Will Rogers, in one of his many commentaries on the state of U.S. politics, once lifted his eyes to the heavens in mock seriousness and said: “Congress meets tomorrow morning. Let us all pray: Oh Lord, give us strength to bear that which is about to be inflicted upon us. Be merciful with them, oh Lord, for they know not what they’re doing. Amen.”

While BEEF readers may get a bit of comic relief from the cowboy philosopher, they’re dead serious about his sentiments, which is reflected in their concern about the direction that America is headed at present. But when it comes to the future of the beef business, their outlook is much brighter.

Those are the two major takeaways from BEEF magazine’s annual outlook survey of its readers, conducted at the end of each year to gauge the sentiments of the nation’s cattle business on the industry, politics and the future of each.

Political outlook negative

Those who follow the weekly reader polls at beefmagazine.com will find no surprises in the responses to whether readers see the outcome of last November’s elections as positive or negative. Consistently a conservative group, 65.6% of readers said the results were negative, while 21.9% said it was neutral and 5.3% said it was positive. Another 7.2% of survey respondents didn’t know.

With the 113th Congress now in session, BEEF readers were asked to rank the importance of issues before the House and Senate, with 1 being unimportant and 5 being critical. The top three issues are balancing the budget, with an average response of 4.39, estate tax at 4.33, and private property rights at 4.20.

Coming in right behind with an average ranking of important to very important were a number of issues: a new farm bill at 3.79; border security/immigration at 3.76; health care at 3.69; energy policy at 3.66; environmental regulations at 3.53; food safety at 3.50; antibiotics at 3.13; animal welfare at 3.08; and ethanol subsidies at 3.03 (Figure 1).

Whether or not these issues will be addressed to the satisfaction of cattlemen remains to be seen, but readers generally have deep concerns about the future. “Unless the direction that Washington is taking us is not changed, we will never again be what my father fought for at Normandy and the Bulge,” one reader commented. Several mentioned taxes and tax reform. “Congress needs to address serious spending cuts. More taxation is not the answer,” another reader commented.

beef industry outlook on Congress