Browsing Posts tagged market

Whose Country Is This?

by Lee Pitts

Lee Pitts is the Executive Editor of the Livestock Market Digest. His internationally syndicated columns and nine best selling books combine unflinching political commentary, humor, and serious livestock coverage with commentary blessed by a life time of experience. No one argues with Lee about the cattle business because he has been in the corrals and has scrapped a lot of "Stuff" off his boots many times. That is what it takes to gain authority, and he has.

There’s just something particularly galling about a secretive international tribunal telling a country, any country, what it can and cannot do. That’s especially true when a controversial trade organization tells us that we cannot inform the American consumer where her food came from.

According to every survey we’ve seen the vast majority of American consumers want labels on their food informing them of its origin. Some survey indicated that as many as 90 percent of American consumers want such country of origin (COOL) labels. Additionally, every survey we’ve ever seen indicates that the vast majority American ranchers also want the beef they raise to be labeled as being produced in the good old U.S. of A. So when American grocers finally began putting COOL labels on cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and hamburger it seems everyone got what they wanted. Everyone that is except the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the beef packer’s lobby, the National Pork Producers and an organization that most Americans know little about, the World Trade Organization.

Unfortunately for the ranchers and consumers it is this latter group, the WTO, who will decide whether or not American consumers and ranchers will get their wish to have the meat they produce and consume labeled as to country of origin.

How and why we in America ever gave an organization located in Geneva, Switzerland, the right to tell us what we can and cannot do is a dirty little secret being kept by supposedly patriotic American politicians, lobbyists and multinational American-based corporations who don’t want you to know any more about them than they do the food you eat.

I Pledge Allegiance To The WTO

Opponents of country-of-origin-labeling say it is nothing more than a protectionist trade measure that we are using to discourage imports. And these critics might have a point if all the food in the world was the same and was produced under the same rigid health and environmental standards. But clearly it is not. As proof we offer up milk from China that was contaminated with melamine, European and Canadian mad cows, four legged Mexican TB carriers and South American bovines with Foot and Mouth disease.

We’d like to point out amidst all the brouhaha that country of origin labeling does not stop one single animal from entering this country, nor does it prevent any country from selling us beef. Of these facts there can be no debate. What COOL does do is give the American consumer the ability to find out where the food she feeds her family came from. The decision on whether or not to buy foreign or domestic beef lies solely with her, not some bureaucrats at a meeting in Cancun. That’s why we were devastated after years of watching COOL work its way through the bureaucratic and political morass that after it was finally put in place the WTO said last November that it was illegal. Not according to American laws, but according to theirs.

I don’t remember the founding fathers ever mentioning the WTO, do you? I can’t find it anywhere in the Constitution or The Bill of Rights, nor do I recall ever getting a chance to vote on its leaders, or having a say in its proceedings. I can find no evidence that any of our founding fathers were members in good standing of the WTO.

Such is the sad state of American politics these days that we held out little hope that anyone in our government would challenge the WTO’s COOL ruling, so we were surprised and pleased when the office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced that it was appealing the WTO ruling against the U.S. mandatory COOL law.

One Family’s Food Fight

After COOL was put in place as a result of provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, Canada then requested consultations with U.S. trade representatives in December of 2008 concerning their objections to it. Canada alleged at the time that the mandatory COOL was inconsistent with the United States’ obligations under the WTO Agreement.

Shortly thereafter, Mexico and Nicaragua announced they had problems with COOL, too, and requested to join the consultations. Then on November 19, 2009, a three-person WTO panel was formed and eventually came to the conclusion that yes, Canada and Mexico were right and that we had no right to implement COOL in the first place. The WTO panel determined that the COOL measure “is a technical regulation and that it is inconsistent with the United States’ WTO obligations.” In particular, the panel found that as a result of COOL we gave less favorable treatment to imported Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs than to like domestic products.

By the words “less favorable treatment” we can only assume that the WTO meant that because American consumers would theoretically prefer domestic product over a foreign one, that COOL created a premium for U.S. beef and pork and a discount for Canadian and Mexican meat. Which, if you’ll recall, was the exact point made by COOL supporters to begin with. And the premiums recently being given to age and sourced domestic cattle seem to back that up, after all, those premiums are not all the result of our export market. Those cattle aren’t all being sold to Japan and Korea.

