The national political climate is always a hot topic among cattlemen, and listening to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Bill Donald speak recently revealed some of ranchers’ top concerns about the current political landscape in Washington, D.C. As 2012 draws near, things will get interesting with a presidential election, an expiring farm bill and soaring budget deficits. Here are some thoughts McDonald shared about how agriculture and government can meet and what can be done to capitalize on opportunities coming down the pike.
“In U.S. politics, there are two distinctly different philosophies. The competing philosophies on what the role of government should be are so deeply ingrained that our elected officials aren’t able to do their jobs. Politics is so polarized that it makes it difficult to get the job done. Sadly, sometimes gridlock is our only savior. What we desperately need are some statesmen who understand the art of compromise to stand up , so we can move forward. We are stuck in the middle and not getting anywhere,” says Donald.
Donald is hopeful these statesmen will stand up in 2012 to make much needed changes to solve the nation’s deficit concerns without making agriculture take the bulk of the burden.
“As we look at the political arena from a cattleman’s perspective, we currently have an administration that is attempting to regulate what they can’t legislate. The administration is blurring the line between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” he explains.
Donald said that since 2007, there have been 75,770 pages of rules written — rules that significantly impact the U.S. economy. And, it’s some of these rules coming from GIPSA, the departments of Labor and Transportation that will greatly change the way farmers and ranchers do business.
“Our founding fathers were brilliant in coming up with three branches to keep the balance in government, and it would behoove our leaders to follow those principles. NCBA feels very strongly about the estate tax. There has been some discussion to raise the estate tax exemption to $5 million and lower the tax rate to 35%. Now, with budget cuts, they are seeking to reduce the exemption to $1 million and raise the tax to 55%. Of course, we feel it would be best to repeal the estate tax or at least get an agriculture exemption,” Donald adds.
When the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a new rule that would require ranchers to have a CDL license to operate farm equipment, NCBA got involved in the conversation.
“We closely watched the DOT proposed rule, and we were able to get that rule pulled. There didn’t seem to be much logical sense to have to know the rules required for driving an 18-wheeler on the road when you are at home driving four-wheelers and tractors,” he says.
Of course, the news has been buzzing about the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed child labor law.
“The DOL’s proposed child labor law takes away one of the best things agriculture provides — instilling a hard work ethic in our kids. What do employers look for when hiring new people? They want a hard work ethic, which our kids get from doing chores, milking cows, using equipment, riding horses and having to be responsible. This rule would take away the very fiber of our industry,” he says.
Donald stressed the importance for ranchers to stay involved in the political process and communicate their ideas to their elected officials.
“We need to help lead this country down a path to economic stability,” Donald says.