1/2/2014 12:00:00 AM
ICA members adopt policy for state, national issues
More than 30 expiring policies of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association were reviewed during the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting held during the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention in December. New policies were also proposed, and following discussion, ICA members ratified the policies, including some key ones on a state cow-calf tax credit, mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, and the use of a standardized template for third-party animal welfare audits.
ICA members voted to continue efforts to secure a state Livestock Production Incentive Refund. More popularly known as the cow-calf tax credit, this production incentive was first available through the Iowa Legislature in 1996. It continued through 2009 when the credit was suspended due to the economic recession.
The idea behind the cow-calf tax credit was to reward cattle producers who maintained hay and pasture acres to promote soil tilth, water quality, and bio-diversity. The credit was determined by adding together, for each eligible head of breeding livestock, the product of 10 cents for each corn equivalent deemed to be consumed by that animal in the taxpayer’s operation. For example, 111.5 corn equivalents per head in the case of cow-calf operations, or $11.15 total per head of breeding livestock. The amount of credit was limited to $3,000 per taxpayer.
During the 2013 legislative session, House File 467 was introduced that would re-enact the cow/calf tax credit. Legislation would appropriate $4 million to the fund (two times the level from 2009) at the same credit level of $11.15/hd. With this amount of funding, roughly 358,000 head would be eligible for the tax credit, or 45% of Iowa’s cattle breeding stock. Iowa cow/calf producers pasture acres could benefit from this tax credit allowing producers to further introduce and improve sustainable practices to their cow/calf operation.
Although this legislation was introduced in 2013, it was not adopted by the legislature. Instead, it was passed to a subcommittee but was never brought to the floor in the House.
To make the re-instatement of this tax credit a reality, Iowa cattlemen will have to engage on the topic with their legislators, and the association will actively lobby for the passage of HF 467.
Another policy that garnered much discussion from ICA members was the association’s position on mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (mCOOL). Since the summer of 2013, ICA has followed an interim policy that instead called for a voluntary COOL that complies with WTO (World Trade Organization) agreements.
Eventually, ICA members voted to ratify the interim policy. However, there are still voices on both sides of the issue. Cow-calf producer Jim Werner, Diagonal, said “I don’t like that it’s mandatory, but in this instance, it’s the only thing that works” to show customers where their beef has been and where it is processed.
Cattle feeder Kent Pruismann, Rock Valley, said “I once supported mandatory labeling, but I don’t any more. The problem is there is no equity in that label. I can’t find value in it that comes to my bottom line.”
There are still many international court decisions that must be made on the U.S. government’s definition of mCOOL. Another cattle feeder, Dean Black, Somers, said the U.S. has only been enforcing mCOOL since November 23, 2013. “Mandatory COOL only covers middle meats, and doesn’t apply to restaurant trade or ground beef. With all the line changes packers would have to make, packers will have extra costs that we (cattle producers) will eat as a discount.”
There is one piece of policy from the ICA Annual Meeting that will be taken to national discussion at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting in February. The policy developed from discussions about Tyson Foods’ FarmCheck program that requires cattle producers to implement various production practices and verify those practices through an audit.
The ICA policy does not discount any one packer’s standards; however, it does ask that the beef cattle industry adopt one standard set of guidelines, such as the current Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program that would be accepted for all third party audits.
Prior to the ICA annual meeting, there was a great deal of discussion about ICA policy regarding ethanol and its co-products. ICA did not change its current position that supports renewable fuels that maximize access to co-products for Iowa’s cattle industry.