The WTO was created in the first place by one-worlders who think there should be no geopolitical boundaries and that we are all just one big happy family. To hear them tell it, all this fuss over COOL is just a food fight amongst family members.

A party can appeal a WTO panel’s ruling and due to the marriage of big business and government these days in Washington, we had little hope of that happening when it came to COOL. But on the last day an appeal could be filed came word of one. Now comes a two to three-month WTO process where yet another panel will meet behind closed doors to consider the appeal. (WTO appeals have to be based on points of law, such as legal interpretation — they cannot reopen factual findings made by the panel.)

As a result of the appeal we found out that the WTO never said in the first place that the U.S. does not have the right under WTO rules to adopt mandatory COOL. No, what the three-person panel didn’t like was the way COOL “provided less favorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock producers.” They also did not like that “the COOL statute is more trade restrictive than necessary.” In other words, they did not like the fact that lo and behold, American consumers did actually prefer American beef and pork over imported beef.

Whose Side Are They On?

As to be expected from an organization that seems to be more interested in looking out for the interests of big packers than they do American ranchers, the NCBA quickly expressed their disappointment that the U.S. would even dare to file an appeal. “We are very disappointed in this decision,” said NCBA vice president Bob McCann. “Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef, An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources, This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.

“NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government.”

Concluded NCBA’s McCann, “Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines.”

That bears repeating; in the words of the NCBA, what we need is a government that “demands WTO compliance.” One would think from such statements that the NCBA was getting its funding from the governments and stock raiser’s groups in Canada and Mexico, rather than the $50 million it gets each year from Beef Checkoff, funds paid overwhelmingly by American ranchers. (That 50 million dollars represents 80 percent of NCBA’s total revenue.) It should also be noted that the packers in the U.S. want their cheap imports to still be marked with a USDA inspection label to fool customers into thinking it’s a domestic product. The packers sure are getting a big bang for the buck they DON’T HAVE TO PAY to the checkoff.

Word Games

As you’d expect, R-CALF, who worked extremely hard to get COOL implemented, had a different take on the WTO appeal than the NCBA. “We’re extremely thankful that our U.S. Trade Representative has chosen to defend our constitutionally-passed COOL law,” said R-CALF COOL Committee Chair, Mike Schultz. “But, we’re in a no-win situation regarding this frontal attack on our COOL law because our nation should not tolerate for an instant a foreign entity’s efforts to undermine our constitutionally-passed domestic laws in the first place.”

As for NCBA’s role in the process, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard had this to say: “Several powerful corporate industry groups are actually supporting the WTO’s efforts to undermine our U.S. COOL law, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute (AMI). These groups don’t want U.S. consumers to know if they are buying beef produced exclusively in the United States or if their beef was produced in Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, or any one of the more than a dozen countries where U.S. corporations source their beef.”

Like us, R-CALF’s Bullard had a problem with the WTO panel word game in which they said, that yes, the United States has a right to implement a COOL program but that we implemented it in the wrong way. (They don’t say what is the right way.)

“This is nothing more than semantics,” said Bullard. “and the WTO is far too coy to have attacked our domestic law in any other way than it did. The fact is that the WTO accomplished its objective by ruling on the one hand that COOL was too rigid and treated foreign product less favorably than domestic product, but on the other hand, it ruled that COOL was too flexible and therefore nullified the COOL law’s objective.”

Our government is sure sending mixed messages to cattlemen these days. On one hand the USDA wants to be able to track our livestock from birth to the grocery store so that they supposedly can protect the consumer from foreign diseases, while on the other hand they don’t want supermarkets to tell their customers what country the meat they are selling came from. Is all this making sense to anyone?

