Maher: 'We're excited about how engaged producers have been'
By TIM HEARDEN
The nation's largest cattlemen's organization is apparently succeeding in its push to attract more members to increase its political clout.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has added more than 1,400 new members since November, bring its total roll to 25,804, said Kate Maher, the organization's director of member services in Denver.
The organization's goal is to have 28,000 members by Sept. 30, which its leaders say will help cattle producers as Congress addresses many important issues in the coming year.
"We've got a big mailing out in the country right now," Maher said. "Through traveling to state conventions and at our national convention in Tampa, we've signed up a lot of new members. We're excited about how engaged producers have been."
As part of the drive, the NCBA is working with New Holland to provide state affiliates that add the most members by March 31 with the use of a baler or tractor, with an opportunity to lease it or purchase it after one year.
NCBA membership dues start at $100 and vary depending on the size of the operation. A cow-calf producer with 4,000 head would be charged $750 to join, according to the organization's website.
Maher said the drive is important so that feeders, packers and cow-calf producers can "level the playing field against animal activists that continue to push their anti-ag agenda." She said producers who decline to get involved do as much harm to the industry as animal activists.
"As a member, you really have a chance to help shape national policy, and that's really important," she said.
The membership push comes as Congress is discussing many issues that directly affect ranchers, including the farm bill, disaster assistance programs, immigration reform and border security, and environmental regulations, NCBA leaders say.
Among other recent developments, the NCBA:
* Complained about the level of detail of information about feeder operations the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided to advocacy groups including Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which had made a Freedom of Information Act request.
Former NCBA president J.D. Alexander, a cattle feeder in Pilger, Neb., argues that disclosing such information as home addresses and geographic coordinates could leave farm families vulnerable to harassment or acts of vandalism.
* Joined the U.S. Cattlemen's Association in praising the recommendation by a commission for the World Organization for Animal Health that the U.S. risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy be upgraded from "controlled" to "negligible."
The groups say such an upgrade would support U.S. efforts to increase beef exports and normalize beef trade with several international trading partners.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://www.beefusa.org/