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Rancher Talks Lessons Learned At Young Cattlemen's Conference

Washington DC

washington-dc.jpg The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Young Cattlemen’s Conference (YCC), which was held in early June, offers a comprehensive, nationwide tour of beef industry sectors and is designed to enhance leadership skills in young beef industry professionals. The South Dakota representative was Britton Blair, of Blair Brothers Angus in Sturgis, who is president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s Young Producers Council (YPC). Blair says the lessons learned during YCC will prove valuable to his family’s operation for a lifetime.

The YCC trip offers a complete tour of the beef business. On the first leg of the trip in Denver, CO, participants received intensive leadership training and heard from NCBA staff, as well as representatives from Safeway, CattleFax, U.S. Meat Export Federation, and JBS. The group then traveled to Chicago to visit the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange and OSI Industries, which works closely with McDonald’s. The final leg of the trip was Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of cattlemen back home.

britton-blair.jpg In today's blog, I recap the highlights of my recent conversation with Blair, who focused on the political issues of most importance to beef producers. Here are this thoughts:

Regulatory Issues: “There are many issues coming down the line that could have a major impact on our industry. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on a regulatory rampage that could place a huge burden on producers. EPA is currently working on dust regulations that would cause everyday activities such as soil tilling, cattle movements in feedyards, and simply driving down a gravel road to come under the control of the federal government and could make it illegal for producers to complete daily tasks. The Obama administration has also issued a guidance document that dramatically expands the regulatory authority of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act. This would give them jurisdiction over all types of waters including any stream, ditch or pond on your land, and you could easily be subject to regulation. It’s time that the beef industry puts its differences aside and starts working together to stop some of these ridiculous regulations that could put an end to our way of life,” says Blair.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): “The U.S. faces a 40% tariff on beef in South Korea and an 80% tariff in Colombia. Phasing out the tariff in South Korea alone could result in the sale of over $1 billion in U.S. Beef. This would put a huge sum of money in the pockets of U.S. producers. We have to remember that 96% of cattlemen’s potential customers live outside the U.S. and that exports have added a minimum of $145/head to our bottom line. This number would grow dramatically if we could secure the FTAs to these countries,” explains Blair.

Ethanol Subsidies: “I was able to talk to my state representatives where I focused on the importance of eliminating ethanol subsidies so that beef production could compete for its share of corn. I also met with USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos to discuss issues coming down the pike. He is very supportive of the beef industry and wants to do everything he can to secure a future for beef producers,” says Blair.

As South Dakota's YPC president, Blair is a respected leader among his peers. He says the YCC trip has left him excited and passionate about the future of the beef industry for young people. 

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for young people in agriculture right now and in the future, but it is going to take some outside-of-the-box thinking and aligning yourself with the right people in the industry to compete for your share of the marketplace. This trip made me realize that there are good times to come in the beef industry but you will have to educate yourself and be able to adapt to the changes,” concludes Blair.

What regulatory issues are you most concerned about? What’s your take on capturing export market opportunities, eliminating ethanol subsidies and battling EPA on the proposed dust rule?