Petty Differences or the Canary in the Coal Mine?
There was a time before carbon monoxide monitors when coal miners kept a canary in the mines with them to serve as carbon monoxide detectors. Unfortunately, the canary’s death signaled dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Recently, certain leaders in the agriculture industry have referred to ongoing battles surrounding Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) and Beef Checkoff as “petty differences” which drive the industry apart.
It was suggested we should instead focus on issues they deemed important such as “fake meat” and government overreach via the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service interference.
Unfortunately, if these so-called petty differences are not remedied, the American family rancher will go the way of the canary.
Branding is a critical element of marketing any product. Some examples are Ford, Cheverolet, Wyoming Livestock Roundup, The Wall Street Journal, etc. Brands are used by consumers as they make their purchasing decisions.
Unfortunately, the Product of the USA branding label on meat products is now fraudulent.
These days country of origin labeling is critical to food security, availability and safety. Principals at one of the foreign-owned Big Four meatpackers were temporarily jailed in their home country for shipping contaminated meat treated with acid to mask the smell.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was the last sanctioning body on this planet to ban the import of this product. Accurate labeling would provide a measure of protection for the American consumer and producer.
Foreign animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy and tuberculosis – to highlight a few – are still active in major trading countries like Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
The objections raised by Canada and Mexico in their World Trade Association lawsuit have been met and mitigated.
The risk to cattle/beef exports has been used as an excuse to not reimplement MCOOL at great cost to consumers. Domestic beef production supplies make up approximately 80 percent of the beef consumed in the U.S.
There is no surplus for export. Beef exported under the Product of the USA label is imported beef which has been repackaged. This is plagiarizing the U.S. producers’ reputation at some risk to us all.
There are livestock groups opposing MCOOL.
The Beef Checkoff
A “petty difference” advertised as promoting beef and cattle sales has resulted in the contraction of free market competition in the beef supply chain.
This is the $1.50 per head sold and paid by livestock producers. Packers and retailers don’t pay it. The largest recipient of checkoff dollars has, by subterfuge, used the checkoff dollar to lobby against MCOOL.
The checkoff was passed in the 1985 Farm Bill, which was instituted in 1988. There have been more than 82,964 small- to medium-sized, family-owned feedlots that have gone out of business since this time.
This proportionately reduces the competition for our cattle at sale barns, and this decreased competition resulted in depressed prices for producers while consumers face record-high grocery prices.
In 1988, the domestic annual per-capita beef consumption was 97 pounds, it decreased to 88 pounds by 2020.
Since the inception of the Beef Checkoff program, domestic beef cattle operations have declined from about 930,000 in 1990 to 730,000 by 2020. The domestic cow herd has dwindled exponentially, from 87 million mother cows in 1988 to 31 million mother cows in 2020.
Some say the Beef Checkoff is working as intended. This would mean it was intended to drive the domestic cattle producer out of business. It’s clear the checkoff should be voluntary.
The latest threat to our industry is the environmentalist religion coupled with globalism. This two-headed monster is embodied in the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which is a nonprofit movement started by the World Wildlife Fund.
They have promulgated an ever-increasing suffocating set of rules which will destroy the independent family livestock producer. Their mechanism is to put a financing chokehold on the supply chain under Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Banking.
The Securities and Exchange Commission passed rules last fall to set things in motion. Experts in the financial world, like Forbes, agree this is truly dangerous to the domestic producer. Can you say Holland? One should look up the members on their website.
Wanton violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act by the Big Four has broken the cattle cycle and the cattle market.
As for the issue of fake meat, it is not a threat to our industry. It is simply substandard competition which can be countered with continued production of excellent beef products. Beef is a true plant-based product produced naturally without “funky” biochemistry.
Dr. Taylor Haynes is the fourth generation in production agriculture since the Emancipation Proclamation. He and his wife Beth raise “true” grass-fed, all-natural beef in the mountains of southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado. Haynes has rejoined the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming Board of Directors and is currently president of the Board of The Organization for Competitive Markets. He has served on the board of directors of R-CALF USA and as president of the Laramie County Stockgrowers and the Pole Mountain Cattlemen.