“Nonsensical and Baseless”

In theory, members of the WTO gain access to each other’s markets on even terms. This means that no two nations can have sweetheart trade pacts without granting the same terms to every other nation, or at least every other nation in WTO. Granted, that’s a great concept and a worthy goal. But since the WTO was founded in 1995 it has proven that’s not at all what they are about. Some analysts have called the WTO, “The most powerful legislative and judicial body in the world.” What makes the WTO so powerful is that its rules can be enforced through trade sanctions. If, for example, the U.S. loses its appeal over COOL and then does not change or eliminate COOL, then we can be fined, or have trade sanctions imposed against us. In some cases WTO can even exact their pound of flesh by punishing industries not even remotely related to the one in question. This gives the WTO more power than any other international body, even eclipsing national governments like our own.

One look at their history shows the WTO has invariably chosen the agenda of multinational corporations above the interests of local communities, the environment, and working folks. Like the United Nations and the World Bank (who they work hand-in-glove with) the WTO has undermined democracy around the world by promoting the concept of a one-world government. And they do so in secret. While the WTO says that transparency is one of their goals, they often meet behind locked doors, especially after 50,000 people showed up at their meeting in Seattle in 1999 after watching the WTO prove to be just a cheerleader for multinational corporations. Those protesters successfully shut down that WTO meeting but rather than make reforms, the WTO instead just made their meetings and deliberations even more secretive.

It’s hard to find a fan of the WTO. The left sees the WTO as lobbyist for big business, while the right says they should get out of the way and let companies and countries do business on a deal-by-deal basis. Fortunately for all of us, the WTO hasn’t exactly been a raging success.

So stay tuned, a decision on the appeal to WTO’s ruling on COOL is expected within the next 60 days. In anticipation of that event R-CALF’s Mike Schultz says, “The WTO’s anti-COOL ruling is nonsensical and baseless and we are confident the United States will prevail in this unenviable appeal.”

Nonsensical and baseless, you say?

That’s the very definition of the World Trade Organization.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 18, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part V of VIII-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – As promised, R-CALF USA has launched an 8-day series of news releases to explain in detail many of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part V:  Marketplace Premiums for Traceable Cattle Will Evaporate Under the Proposed Rule

 

C. APHIS Grossly Understates the Economic Cost of the Proposed Rule that Will be Borne by U.S. Cattle Producers 

 

  1. 3.      APHIS’s cost estimates completely overlook and ignore the market value of the information intrinsic to an individually identified animal and the effect of APHIS’ proposed rule will be to steal that value from U.S. cattle producers and gift it to the U.S. meatpacking industry.

 

APHIS asserts the primary benefit of the proposed rule would be to minimize losses and quickly reestablish foreign and domestic markets. See 76 Fed. Reg. 50097, col. 3.  But, APHIS completely overlooks and ignores the fact that foreign markets already have assigned a market value to information that would enable traceability to the herd of origin. Primary export markets such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong already require beef exported to them to be from animals that are traceable. Japan requires beef to be derived from cattle t! hat are individually identified and traceable back to ranch records (EXHIBIT 16). South Korea requires beef to be derived from cattle that are of U.S. origin or fed in the U.S. for at least 100 days if they originate from Mexico or Canada, which requirement necessitates individual animal identification (EXHIBIT 17). Hong Kong requires beef from cattle that are traceable to the last location and to the herd of origin in the event of a BSE outbreak (EXHIBIT 18).

 

The fact that the above mentioned export markets each require some form of traceability of cattle from which the exported beef is derived indicates they each have assigned a market value for traceability and are willing to pay for that additional value in the price they pay for U.S. beef. This market driven incentive to provide traceability as a product attribute for foreign markets has already been embraced by many R-CALF USA members. Anecdotal information from R-CALF USA members indicates that the marketplace has assigned economic premiums ranging from $30 to $60 per head for producers who are voluntarily providing traceable livestock for use in the beef export market.

Dr. Kris Ringwall’s 2007 testimony to the U.S. ITC succinctly explained that traceability has a market value:

 

Steve Holcombe, founder and chief executive officer of Pardalis, Inc. (which is a third-party data storage company that values and treats data the same as money) noted: “The challenge is to effectuate regulations that are inclusive of small producers, and that recognize that there now are two distinct products being produced along agricultural supply chains today: (1) the traditional livestock product (the calf) and (2) an informational product that describes the ‘pedigree’ of the traditional product.”

