North Dakota’s cattle producers convened for the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association’s 90th Annual Convention & Trade Show, “This is Stockmen’s Country,” in Minot, N.D., Sept. 19-21.
NDSA President Dan Rorvig, a commercial cow-calf producer from McVille, N.D., said, hands down, the state of the cattle market dominated the conversations.
“Producers are rightfully concerned, as we’ve watched an already soft cattle market take a dramatic vertical drop over the last several weeks,” he said. “The NDSA assembled some industry experts to give us insight into the current situation and what might lie ahead and developed grassroots policy to improve transparency and price discovery in the livestock marketplace.”
Among the convention speakers, NDSA members heard from Troy Applehans, a CattleFax market analyst; Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative; and an expert panel comprised of Kraig Roesch of the Packers and Stockyards Division; Todd Wilkinson of Wilkinson and Schumacher Law Professionals; Chelsea Good of the Livestock Marketing Association; Shaun Quissell of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture; and Blaine Northrop, NDSA chief brand inspector, that tackled the topic of “Protecting Your Investment.”
At its meeting on Thursday, the NDSA Board of Directors reviewed steps the NDSA has taken to get answers to producers’ questions about the recent market collapse and the ongoing investigation into possible manipulation, collusion and other unfair practices and committed to continue to work toward a plan to help prevent this type of abrupt downward market movement in the future when a lone processing plant experiences a difficulty.
Improving price discovery was among the ideas passed as policy during the business session. Members’ rationale pointed to the dwindling number of cattle sold in cash contracts over time and, consequently, the diminished value and validity of the five-area weekly weighted average price reports that serve as the foundation for cattle prices across the country. Members also reaffirmed their support for the physical delivery of live cattle on live cattle contracts and opposed any changes that would discount those deliveries or otherwise adversely affect producers’ ability to make physical deliveries.
Members likewise took a stand against any changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meat inspection procedures that would allow for the privatization of inspections.
“Our inspection program is an essential tool to ensure food safety and consumer confidence,” Rorvig said. “We are opposed to changes that would put that confidence in question and impact our access to both foreign and domestic markets.”
Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) was another topic explored at the convention, particularly as changes to the ADT program are looming. Members heard from U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ADT Staff Veterinarian Dr. Alex Turner, who explained the impending changes and took feedback from members, who passed policy recognizing the importance of protecting the health of the domestic cattle herd, but calling for answers to the industry’s concerns regarding the cost to grassroots cattle producers and auction markets; the technology that will be required; the confidentiality of producer information; and the ability of electronic tagging systems to perform in North Dakota’s weather conditions and at the speed of commerce before changes are rolled out. They also called on USDA to cover the costs of the electronic tags and related infrastructure, so cattle producers are not subject to an unfunded mandate.
At the convention, NDSA members also fortified their stance on “keeping [meat] real.” They heard from Dr. Eric Berg, a nationally renowned meat scientist from North Dakota State University, and Jennifer Houston, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president, who shared the stage to talk about the science and politics surrounding “fake meat.” Later, in the business session, NDSA members built upon their previous imitation protein policy, which calls for truth-in-labeling laws to distinguish conventionally raised meat from that which is grown in a lab and a regulatory framework that protects consumers, preserves our nomenclature and does not give alternative proteins an unfair advantage, by adding a focus on school lunches and assurances that real beef is the primary protein offered to students.
NDSA members also passed a series of policies related to wildlife. In the M-44 Sodium Cyanide Device resolution, members underscored the importance of these tools in the control of wild animals, such as coyotes, that prey upon livestock and how the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent withdrawal of its interim registration review decision will result in severe economic consequences if these tools are eliminated and predators are left unchecked. They also reaffirmed their position on the destructive nature of the prairie dog; their opposition to the release of elk onto any federal, state or private lands in North Dakota; the continued need to work with state and federal agencies to address depredation issues that impact livestock producers; and other issues, ranging from estate taxes to the U.S. Drought Monitor calculations.
“These policies are the guideposts for our organization and give our board and staff direction as they represent our members in Bismarck, in Washington and around the country throughout the year,” Rorvig said.
A complete list of resolutions and directives passed at the convention will be printed in the upcoming North Dakota Stockman magazine.