Current Edition

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At the summer convention of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in Buffalo during the second week of June, Bruce Vincent, a logger from Libby, Mont., was the keynote speaker. Bruce was selling his latest book after his speech, and I bought one.

I, like a number of you, have known about Bruce or have heard him speak a number of times. His talks are always good, as they represent his life and the wrongs of the radical environmental community against him and his family's logging business.

Vincent Logging was started years ago by the Vincent family, who were also in the ranching and farming business.  When the spotted owl issue hit the West Coast and moved east through Montana, Vincent Logging went under as another victim of radical environmental activists wanting to save the earth their way. We have since realized that there are fewer spotted owls today, and our forests are burning up due to mismanagement.

After college and some jobs, Bruce, his wife and family came home to Libby to help the family with logging and the lumber mill. Despite logging recessions due to national housing setbacks, Vincent Logging grew until they were forced to close up the mill and logging business that employed up to 65 families. Bruce never quit trying to recover. He worked tirelessly with the Forest Service, environmentalists, the community and others on management of forests. He started speaking at colleges, in communities and everywhere he was asked and was very well received. Later on, he started Provider Pals, an organization that would pair high school students from ranching, fishing and logging communities with intercity high school students, giving them the chance to speak and get to know each other. Also, the intercity students would come west into small communities and experience our way of life. It has worked great.

Through Bruce’s travels, he saw how bad the air and water quality were in other parts of the country. He realized we only had one planet to live on, and we all needed to change. He didn’t feel the environmental movement was the correct way. It wasn’t helpful just to protect and not use proper management of resources, such as logging.

He said, “These sentiments, feelings of morality or ethical obligation complicate how we use our natural resources. An individual may feel that something isn’t ‘right’ and that may, for better or for worst, trump, in their mind, property rights.  They may feel compelled to act in order to protect their ‘interest’ – the environment and influence how we are managing nature’s resources.”

He said the Equal Access to Justice Act has really helped the environmental movement as it paid the bills for their actions, mainly lawsuits.

He writes, “The Act was enacted in the late 1970s in an effort to level the legal playing field for the Vietnam Veterans who were trying to tackle the Veterans Administration over sickness brought home by use of Agent Orange during the war. Now, that Act is terribly abused.”

Now Bruce says we have to start managing our forest land correctly and thin out the forests or there is going to be a Katrina of the Forest event.

A fire will start in the northwest or southwest that we’re not going to be able to control.

“Smokey Bear wasn’t getting it right, as the Forest Service now admits,” Vincent continues

Bruce Vincent gets it. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, go there, or read his book, Against the Odds.

The exciting news lately has been the Chinese government accepting American beef. We applaud their good taste in beef. We’ve known our beef is the best for years, and now we get to share our beef with the Chinese – all 2.4 billion of them.

Reading up on the Chinese lately, it is mind boggling to decipher the large numbers that describe their population. They just never stop. If they really like our beef, they could take most all of it and still want more. We know that’s not going to happen, of course. We do read where they are interested buying some packing houses. Remember, they already bought the Smithfield pork packing houses.

But, there is interest expressed.

Joel Haggard, senior vice president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation in the Asia-Pacific region, said “The number of inquiries to our exporters number in the hundreds, if not low thousands, since the announcement of the agreement.”

Australia and New Zealand have to be concerned. They have had China all to themselves, except for India selling some water buffalo to them. Another concern for Australia is they have had a terrible drought, and their cattle numbers are low. Also, similar quality cuts of U.S. beef are expected to be cheaper than Australian meat because of low U.S. grain prices, a large component of the cost of raising and finishing cattle.

We’re dealing with the Chinese here, and price will be a selling point, no doubt. They say, despite high interest, strict Chinese import laws will limit shipments of U.S. beef initially. I would guess the high-end restaurants would get the good beef first, then the low cuts and organ meat would follow into the local markets.

China is changing its ways lately. With the influx of money, people are eating out more and more at fast food restaurants, so much so that they say there are around 100 million obese people in China, five times as many as in 2002. When it comes to obesity-related diseases, China is fast catching up with America. A medical study in 2010 estimated that almost 10 percent of China’s population has diabetes, compared with 11 percent for America.

So, they do need some healthy American beef, and we are going to be competing against Australia for that beef. The Australians have made headway selling their grass-fat beef as healthier, so there is competition. But some Chinese are saying the taste and tenderness of U.S. beef will sell.

Then, there is the culture. Even newer apartments in China have tiny kitchens and small stoves, hardly bigger than a hot plate, to cook on. A big, porterhouse steak would take up the whole stove, and they have no place to grill meat outdoors.

China is also changing, they say. In the cities, more people are eating out or on the run. The Chinese millenials are having boxes of food mailed to their apartments instead of shopping every day. Instead of everyone having a bicycle, they have a car in the cities. They still have noodles or rice every day, along with pork, chicken or duck, but in the cities, beer, fried chicken, burgers and sodas are common. They can afford chocolate now, and for the Chinese, the best part when eating out is that they may eat their dessert anytime. We need to learn from them.

