NCBA set to deal with drought issue

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Jamie Alich / Times’ Staff Writer

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association will have a new leader beginning next year. John Queen, president and owner of John Queen Farms in Waynesville, North Carolina, will begin his term as president of the NCBA after a conference in Nashville in January, a term that will last one year.

As president, his responsibilities will include: being an advocate for the NCBA; helping build the cattle industry; in 2007, he will have to deal with the Farm Bill, in which he will have to testify to Congress and the Senate about what the NCBA would like the Farm Bill to look like and speaking at conventions ranging from county to national conventions.

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“As the volunteer president, he will really be the spokesperson for the NCBA in Congress,” said Dr. Billy Powell, president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.

“It will be his job to facilitate the cause that members have adopted. That’s why he’ll be the front man for us in Congress. Our members will develop policies and petitions, and John will be the one to represent us and lobby for us,” said Melanie Sojourner, the Southeastern Field Representative for the NCBA.

John Queen has been touring Alabama for the last week to get to know the cattle industry here and to ask Alabama cattlemen to join the NCBA. At the moment, Alabama holds the largest Cattlemen’s Association on the state levels nationwide. Alabama’s Cattlemen’s Association currently has 12,000 members and 26,000 cattle operations. However, there are only about 320 or so that are actual members of the NCBA.

Queen has a theory as to why there are not many Alabamians in the NCBA.

“I think the main reason is because they haven’t been asked to join. They have never been asked to voice their opinion in the cattle industry. In the past, there were people that made a strict living in the cattle industry doing nothing but raising cattle,

and didn’t speak up for themselves or the industry. Today, however, they have some little political pull in Washington, D.C. I feel that small producers in Alabama have to step forward and speak for what they want here in their state and all over the United States,” said Queen.

The Alabama members of the NCBA were a little over two hundred just a year ago. Now, membership has risen to over four hundred.

“People are willing to participate and stand up if you ask,” said Sojourner.

“Small producers have never thought that they were a part of this industry. They’ve always felt that is was someone else was making the decisions. In this association, every member carries the same weight whether they have one cow or a herd of a hundred,” said Powell.

The biggest problem Alabama cattlemen are facing right now is the severe drought being experienced. Alabama is twelve inches behind in rainfall so far for the year.

The good news is that the NCBA is doing everything they can do in Congress right now to get assistance for cattle producers.

Federal agriculture officials have opened some of the Conservation Reserve Program acreage for emergency hay and grazing for some of Alabama’s counties. In addition to that, Alabama farmers and cattle producers will be able to apply for loan assistance because of a federal disaster declaration.

“We are working for problems all over the nation, not just the drought here in Alabama. All over the country, droughts, floods and wildfires have damaged the cattle industry. We are fighting for finances to combat these situations. What we are trying to do for the southeast in addition to the drought, is get emergency funding in the event of a hurricane for immediate relief,” said Queen.

Alabama’s cattle population only makes up two percent of the nation’s entire population, or about 1.28 million head of cattle.

The drought Alabama has suffered will not likely have an affect on cattle market and auction prices until next year.

” Right now, prices per pound, I think, are a little cheaper, but we are seeing the runs for September, October and November now due to the drought. Once numbers are added on the market, naturally, the price will go down some. The drought and heat are just killing so many cows a day and that is why we are seeing an autumn run in prices,” said Jimmy Sealy, owner of the Alabama Livestock Auction in Uniontown and local cattle producer.

“The calf prices are good, and the yearly prices are holding steady for now. I want to say with prices now as high as they are even with a drought, that they’ll be even better this autumn. Even as far as weight goes, calves are holding pretty well,” said Sealey.

“I can see in my personal herd, a decline in the weights in cows, especially the older ones. The way the market usually goes in cases like a drought shows up the next year. I think the industry and consumers will feel the effects of this year’s drought starting next year. It is possible that not only will it be in the cattle industry, but also possibly in supermarkets.”