NCBA President Jennifer Houston Highlights Beef Industry's Top Priorities: USMCA, Fake Meat, Dietary GuidelinesTue, 23 Jul 2019 11:23:12 CDT
The members of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association welcomed the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and owner/operator of East Tennessee Livestock Center in Sweetwater, Tennessee, Jennifer Houston, during the association’s annual convention held this past week in Norman, Oklahoma. Prior to Houston’s keynote address to OCA members during the convention’s General Session, she sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn to visit about some of the most pressing issues she and the NCBA team are tackling right now. Chief among those issues, she says, is moving the USMCA Agreement across the finish line and advancing the US trade agenda. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“The No. 1 thing we’re working on is working toward ratification of the USMCA, or the new NAFTA as people call it. It’s so important to beef producers because of what exports mean to us,” she said, pointing out that both Canada and Mexico account for 70 of the $300 attributed to one head of exported beef. “It is important we get this one under our belts and get it ratified so we can move on to working on bilaterals and have a little more credibility with Japan, China, the UK and even the EU.”
To date, Mexico’s General Congress has already ratified the trade pact and Canada’s Parliament is currently in the process of doing so. Houston’s expectation is that President Trump will send this agreement to Congress sometime in September after the August recess to begin the ratification process. She is optimistic that the deal will be officially completed before the 2020 election cycle begins.
Once fully ratified, Houston says the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement will be a tremendous boost to the agricultural economy. In the meantime, though, she says producers are faced with an impending rise in the cost of feed grain. Late planting of corn and soybean crops as a result of weather-related issues has created a likely feed shortage situation for the coming year that will certainly add economic pressure to the livestock industry. Fortunately, Houston says domestic and international demand for beef remains relatively strong and has supports a positive narrative in the industry that she believes will endure for the time being. Despite the imposition of tariffs in many of our top export destinations, trade has continued to flourish. Houston says this is all the more reason to settle the USMCA and begin negotiations with other foreign trading partners to eliminate tariff barriers and capitalize on their growing beef demand.
Aside from trade, Houston says the NCBA is focused on other areas where beef’s presence is threatened. For instance, the rise in fake meat products - specifically cell-cultured alternative proteins and plant-based products. She remarked that as awareness of these products has grown, more and more people are realizing that they may not actually be as healthy an option as they are portrayed to be and believes that they will have much difficulty competing against beef. However, she says NCBA is working hard to ensure that these products are held to the same inspection and marketing standards as beef.
“We’re really working hard on both fronts to make sure they are on a level playing field with us,” she said. “But we know we can stand up to any of those products both nutritionally and certainly on taste.”
Additionally, the NCBA recently engaged in the process to revise the National Dietary Guidelines with the goal of ensuring beef’s role in what the US government recognizes as a well-rounded healthy diet.
“Obviously we’re monitoring that process very closely. Different from 2015, USDA is the lead agency this year and we’re really happy that they are only going to be talking about nutrition,” she said. “Five years ago a lot of sustainability and animal welfare stuff creeped in but dietary guidelines should just be about nutrition. And, of course, we know that beef is such a nutrient-rich, high-quality protein. So, we’re really happy with how the committee is focusing only on nutrition.”
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