Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 1995


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XIV December 5, 6 and 7, 1995, Gering, Nebraska.


Unlike much of the rest of agriculture, almost all public policy that impacts the beef cow industry comes through the back door. You have never asked for price supports, income supplements or production limits like you neighbors who produce wheat, corn, sugar beets or milk. What you have asked for is a chance to compete fairly in the market place.

Some government policies help move toward the objective of good, fair markets for your product. Others don't. It's often a mixed bag, a situation I see being repeated as policymaking winds down for 1995 and we prepare for a new year.

I will touch on five areas of federal government policy of potential interest to your industry in 1996 and beyond:

• The 1995 farm bill.
• Trade opportunities and obstacles.
• Environmental policy.
• Tax policy.
• Packer concentration.

My intent is to flag potential significant changes that may be in the offing in each of these areas.

The 1995 farm bill. As I write this in late October, 1995, important details of the 1995 farm bill had not been determined. However, several matters in the bill could be of interest. Let's begin with the conservation reserve program (CRP). This has been one of the most popular farm bill provisions ever. At the present time, about 36 million acres are enrolled in the program nationally. The new farm bill may authorize keeping the same number of acres in the CRP; however, whether the money will be available to actually fund the current level of participation is an open question. (Some observers think we may have closer to 15 million acres in the CRP by 2000 or 2002.)

Moreover, either through law or regulation, the CRP emphasis in the future may be on "environmentally sensitive" land. Generally this has been defined in the past to mean land that is susceptible to water erosion or contributes to surface water quality problems. For the most part, it is not land in the Great Plains that is mostly sensitive to wind erosion.