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Range Beef Cow Symposium
December 9 - 11, 2003
Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds Events Center, Mitchell, NE

What's happening in Washington, DC that affects cattlemen?
Tom Osborne, Congressman, Nebraska

Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) updated cattlemen on current legislation that affects the beef industry.
As Congress wrote the 2002 Farm Bill, there were two main issues that related to the beef industry — country-of-origin labeling (sometimes referred to as COOL or COL) and the packer ban on ownership of fed cattle. U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) shared with attendees of the 2003 Range Beef Cow Symposium on Dec. 10 what’s currently happening in Washington that affects cattlemen.

Osborne explained that since there were a lot of regional issues regarding the packer ban, it got left out of the final Farm Bill.

The law stated mandatory labeling would go into effect Sept. 30, 2004. However, through the appropriations process, mandatory labeling has been delayed until Sept. 30, 2006. (For more information about country-of-origin labeling, visit

One reason for the delay is that there are "quite a few cows in the pipeline now not documented," Osborne said. He mentioned the stances of numerous industry groups and added that, "since the industry is not speaking with one voice, it is hard to get things done in Washington."

Osborne cited two concerns related to the legislation — "slippage," what happens when an animal’s ear tag or computer chip is lost between birth and harvest, and the cost of implementing the program. He said that estimates range from $5,000 to $2 billion for implementation.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is conducting a two-year study to look at what is proper and improper regarding packer ownership and contracts, Osborne said.

Packers own 6% of the cattle at slaughter, contracting 25% to 30%. He predicted that following the USDA study (to be completed in 18 months), we would see regulation regarding packer ownership and what types of contracts would be allowed.

Other issues mentioned by Osborne included drought, food safety, opening the U.S.-Canadian border and animal identification (ID). Download the audio archive linked below to listen to his entire presentation.

— by Angie Stump Denton

Click here to listen to the presentation

You will need Windows Media Player to listen in.
Click here to download a free version.

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