Duane Toews and Kristina Butts

(Duane) Duane Toews joining you once again at Cattleman’s Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio, Texas, a chance to catch up with Kristina Butts. Kristina is Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for NCBA. And Kristina a lot of things going on in Washington, D.C. Obviously some things that impact the beef industry and producers. The dietary guidelines and what may come out of that. Some things are a bit concerning that producers certainly want to stay apprised of. (Kristina) No absolutely and dietary guidelines has been an issue where NCBA has been involved since 2012 and over the last year we’ve been very involved at various levels on these public meetings that the Advisory Committee has been having. And just to make sure everybody understands- every five years two federal agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA they actually come together and create an Advisory Committee. This year there’s 14 people on that Advisory Committee and they’re tasked with actually reviewing the latest nutrition research to decide if we need to make changes to the previous dietary guidelines. So, obviously they made the decision to revamp the 2010 dietary guidelines and really everything was going pretty good. The third meeting in March, the dietary committee started drifting into topics like sustainability. They focused specifically on the beef industry. You know, we came out very strong against that. Not because we don’t want to talk about sustainability but when you look at the charter of this Advisory Committee they’re focused on looking at nutrition research and talking about nutrition and health from a policy perspective but from a science prospective too. So, thankfully that kind of conversation actually died down a little bit. And then at the seventh meeting in December that’s really where it kind of went to what we were expecting as our worse case scenario, where essentially they decided, the Advisory Committee, to remove lean meat from what they consider as a healthy diet. And then they also made a recommendation that Americans should decrease red meat and processed meat consumption. So, where we’re sitting right now is that the secretaries of both HHS and USDA, they have the scientific report. We expect that to come out any day here in February and then once that’s released there is gonna be a comment period. So this is really where producers can make sure their voices are heard. So that’s submitting comments to the docket for both for both USDA and HHS to review. And then we’re also working with a lot of different people who actually conduct research on nutrition or work at university levels or registered dietitians to make sure that their voices are heard throughout this process. Once the comment period closes then the secretaries will review those comments and then they actually come forward with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. a little bit later this year. (Duane) It’s interesting the last time those were done the USDA was the lead agency and HHS was in the advisory capacity. Those tables turned now and did that play a part maybe in where maybe some of this environmental stuff came from? (Kristina) You know you’re right. So, USDA is not officially the lead. Obviously their staff are playing a role in helping advise the committee, the Advisory Committee, and it’s been a little bit of a challenge. This committee’s really kind of pushed the limit on what we would say their statutory obligations are, in just making sure that they stick to the science and stick to the core principles. And really when we talked about that lean meat conversation that they had in December you know, we would argue that they didn’t look in the right place for the research to show that the benefits of lean meat being in the diet. Maybe they looked at the research that showed you know, maybe some complications, etc. on some of these different studies. But they didn’t really look in the wealth of knowledge that is there for more than 30 years of research showing the benefits of meat and beef being part of a heart healthy diet. (Duane) Well Kristina certainly it’s been a pleasure to have you here with us at the Cattle Industry Convention. We’re gonna take a short break. We’ll be back with more and discuss some international affairs after this.

(Duane) Welcome back to the Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio. We continue our discussion with Kristina Butts, Executive Director of Legislative Affairs with NCBA. Looking on the international scale- obviously exports extremely important to us in the beef industry. Fast track trade promotion authority, some of those things are starting to heat up and with Congress is as it is at this point, maybe a better chance to get that accomplished. (Kristina) Absolutely, so this is actually an area where NCBA strongly agrees with the administration. And this is something where we definitely want Congress to consider the trade promotion authority. We’re hearing a lot of positive feedback on Capitol Hill that may on both sides of the Capitol, the House and the Senate do want to get this fast tracked authority moving forward. The Trans Pacific Partnership continues to be a big focus for NCBA’s membership and we actually have our U.S. Trade Representatives Office here at our Cattleman’s Convention talking on Friday about those conversations and what that means for cattle producers. So, you’re gonna see hopefully a lot of activity on the trade front. We continue to work with Capitol Hill, they have a big interest on the trade… Trans Pacific Partnership all together. And what a lot of people may not realize is once we negotiate that deal with those countries, then that deal has to go to Congress and it has to be passed by the House and the Senate. So, there’s a few more steps in that whole process. But Congress is playing a very important role in just making sure that these negotiations do look out for agriculture and specifically the beef industry. (Duane) But having the ability to request that it’s an up or down vote and not to be altered really is where the key lies. (Kristina) Absolutely and when you start talking about TPP, obviously Japan is the country that really comes to focus for the beef industry and making sure we find a way to eliminate the tariff that we currently have on U.S. beef going into Japan. So, finding a way to bring that tariff down and level the playing field with our other trading partners, truly only benefits all cattle producers. (Duane) An item of issue closer to home, Waters of the U.S. has an awful lot of people stirred up. We’ve been a little dry in the central plains. Seems hard to think we should be concerned about water issues, but it’s a big deal for producers across the country. (Kristina) We know in WOTUS, Waters of the United States, is that proposed rule that EPA put forward and we had some great success with Congress. And Congress actually put some defunding language in their Appropriations Bill, their end of year spending bill on the interpretive rule because once EPA put out the proposed rule under the definition and redefining that under WOTUS, they also put out an interpretive rule talking about their partnership with the NRCS agency within USDA. So, happy to report that just last week EPA did withdraw the interpretive rule all together. Obviously we’re supportive of the language and the members of Congress in the House and Senate that actually put that in to the spending bill to defund those efforts. And we’re not really out of the woods yet on WOTUS. So, the comment period has ended. EPA is reviewing those comments but there’s still opportunities for that to move forward. So, we’re working with members of Congress on Capitol Hill continue to raise awareness. There’s a lot of new members of Congress in D.C. right now, so, really kind of helping them relate to what this proposed rule means to land owners and cattle producers in their congressional districts and then we’re gonna do all we can to either defund it completely or find a way to have EPA pull back that proposed rule all together which is what we’ve been asking them to do all along. (Duane) It’s an interesting how… it’s an ebb and flow almost like the tide at times when you’re talking about Congress and working things between those agencies that aren’t responsible to Congress but Congress has a tie with them. That makes our work with our legislators extremely important. (Kristina) Absolutely Congress plays a very important oversight role and I think over the next two years you’re going to see a stronger focus from both the House and the Senate from an oversight perspective, so making sure that constituents, cattle producers, members of NCBA are engaging with their elected officials so they know what is going on in the regulatory side is going to be just as important over the next two years as anything else that we do in Washington. (Duane) Well our thanks to Kristina Butts, Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for NCBA joining us here at Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio. I’m Duane Toews, have a great day.

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