The regulatory battles are never truly over for the U.S. cattle industry, but there have been victories over the years. Ethan Lane, senior vice president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says 2023 saw a victory in the Waters of the U.S. battle.
“There’s no question that the current regulation that was put forward and then changed after that Supreme Court ruling is a win for the cattle industry and for farmers by any measure. It eliminates 65 percent of the potential waters or sandy bottom washes or prairie potholes that would have been included in that original rule are now not included or exempt given that new definition or that new structure. But the way they crafted that rule, they failed to define a lot of the important terms in there. That federal Nexus component is still a little bit open-ended. That litigation piece is going to continue to make sure that the refinement happens.”
They’re hopeful for a solid final rule to be in place during the next few months. However, other battles continue, including one regarding the Endangered Species Act.
“This is something that comes back over and over and over again. You have a broken Endangered Species Act, but an agency in charge of it that refuses to recognize that it’s broken. If you had a car with tires that were slashed and you were running on the rims, you would pull over and fix the tire. Almost 50 years into the Endangered Species Act, there’s no interest at Fish and Wildlife in fixing the tire. They’re just going to keep running on the rim, and we’re seeing that in how they’re implementing it with the Lesser Prairie Chicken in this sort of rusty lawn chair split-management approach, and there’s a 40 in the north and endangered listing in the South. It’s an incredibly poorly written rule.”
A court fight over the Lesser Prairie Chicken is just one of the ongoing ESA battles.
“We’re in court on that one as well with some other stakeholders. We’re seeing challenges like that out west. They’re trying to reintroduce the grizzly bear to the North Cascades ecosystem in Washington state. We’re continuing to fight the gray wolf. The Endangered Species Act is still one of the biggest Achilles heel problems of the cattle industry nationwide.”