May is Beef Month in Nebraska and producers say the challenges they face now have not changed much.
Barb Cooksley, a rancher and president of Nebraska Cattlemen, says weather is the number one issue followed by keeping up production to meet consumer demand.
She says getting The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement finalized is one of their priorities.
“I was able to take a trip last year to Japan, one of our best customers,” Cooksley told reporters at a news conference. “They not only want beef from the United State, but they want Nebraska beef. They know that it’s high quality.”
Approval of the trade agreement would reduce tariffs from 38% to 9% on beef.
As part of Beef Month, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is promoting an age and source verification program for cattle producers. To take part, a USDA-approved verification provider has to check calf birth and feedlot records with the rancher.
State Ag Director Greg Ibach says doing so will help producers market their beef.
“It’s another layer to the story and the traceability that actually connects the ranch where the animal was born, the feedlot where it was fed to the beef that they’re consuming,” Ibach told reporters. “We’re excited about that opportunity. We think that that can be a way for us to add another layer of value onto the beef that comes from Nebraska.”
Ibach says domestic and export markets both want proof that the beef they are buying is from the state.
Even though beef is the state’s largest ag sector, the head of the Nebraska Beef Council says it is a challenge to get the group’s message out.
Buck Wehrbein says they are using social media more to get the story out and to address critics.
“The bovine is the greatest steward of the world’s resources, in how she can utilize pretty common fodder, forage out there and turn it into high quality protein,” Wehrbein says. “That’s a great message. We have a lot of people who seem to want to tell a different story from that.”
Wehrbein says the Council supports research in food and beef safety on behalf of its 20,000 beef cow operations in the state.