Panel talks politics, 'fake meat' and checkoffs at cattlemen's convention


By George Plaven, Capital Press

Dec 3, 2018


BEND, Ore. The chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association expects two years of gridlock on Capitol Hill following the 2018 congressional mid-term elections in November.


Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the NCBA, gave his analysis of the mid-terms on Dec. 1 at the Oregon Cattlemen's Association annual convention and trade show in Bend, Ore., where about 400 ranchers from across the state gathered for three days of meetings and presentations.


Woodall later joined a panel of speakers to discuss two major issues for the U.S. cattle industry first, how the feds plan to regulate the introduction of so-called "fake meat" into the marketplace, and second, how to improve the Beef Checkoff Program, which collects $1 per head of cattle to pay for product development, research and promotion.


In terms of support from Washington, D.C., Woodall said the Senate will likely be the industry's best friend after Republicans widened their majority to 53 seats, while Democrats flipped 42 seats to gain control of the House.


"Republicans tend to see our way of life a bit better than Democrats do," Woodall said. "For the next two years, the Senate will play spoiler to the House."


Congress divided


Woodall was encouraged by GOP victories in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida. He said Sen.-elect Kevin Cramer, who unseated incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, is a "great friend of agriculture," and specifically the cattle business.


In Missouri, Republican Josh Hawley ousted incumbent Claire McCaskill, who Woodall said never met once with the state cattlemen's association. Republican businessman Mike Braun also won election over incumbent Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and Rick Scott, the current Republican governor of Florida, ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.


"Agriculture made the difference on those three seats," Woodall said.


But it wasn't all good news, according to Woodall. Republicans lost Senate races in Nevada and Arizona and Democrats took over control of the House, which Woodall anticipates will lead to numerous oversight hearings in key legislative committees as opponents of President Donald Trump attempt to tie up the agenda.


Woodall pointed to figures such as Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who chairs the House Financial Services Committee and vehemently opposes Trump, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee.


"If (Grijalva) was given 30 seconds to make unilateral decisions for this country, the one and only thing he would do is kick all of you off your permits," Woodall said. "He hates that we graze on federal land."


Woodall also criticized Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who recently referred to a bill to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the lower 48 states as "a talking point for a few idiots."


"That shows you what we're up against," Woodall said.


Woodall said the NCBA does have Democratic supporters, such as Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who will chair the House Agriculture Committee, and Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee will play a pivotal role in passing new trade foreign trade agreements.


"We're going to capitalize on that," Woodall said.


'Fake' meat, checkoff ...