Tom Talbot, chairman of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, led a lively discussion during their meeting, Feb. 3, 2012, during the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. Conversation ranged from the latest science and research to ensuring effective cattle care to federal legislation to mandate on-farm production practices and more. Talbot said despite challenges cattle producers face, raising healthy cattle is and always has been a top priority.
"The U.S. beef industry has changed through the years, but the one thing that remains the same is our commitment to raising healthy cattle and providing our animals the best care possible," Talbot said. "NCBA's Cattle Health and Wellbeing Committee relies on the latest information from government officials, veterinarians and cattle health experts to ensure our policies reflect the latest science and ensure effective cattle care practices on cattle operations throughout the country."
Kristina Butts, NCBA executive director of legislative affairs, said while cattlemen make it their top priority to care for their animals, there are organizations that attempt to paint a different picture of animal agriculture. Specifically, Butts discussed an agreement entered into by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers to seek federal legislation to mandate egg production practices. Butts said legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) to codify that agreement creates a slippery slope to allow the federal government to mandate on-farm production practices for all sectors of the agricultural industry.
"This legislation opens up Pandora's Box on Capitol Hill. While this bill currently only applies to the egg industry, it's not a far stretch to see it applied to all animal agriculture," Butts said. "Cattlemen proactively worked with veterinarians and cattle health experts to develop production guidelines. We worked together to improve our industry. Unfortunately, a one-size fits all federal mandate telling farmers and ranchers how to do their jobs is not acceptable."
Dr. Dave Daley, a cow-calf producer from California and the animal science department chairman at Chico State University, continued the discussion of animal rights organizations agendas and the impact of those agendas on the cattle industry. Daley said cattlemen need to take charge of the conversation about the industry.
"We sometimes don't like change but think about the changes in our industry. We're better producers today because we've changed," Daley said. "If you don't want HSUS to tell you want to do, you need to decide that. In agriculture, we are good at talking to each other. But we have to change that. We have to talk to people outside agriculture about what we do. We have to lead the conversation."