AgriTalk: Trade, Fake Meat Top of Mind for Cattlemen

Making sure that beef is has a seat at trade negotiations tables has been a focus of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), along with labeling of “fake meat.”

In an interview with AgriTalk, current NCBA president Kevin Kester shares his thoughts on several important policy issues to cattle producers across the country.

Kester and other NCBA officials met with the Mexican and Canadian cattlemen’s groups in Monterrey, Mexico during an annual meeting for Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, the Mexican counterpart to NCBA. Discussions were focused on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a trade pact that has helped Mexico and Canada become two of the top five destinations for U.S. beef.

“We want NAFTA to continue. We don't want our trade interrupted as relates the beef and the cattle industry. We want to make sure that we don't suffer any harm,” Kester says.

Another trade deal Kester would like to see the U.S. reenter if possible is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which President Trump backed out of after entering office and has now made comments about possibly wanting to return to the table.  

TPP is going to help countries like Australia continue to gain an advantage compared to the U.S. with major trade partners in Asia. Australia would be able to export beef with limited tariffs into Japan, the top export market for the U.S. at $1.89 billion in 2017. Japan imposes a 38.5% tariff on U.S. beef. Currently, Australia has about a 15% tariff rate advantage compared to the U.S. when importing to Japan.

Fake meat labeling has also been top of mind for Kester with NCBA making it part of a policy push for 2018.

NCBA has been trying to work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure that plant-based and lab-grown meat have clear labeling.

FDA already has rules for plant-based meat when it comes to marketing claims.

“We want to make sure the FDA enforces those to where the beef industry doesn't end up like the milk and dairy sector did over the last 20 plus years with false claims and consumer confusion over soy milk, almond milk,” Kester says.

Similarly, with lab-grown meat NCBA would like to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service administer inspections like they do for beef packers helping ensure product safety.

For more on these topics listen to Kester’s interview with AgriTalk below: