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ICA president handling a full plate of issues

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 05/20/2013 9:36 AM

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GARNER, Iowa — Busy describes the past five months for Iowa Cattlemen's Association President Ed Greiman.

Greiman, who was elected to a two-year term in December, represented Iowa at the recent National Cattlemen's Beef Association Spring Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.

Also attending from Iowa were David Towbridge of Tabor, Phil Reemstsma of DeWitt, and ICA CEO Matt Deppe. Dave Petty of Eldora, who chairs the Agriculture and Food Policy Committee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, also attended.

Greiman met with Mike Lynch, director of the Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Division at USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, about projects he's working on as head of an NCBA task force evaluating the shrinking national cattle cash trade.

"We have some reports we'd like to modify," Greiman said. "I've been working with Brittany Koop, USDA Live Cattle Mandatory Price Reporting supervisor, in the St. Joseph, Mo., office, and I thanked him (Lynch) for her work and also pushed him to fund these projects."

Greiman also spoke with Craig Morris, the deputy administrator for the Livestock and Seed Program.

"He's in charge of meat graders and oversees the Beef Checkoff and all Market News, and I talked to him about my NCBA task force work with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to add fed heifers to the delivery process and increase maximum live weights," Greiman said.

Greiman and the Iowa contingent received NCBA updates on legislative issues and met with Iowa's Congressional delegation.

"We talked about how Iowa is one of the only states in the nation that is increasing cattle numbers," Greiman said. "As our members expand, they're facing more and more regulation. We're working to educate our members about what they need to do as they expand, but regulations keep changing and so it's a moving target. We are asking that once the Environmental Protection Agency writes rules that they not change them for a while."

The fact that crop producers have crop insurance and disaster funding was brought up during the meeting.

"Yet we've been through one the worst droughts in history, and there's not a lot of disaster assistance for us cattle guys," Greiman said. "We talked about how bad it is in terms of lack of feed for cows, how poor pastures are and how low cattle numbers are."

Greiman told the FSA and policy makers that loan guarantees are essential to young cattle producers.

"That's what allowed me to get my operation where it is today," Greiman said. "It's important that these loan guarantee programs are here to make it accessible for the next generation."

They also met with Environmental Protection Agency officials.

"There's a lot of focus on Iowa, and part of it is the sheer number of cattle producers we have," Greiman said. "We're unique. Half our cattle on feed are in yards of less than 1,000 head. Any regulation affects a lot of people, and we want to make sure they understand what's coming at them."

Greiman said EPA is looking at medium-sized feedlots of 300 to 1,000 head. The Iowa DNR will be adding more staff to inspect these feedlots.

"We're working with DNR so that when they do inspections we know what they're looking for, and if there is a problem, what the producer can do," Greiman said.

If the DNR does the inspection, the EPA will, he said.

"We'd much rather have the DNR do the inspections because with the management they have now with Chuck Gipp and Bill Ehm, they are friends of agriculture," Greiman said. "We don't want to have to deal with the EPA. Those are the wrong guys to have inspecting our feedlots."

Greiman said that Bill Couser of Nevada has represented ICA in discussions between EPA and the DNR to develop a work agreement.

Greiman and other ICA representatives told policy makers that the top competitor to grass in Iowa is the Conservation Reserve Program.

"Cowmen are frustrated by that," Greiman said. "Rent is driven by CRP payments. With the price of corn, a lot of highly erodible land that ought to be in grass is coming out of CRP and going into row crops. That's not what we want to see. We need more grass so we can increase cow numbers."

Greiman said it's tough for cattle producers right now.

"In my operation, on the cow/calf side, we're short of feed and we had to buy extra silage last fall," Greiman said. "The capital requirements are so high. The sheer dollars just to feed everything, there's a lot of strain. Feedlots are not making money. For me, losses are $50 to $100 a head and some operations are facing losses up to $200 per head. That has to change. The weather has been tough for calving. A lot of guys are frustrated with the weather, but we need moisture really bad so they have to be careful how much they complain."

Because Iowa's cattle on feed numbers are growing, more cattle buyers serve the state, Greiman said. JBS and Cargill have both added another cattle buyer.

Because of intense market volatility members must be educated about how to use risk management.

"We also have to involve lenders so that they understand the capital needs and the risk management that is required," he said.