Local ranchers testify in Washington as part of USCA Fly-In | TSLN.com

Local ranchers testify in Washington as part of USCA Fly-In

Each fall, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) hosts their annual Fall Fly-In held at the Western Skies Strategies headquarters in Washington, DC. This year ranchers from Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana spent Oct. 3-5 discussing issues that are vital to the cattle industry with agency officials policy makers.

Top priorities for the USCA group included gaining support for funding of the proposed Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) rule, discussing the Animal Disease Traceability proposed rule, reviewing ideas for an enhanced beef checkoff program and looking ahead to the upcoming farm bill, with particular interest on conservation and working lands-based programs and funding for the permanent livestock disaster assistance title. The USCA delegation also visited the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in order to discuss country of origin labeling (COOL).

Representing the region were local ranchers: Joe Cook, Billings, MT; Kenny Graner, Mandan, ND; Pat Becker, Selfridge, ND; Jim Hornbacher, Mandan, ND; Rick Gross, Selfridge, ND; Jack Alexander, Bozeman, MT; Deb Dressler, Richardton, ND; Tammy Basel, Union Center, SD; Mary Ellen Cammack, Sturgis, SD; Diane McDonald, Inkster, ND; and Courtney Nolz, Mitchell, SD.

One of the key topics addressed during the fly-in was efforts aimed at increasing access to high-speed Internet in rural communities across the country.

“In our digital age, access to broadband Internet has become a critical component of ranchers’ lives,” said Jess Peterson, USCA executive director. “From health care to real time commodity market reporting, rural broadband is critical to success in the cattle business. Unfortunately, many of those in rural areas still lack access to this critical tool. USCA is involved in a larger coalition to deliver the message that expanding access to high-speed Internet is crucial for the economic viability of rural America.”

Peterson was featured in a Fox News segment to talk about this issue further and also hosted a press conference during the fly-in to discuss the issue with elected officials.

“The big thing for us is information gathering,” said Peterson. “Now more than ever we need the tools that are gonna make us competitive, and we think high-speed Internet is just that.”

South Dakota delegates Cammack, Nolz and Basel visited the offices of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) to discuss USCA priorities.

“This was a great opportunity to not only discuss issues facing young producers, but also to bring awareness about the importance of rural broadband in agriculture communities,” said Nolz, a sophomore entrepreneurial studies major at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and the 2011 South Dakota Beef Ambassador. “I own and operate a clothing and jewelry store called Cowgirl Crush, with my products sold exclusively online. I hope to pursue this business full-time after I graduate, while also staying active in production agriculture. Without a strong communication infrastructure, my business will suffer, and I won’t be able to operate remotely from the ranch. That’s why this issue is so important to me.”

While in DC, the group also had the opportunity to visit several USDA officials, including APHIS Administrator Dudley Butler, Under Secretary Edward Avalos, and Acting Under Secretary of the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service Michael Scuse. The group wrapped up their tour with a visit to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for a conversation on the status of U.S. beef increased access to Asian markets, as well as an update on the COOL WTO case with Ambassador Marantis and Ambassador Siddiqui, Chief Agricultural Negotiator.

It was a jam-packed three days bringing awareness of cowboy issues to Washington, DC. To follow the activities of USCA and its members, visit http://www.uscattlemen.org.