Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse
There is no question that work on the ranch is never done! Just as one water line leak gets fixed or that last mile of pasture fence is repaired, you begin work on the next leak and move to the next pasture.
You could say the same for advocacy. As elected officials change, markets expand and contract, social pressures shift, and consumer trends hop from one diet fad to the next, there is always work to be done to ensure our livestock producers are informed and their voices are heard. Your Arizona Farm Bureau has been hard at work on several issues which impact your bottom line.
While ranchers unfairly get the blame for climate variability and none of the credit for environmental stewardship, others use this misinformation to shift consumer trends away from eating beef. Our ability to sell our products to consumers at home and abroad is at risk in trade negotiations. In the name of protecting species, waterways and antiquities, the regulatory environment inhibits our ability to conserve those same resources. The pandemic has highlighted and brought back to the forefront serious issues in our beef supply chain. Agency decision-makers often render good programs useless while creating other programs that place huge burdens on ranchers, all because they do not understand how we as ranchers manage risk and loss. The landscapes we manage are overrun with criminal activity on the border and wildfire throughout the state, and we bear the brunt of both while also offering respite and resources.
But as ranchers, we keep our heads down and push forward, no matter how never-ending the work may feel. Your Arizona Farm Bureau does the same. Farm Bureau is fighting hard to empower you and defend your livelihood against the many struggles that you face. While we work on issues for all of agriculture, here are some of the recent actions specific to the livestock industry:
- Providing staff support to the producer-led Livestock Processing Working Group to improve market access for members to direct market beef;
- Convened a diverse group of agencies, industry organizations and producer stakeholders to address issues with conservation project backlogs due to archeological clearances;
- Engaged with federal and state agencies to provide stakeholder input for and become a signatory on the Programmatic Agreement Regarding the Effects of Vegetation Management and Rangeland Management Activities in Arizona;
- Convened a diverse group of agencies, industry organizations and producer stakeholders to highlight concerns and challenges in wildfire response on state and private lands;
- Hosted meet and greets at local sale barns to improve communications between ranchers and fire response agencies;
- Partnered with the University of Arizona and New Mexico Farm Bureau to host a livestock processing seminar;
- Spearheaded the creation of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Cattle Markets Working Group;
- Staffed and supported Livestock processing capacity webinar/roundtable at Mortimer Farms;
- Participated in a national roundtable discussion with six other cattle industry groups to find consensus on marketing issues – garnered the immediate attention of beef packing companies and members of Congress regarding transparency in the beef supply chain;
- Hosted AFBF Beef Supply Chain and Market Update Webinars for Arizona Farm Bureau agriculture members;
- Advocated for increased beef trade with Asian Pacific Markets in the most recent trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea;
- Provided producer advocacy content regarding the border crisis and support for the Farm Bureau Border States Working Group – followed by a recent call with the White House on border security issues;
- Currently working to develop and advocate for amendments to the current Livestock Indemnity Program in the next Farm Bill to provide more relief to ranchers in wolf transplant areas;
- Convened agency and producer meetings to highlight and provide solutions to USDA- Risk Management Agency as a result of harmful changes to the Pasture Range and Forage Program;
- Participated in the stakeholder group for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Waters of the State discussions to ensure ephemeral washes on ranchlands will not be regulated like other Navigable Waterways;
- Supported $100 million in fire relief (see article in this issue), including funding for ranching-specific infrastructure repair;
- Supported ag nuisance legislation to protect ranchers from frivolous lawsuits;
- Currently supporting and actively lobbying Congressional delegation to support Cattle Market Act of 2021;
- Lobbied for inclusion of HAULS Act (hours of service exemptions) for livestock haulers in transportation bill language;
- Supporting budget funding for two additional state meat and poultry inspectors;
- Supporting budget funding for upgrades to state agricultural laboratory;
- Supporting budget funding for $200 million in drought mitigation;
- Provided congressional testimony on the importance of grazing on public lands;
- Provided testimony in a Western Caucus Hearing supporting ESA Reforms;
- Provided congressional testimony as to the importance that ranching plays in carbon sequestration.
Some of these things you may already be aware of because you have stepped forward to engage in these efforts. But we know that not everyone can be on the front lines of every fight and still fix the fences and water leaks, haul water and repair the water truck, keep the calves fed, market your beef and tend to your families. That’s why we have the Arizona Farm Bureau; through it, we can be involved in every effort and be on the front lines of every fight and help join the fray when it can have the most impact.
It is a privilege and an honor to stand at the gate on your behalf and provide you with the tools to succeed in a rapidly changing environment both politically and economically. In our 100th year serving our members, we look forward to the next 100 years!