Thursday, August 2, 2007
Cattlemen host meeting with national president
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County Cattleman’s Association met recently with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President John Queen to discuss beef industry issues.
Queen was on a tour of Southern states to meet with producers. The meeting was held at Coldwater Cattle Company on Highway 311 in Marshall County.
Queen is promoting membership in the national association which currently has about 28,500 members. The industry has 769,000 cattle operations.
He stressed the importance of producers joining the NCBA so national can be a better advocate for the beef industry in Washington. The purpose of Queen’s trip was to talk about producer issues and to ask them how NCBA can benefit them.
Political action is one of the most important roles of the NCBA, he said. The organization has 22 employees in the Washington office.
Queen said NCBA, an over 100-year-old beef advocacy group, represents equally the small producer with five cows as the large producer with 5,000.
“All members have the same rights in NCBA,” he said. “We are one man, one vote. All policy starts locally.”
The association’s goal is to protect the industry’s viability for the children and grandchildren of cattlemen. Queen is a fourth generation cattleman from the western mountains of North Carolina and familiar with all aspects of the industry.
The association’s policy is to have the least government involvement in the industry, he said.
“We believe in the (producer’s) right to manage the land, water and natural resources,” he said. “We believe producers have the right to sell their commodity when, where and how they want to and to set the price.”
Queen said the buyer in the supermarket sets the price of beef and other commodities.
“We have to follow their hints and signs,” he said. “We feel we have a right to free, fair and reliable trade.”
The main focus before beef producers right now is the 2007 Farm Bill in Congress, he said.
NCBA represents every cattleman on every issue, he said.
“All members and producers in agriculture should have a voice in the legislation,” Queen said.
A main issue in this year’s farm bill before Congress is fairness in how commodities are treated across the board. A labeling requirement being considered in the bill would require beef products to be labeled as to country of origin or of mixed origins.
The USDA label on foods does not mean the product was produced in the United States, he said.
The bill does not place a cost-prohibitive burden on producers for record keeping, Queen said. The bill does not require poultry producers to identify each chicken, beef producers to identify each cow or that food service identify the farm source of each food they serve, he said.
“We want the country as a whole to realize all beef undergoes the same inspection whether it is U.S. grown or foreign,” he said.
The NCBA also wants to increase the industry checkoff - money that is used to advertise agricultural commodities. Queen said the beef producers do not have a high enough checkoff to put the U.S. industry on par with foreign countries.
Less than one-quarter of one percent of the American population is involved in the beef industry and only two percent of Americans work in agricultural production, he said.
But their voices must be heard among the many voices calling on Congress for legislation in order that the industry be fairly heard, he said.
Queen said the NCBA believes that every commodity should stand on its own and not be propped up (subsidized) by Congress when others are not.
Coldwater Cattle has three ranches and about 5,000 acres in the total operation, according to manager Bill Felton.
The company has about 1,400 registered Angus and Brangus cattle and a total stock of about 3,000 head, he said.
“We are the second largest in the U.S. in numbers of registered,” he said. “We sell about 500 registered bulls a year and our customers range from Florida to Texas and on into Missouri and Kansas.”
Also in attendance were David Houston, vice president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, and LeAnne Peters, director of communications with MCA.
Melanie Sojourner, a writer for NCBA, was travelling with Queen.
Born in Natchez, Sojourner grew up on a row crop farm, was involved in 4-H and graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in agriculture.
She said producers have to be able to continue to provide for their families if they stay in agriculture. She spent five years working for the NCBA in Denver before joining the team in Washington.
Others in attendance were Steve Elgin, president of Marshall County cattleman’s Association, Ronnie Jones, retired county agent, Paul Summers, Lance Newman, area livestock extension agent with MSU-ES, Mary Minor and Lemon Phelps with the county extension office, producers Davie Seldon and William McFerrin, Jack Shaffer and Vivian and Walter Rogers, W.D. “Bill” Fitis, Edgar Wilkinson and Randy Curtis.
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