The 2023 Cattle Industry Annual Convention played host to a meeting of Region I of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) on Jan. 31 in New Orleans.

Region I of the NCBA is composed of Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

The meeting was opened by Brad Hastings, chair of the Federation of State Beef Councils. The federation comprises qualified state beef councils from 43 U.S. states. Hasting proposed a resolution, later adopted, that reiterated that the state beef councils are recognized as being “federated and housed within but exist independently of” the NCBA at large.

NCBA President-Elect Todd Wilkinson also addressed Region I members, detailing the need for greater traceability of animal disease.

“You may have heard that they’ve got foot-and-mouth disease [FMD] 350 miles off the coast of Australia,” said Wilkinson. “That’s a big concern for them, and they’re an island. Now, as I’m sure you’re all aware, we’ve got a somewhat porous border to our south. We need to be able to identify and track our animals at every point of their journey.”

Wilkinson explained that an early critical control measure to limit the spread of FMD is to stop the movement of all livestock at risk of infection, initially for a period of 72 hours. A livestock standstill gives authorities time to conduct disease surveillance and then trace the previous movements of infected livestock.

“But in that time, think of how much we’ll lose! It’ll disrupt our trade with Japan, with China, with Korea. That’s why we have to have reliable animal traceability,” he stated.

NCBA kicks off CattleCon with priorities

“We are laser-focused on reducing risk and having the strongest response with a stockpile of vaccines that we have been building up since the 2018 Farm Bill,” NCBA President-Elect Todd Wilkinson said of the FMD threat. Photo by Enrico Villamaino

The USDA has established four main goals to increase animal traceability:

  • Advance the electronic sharing of data among federal and state animal health officials, veterinarians and industry, including sharing basic animal disease traceability data with the federal animal health events repository (AHER)
  • Use electronic ID tags for animals requiring individual identification in order to make the transmission of data more efficient
  • Enhance the ability to track animals from birth to slaughter through a system that allows tracking data points to be connected
  • Elevate the discussion with states and industry to work toward a system where animal health certificates are electronically transmitted from private veterinarians to state animal health officials

Several of those in attendance expressed concern about the costs associated with the electronic ID tags needed for such traceability. Wilkinson admitted that while the USDA would likely contribute to some of the cost, likely through a combination of grants and other programs, the rest of the costs would be incurred by the farmers themselves.

NCBA Priorities for 2023

The NCBA executive committee approved the organization’s policy priorities at the convention as well, focusing on advancing animal disease preparedness, protecting voluntary conservation programs and defending producers from regulatory overreach.

“Our focus is helping to create opportunity for America’s cattle producers and fighting to make sure the federal government does not damage our industry,” said Wilkinson. “Cattle producers have been caretakers of the land and livestock for decades and are committed to conserving this country’s natural resources while producing high-quality beef.”

NCBA’s policy priorities include:

  • Securing reauthorization of animal health provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and advocating for expanded funding of the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB) to protect against FMD
  • Protecting and funding EQIP, CSP and other voluntary conservation programs that incentivize science-based, active management of natural resources
  • Protecting the cattle industry from regulatory attacks under Waters of the United States, the Endangered Species Act, emissions reporting and more

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For more coverage from CattleCon 2023, be sure to check out the Feb. 13 edition of Country Folks.

by Enrico Villamaino