Generalized environmental trade policies could open a Pandora’s box of issues for cattle industry

(Penn State/ BY 2.0)

Doing right by the environment is a good thing, but what happens when environmental policy and trade start to mingle? There’s concern that when environmental issues are generalized and applied globally through trade agreements it creates larger problems by forcing producers to fit standards that do not necessarily apply to their region, possibly discounting conservation efforts they are making.

Kent Bacus, executive director of government affairs with the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, and Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president for the Canadian Cattle Association spoke with Shaun Haney last month to discuss environmental policy crossing over into trade discussions and why it’s important to be cautious.

Bacus says that there is an opportunity for cattle producers to market conservation efforts, but producers need to be careful when governments begin placing production standards prematurely. Bacus explains premature standards are rooted in metrics that are not yet confirmed.

Bacus says that North America produces beef with some of the highest standards in the world.  “We [producers] need to make sure that standards are based in science to ensure that our animals, land and consumers are properly cared for and innovation in the industry is supported,” he says.

Environmental restrictions are creating challenges and increasing financial pressures on producers and consumers alike. Bacus says without advocacy from industry professionals the narrative will be written for them.

Laycraft brings in the Canadian perspective on environmental policy prematurely regulating cattle production standards. Laycraft is wary about ongoing discussions on border carbon adjustments and the manner in which they are being measured. Producers are getting a taste of these taxes with policy coming out of Europe on deforestation, for example.

Laycraft explains that Canadian cattle producers are upholding grassland preservation, and deforestation is low risk for Canada’s cattle production. Despite low risk conditions, Laycraft says that these European policies are requiring all land locations of where cattle were raised to ensure environmental standards, raising costs of production for a policy that is unfounded for Canadian producers.

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