seen when it comes to the Clean Water Act,” Woodall said. “The changes that have been proposed basically would take everything that could hold water and turns it into the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

The act was intended for navigable waters where there is commerce.

“This proposed rule removes the term ‘navigable’ and turns anything that can convey water into a water of the U.S., like a ditch or a depression in front of your farm that fills with water when it rains,” Woodall said.

As a result, if the changes to the act are approved, farmers with water features on their property will be required to obtain a permit to use that body of water or the land around it, he explained.

The permit process is used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enforce the Clean Water Act for navigable waterways.

“There is a six-month backlog in permit approvals,” Woodall noted.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule, and the comment period has been extended until Oct. 21.

“All of you need to submit comments,” Woodall urged. “NCBA has a goal of submitting 10,000 comments from individual cattle producers.”

It is important for comments to be generated to show the EPA and the Army Corps there is a “grassroots outcry” on the proposed rule, he said.

“The EPA has to answer every comment before they can move on with the final rule,” he added.

Beef Import Rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule that would allow fresh and frozen beef to be exported from Brazil to the U.S.

“We push for trade agreements all the time, but sometimes you have to be smart about trade,” Woodall said.

Foot and mouth disease exists in Brazil. This highly contagious disease is spread easily among animals.

“It is also a virus that can be carried on fresh and frozen beef,” Woodall reported. “The U.S. has not had an outbreak of FMD since 1929, and we don’t want it.”

If the disease was introduced into the U.S. again, it would have a huge impact on the nation’s cattle industry.

“According to an economic analysis, if there is a localized infection, the herd is quarantined, depopulated and the spread is stopped immediately, there will be about a $5 billion impact on our industry,” Woodall said. “If FMD is introduced in a feedlot, we’re talking about $50 billion, and a lot of that is from the loss of our international markets.”

There are protocols that can be put in place that allow countries with disease problems to trade with other countries, he noted.

“Our concern is we do not believe that the government of Brazil has the resources or the commitment to implement the protocols to keep us safe,” he said.

The comment period for the proposed rule closed at the end of April.

“We are working to de-fund that rule,” Woodall said. “We want Congress to know that trade is important, but no trade is worth the introduction of a foreign animal disease that would devastate us.”

Dietary Guidelines

Every five years, the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services review the dietary guidelines for Americans and make any changes that are necessary. The current guidelines were released in 2010 and are illustrated by the MyPlate icon.

“This is very important because a lot of Americans utilize the information, and the guidelines impact all federal nutrition programs,” Woodall said. “We always have a fight to make sure we keep beef in the center of the plate.”

There have been a lot of comments presented at public meetings from people who want to tie dietary guidelines to sustainability, he noted.

“They are saying if you are a recommended item on the dietary guidelines, you have to be produced in a sustainable manner,” he said.

However, there is no current definition of sustainability.

“Who sets the definition?” Woodall asked. “We need to base this on fact, not political agendas.”

As the November election approaches, he said, it is important for cattlemen to vote for members of Congress from both parties that support the beef industry.

“We are looking for members of Congress, Democrat or Republican who understand what we do and are willing to step up and help us,” he said.