Cattle producers saw big advances on Capitol Hill this past year, some of which have taken years to move the needle.

“It’s been an exhausting year, in a good way. We’ve had a lot of progress in a lot of areas,” Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in the latest Beltway Beef podcast.

Starting with trade, it’s been a momentous year for cattle producers, he said.

The industry is going into the new year with equal access to Japan — the largest market for U.S. beef exports — putting the U.S. on par with competitors. There’s also the prospect of increased access to China with the potential removal of onerous non-tariff trade barriers, he said.

And the industry gained access to European markets, which has been a long-standing fight, he said.

“To gain access to that market … just speaks to the incredible work we’ve done as an industry to find those foreign destinations for our beef,” he said.

Consumers around the world want the high-quality beef produced in the U.S. Breaking down trade barriers and gaining access to foreign markets will give the U.S. a bigger piece of the pie, he said.

The industry also continues a strong push for regulatory change and has seen a lot of movement on that front, he said.

“We’re close to a delisting of the gray wolf nationwide. … That’s a scientifically backed delisting that we should have seen years ago,” he said.

Another win is the modernization of the Endangered Species Act, he said.

Two executive orders were also signed to restore fairness and transparency to federal regulatory guidelines and enforcement. The orders face legal challenges, but that was expected, he said.

“That’s a fight that we’re taking right to the court system to make sure that we can preserve those changes and allow that benefit to take hold for producers across the country,” he said.

There’s also been movement on the management of wild horses and burros. NCBA was able to find some common ground with animal-rights groups and secured congressional funding to increase roundups and fertility control and reduce populations.

“The idea here is let’s get some resources behind getting these numbers down because otherwise we’re going to see producers go out of business in the areas where these horses are exploding in population,” he said.

The cattle industry was also able to seize the failed New Green Deal as an opportunity to educate people on Capitol Hill about the facts of cattle production and greenhouse gases, he said.

“In reality, we know that cattle production is a solution to climate change, and we have the data to back that up,” he said.

Progress was also made in making sure products that simulate beef are labeled properly, that the definition of beef is codified in labeling laws and standards of identity are enforced. Those assurances are in the bipartisan Real MEAT Act introduced in both the House and Senate.

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