A couple of weeks ago, when President Trump announced he was going to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, he was both praised and criticized, but he made true on a campaign pledge.

It did cause quite a storm as it stirred up the whole climate change issue and proved again the emotion in this issue. I’ve said before, we almost all agree that the climate is changing, but is it caused by humans? Both sides have arguments.

Those who agreed with the President’s decision, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), said that President Trump was right to pull out of the deal because other countries were not holding up their end of the bargain.

“China doesn’t have to play by the same rules,” Sen. Paul said of the agreement. “The debate should be over whether the Paris Accord is fair. Is it fair for China to keep polluting at alarming rates and for us to be cutting back on carbon while China has to do nothing? Is it fair that Russia gets to increase their carbon output by 50 percent?”

I read another article from the Intellectual Takeout by Jon Miltimore that also agreed with President Trump’s decision based on some facts of the agreement.

First, the Senate never signed the agreement. The U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur,” in Article II, Section 2.

Second, the emission reduction targets are not binding. Reporting is mandatory, but actual reductions in fossil fuel emissions are not. Even then-Secretary of State John Kerry said, “If there had been a penalty, we wouldn’t have been able to get an agreement.”

Third, the agreement costs roughly $100 billion annually. The Wall Street Journal reported, at the time, “Developed countries like the U.S. have to help provide at least $100 billion annually from a variety of sources after 2020 to help developing countries cut their emissions.”

Fourth, the non-binding targets are totally arbitrary. The emission targets are not just non-binding, they are self-made.

Fifth, the agreement relies on self-reporting. The teeth of the agreement come in mandatory reporting, but what if you can’t trust it?

Sixth, the U.S. will almost certainly not meet its target. That could have an adverse impact. Everyone knows the U.S. will not meet the ambitious carbon reduction targets laid out by the Obama administration.

As the Washington Post reported, “It’s clear that the Trump administration will fail to meet the climate goals the Obama administration established under the agreement, namely, a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2025.”

This could be problematic, assuming some nations actually do take the targets seriously.

Seventh, the jury on carbon dioxide is still out. This is the big issue out there. Our climate models over the last decade were way off. Both scientists and lay-people have differing opinions.

In my opinion, at some point, the president needs to renegotiate the terms with the agreement, sign on and get the Senate to approve the agreement. The U.S., along with all countries, need to address climate change and study the effects of carbon. It shouldn’t be a method to stop business growth if carbon proves to not be an issue. Proactive action may be required as we find new evidence on the truth of carbon.

It looks like summer is here. We can toss out our worn-out overshoes, muck boots and torn-up raincoats for the moment, and it is time to muck out the mudroom. Grass is starting to grow on the floor boards of the pickup, as the collected dirt is so thick.

The weather people have said it’s certainly been an interesting winter and spring. They should have experienced living it outside of a building. But now, it is our turn to enjoy the outdoors.

About the time we brand, we start thinking about how to market those calves with the fresh brands. Some already know what they are going to do. They have a plan they follow every year, and it works for them. Others like to try new ways or times to sell their calves or yearlings. The best part is, it’s our decision to make, a freedom we’ll die for.

It is called marketing.

For a number of beef producers, marketing stops when the last calf or yearling is loaded on the truck. What happens with that animal is someone else’s decision after it leaves the ranch. Other producers will make decisions on the animal until it is processed. Either way is okay. But in my way of thinking, we should all be concerned with what happens to beef products as they make their way through the marketing chain, as it all really reflects what we do on the ranch every day.

Not being concerned is kind of like saying, “Once my child graduates from high school, life is their problem.”

I know that is a stretch of comparison, but it is how I view the importance of marketing of beef locally, nationally and global. And that is where the issues of supply and demand come up in marketing beef.

Supply and demand are major factors, and there are a number of issues that affectthem. Everyone who is involved in the beef business has a responsibility.

Two of the biggest factors concerning Americans and eating beef is image and good taste. However, if you are staying in a five-star hotel in China eating beef, you are proud of the fact you can afford a protein such as beef with great taste and tenderness. You really don’t care where it came from. Both will spend money to get what they want.

In a column for BEEF readers, Nevil Speer had a great comment.

He said, “There’s a substantive difference between consumption and demand. Demand is a function of both supply and price. In other words, even with a smaller supply, if consumers aren’t favorable toward beef, there’ll be little pricing power to clear the market.”

He went on to say, “What really matters is spending. To that end, per-capita beef spending in 2010 was approximately $261. In 2015, that measure reached $340. Meanwhile, the U.S. population was about 309 million in 2010 versus 321 million in 2015. Doing some quick math, that means U.S. beef spending increased nearly $28.5 billion in just five years. The beef industry has proven its ability to successfully capture new spending at an increasing rate.”

New spending results from marketing, both in America and China, and we all need to have a part in it. Our part comes from supporting the beef checkoff and livestock organizations that work on trade issues and keeping yourself abreast of marketing issues, both at home and abroad.

And we can’t forget about promoting our image to all.