The farm bill, trade, reasonable livestock transport regulations and preventing the term meat from being applied to meatless substitutes are likely to be the top four priority items discussed during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association summer meeting in early August, according to Kevin Kester, a fifth generation rancher from Parkfield, Calif., who currently serves as NCBA president.
Kester was NCBA’s representative to the Colorado Cattlemen’s convention held in Loveland in June.
Kester has particular insight on the topic of trade, since he holds a seat on President Trump’s 30-member trade advisory council. At the CCA convention, he urged his fellow cattlemen to remain patient as the Trump administration re-assesses — and sometimes renegotiates — important trade relationships around the world.
Of particular concern to the ag community is the fate of NAFTA. Both Canada and Mexico are among the top five export markets for U.S. beef.
At recent rallies, Trump has complained about Canada imposing tariffs of 275 percent on dairy products from the U.S. as well as the way China built up its own economy by selling cheap exports to the U.S. He also decried the overall U.S. trade imbalance, which has ballooned to more $800 billion.
“I believe in free trade but really I believe in fair trade,” he said speaking in South Carolina.
Since then, trade tensions have continued to escalate. On July 1, Canada followed through with a threat to place additional tariffs on $170 million worth of U.S. beef products in retaliation for steel and aluminum tariffs levied against it by the U.S.
Kester said at the CCA convention he remains optimistic that the various trade disputes will ultimately be resolved.
“Gregg Doud (the administration’s chief ag trade negotiator) told us during the marketing committee meeting that NAFTA re-negotiation would get done, and I agree with that,” Kester said. “With mid-term elections coming up and the presidential election in Mexico, it may not get done by the end of the year, but I think it will get done eventually.”
The cattle industry summer convention is a weeklong affair that includes various NCBA committee meetings and a meeting of the full board, as well as similar gatherings of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Federation of State Beef Councils. It is being held August 1-4 in downtown Denver. The Hyatt Regency serves as the host hotel.