Beef producers are concerned that proposed regulations from the USDA may go too far.

Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), says he’s closely watching proposed USDA rulemaking for the beef industry.

“We’re watching with some concern some of what we’re seeing coming out of USDA. Obviously, they continue to be very focused on what they’re calling their competition agenda,” he said.

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Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Photo courtesy of the NCBA.

Lane said NCBA believes that competition is important in the marketplace and that producers want a fair environment in which to operate, but that they should be able to differentiate their products and seek premiums for the cattle they raise. He believes it’s possible USDA’s proposed rulemaking as part of the Packers and Stockyards Act could be too extreme.

“So, if we get to a point where USDA is inserting themselves in the marketplace through regulation in an effort to achieve their version of fairness and if that version of fairness looks like someone who doesn’t receive the same premiums being able to litigate or litigate at scale on every one of those transactions, that is going to disincentivize the supply chain from paying out those premiums,” he said.

Lane believes that could result in an eventual lowering of the overall quality of U.S. beef.

“We’re producing the highest quality beef in the U.S. right now that the world has ever seen and we incentivize that through premiums in the marketplace, [such as] better genetics, different feeding regiments, meeting that consumer demand and producing what the consumer is looking for and that comes through market signals,” Lane explained.

He says disincentivizing the supply chain is not what producers want.

“They don’t want to see a return to commodity cattle. They don’t want USDA inserting themselves in the marketplace like they’re trying to with their packers and stockyards rulemaking, picking winners and losers, or worse, pushing for an environment where everybody gets paid the same for their cattle, regardless of what they are,” he said. “And that’s the danger of some of the ideas that are being contemplated in the packers and stockyards rulemaking that [USDA] Secretary Vilsack has been pushing for again in his second term in office.”