 

This is important to understand. Today’s producer markets a calf but also markets the information about that calf, a process that is still struggling in the pens and alleyways of the cattle business. The free marketplace determines calf value, but the value of the information associated with the calf has not been determined. But one point is becoming very clear; the actual information contains the keys to unlock the various doors needed to enter the more complex market place, not only domestically but also internationally (EXHIBIT 12, p. 1).

 

The proposed rule is void of any economic analysis regarding the potential loss of all or part of the economic premiums that export-oriented cattle producers are presently receiving by choosing to add information to their cattle that describes the pedigree of their cattle. The proposed rule would interfere with the free market system by forcing all cattle producers to pay the cost of providing traceability and then gifting any and all of the market value associated with traceable cattle directly to the nation’s meatpackers, which, of course, are in the business of selling beef, not cattle. APHIS’ failure to analyze the loss of economic premiums, specifically the portion of the economic premium assigned to basic traceability, is fatal as the effect of its proposed rule would be to transfer wealth from U.S! . cattle producers to the purveyors of the commodity beef – the U.S. meatpacking industry.

 

Based on APHIS’ estimate that 3.1 million calves were officially identified in 2010 (see supporting document, at 8), and assuming that those cattle are receiving market-driven premiums in the range of $30 to $60 per head, the proposed rule would financially damage those producers in a range of between $93 million and $186 million. This would be in addition to the proposed rule’s costs addressed in Section C. 2. supra. This loss would be realized by U.S. cattle producers because, once the rule is implemented, those producers who already officially identify their cattle will no longer be able to differentiate their cattle based on all or part of the valuable “pedigree” information they are now “selling” in the marketplace.

 

R-CALF USA is concerned that APHIS intends to persuade export countries to abandon, in whole or in part, their current requirements for cattle traceability as specified in the USDA Export Verification (EV) program as soon as APHIS can demonstrate that all or most cattle in the U.S. are traceable under APHIS’ mandatory identification scheme. When this inevitability occurs, U.S. cattle producers will be deprived of the income discussed above that they can now earn by voluntarily participating in currently available EV programs.

 

R-CALF USA’s concern is not mere conjecture. In the June 3, 2005, Declaration of John R. Clifford, D.V.M., then deputy Administrator, APHIS, Veterinary Services, which included exhibits, Dr. Clifford stated that he did not believe the voluntary Export Verification Program was needed:

 

The program, called the Beef Export Verification program, will set forth policies, procedures and requirements for an independent process verification of participants.

 

It is a voluntary, user-fee service available to suppliers of beef and beef products derived from cattle slaughtered in the United States.

 

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will conduct process verification audits of suppliers, program documentation and procedures with regard to the Beef Export Verification program requirements.

 

Details of this program are being shared with the industry and will be posted on the USDA website starting today. It will be operational on or before September 1st.

 

As I said before, we do not believe such a program is necessary (EXHIBIT 1, pp. 2,3; EXHIBIT 19). (Emphasis added.)

 

Based on Dr. Clifford’s representation that APHIS was opposed to the very inception of the Beef Export Verification program, it is R-CALF USA’s belief that it is more likely than not that Dr. Clifford and APHIS will work aggressively to dismantle this voluntary, market-driven program as soon as the proposed rule is implemented.

 

If R-CALF USA’s concern materializes, APHIS’ proposed rule would effectively steal the market value associated with “pedigree” information that enables livestock traceability (estimated at between $93 million and $186 million in 2010 alone) away from U.S. cattle producers and gift it to the U.S. meatpacking industry, even though it is the cattle producers who will continually bear the cost of providing such valuable market information.

 

As explained above, APHIS’ proposed rule directly interferes with the United States’ free market system and if the losses estimated for 2010 were calculated on the basis of the cattle industry’s lost future income potential, those losses would compound astronomically and result in an acceleration of the already contracting U.S. cattle industry. For this reason, the proposed rule must be immediately withdrawn.

 

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

 

# # #

 

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com  or, call 406-252-2516.

The U.S. National Animal Identification System (NAIS) & the U.S. Beef-Cattle Sector: A Post-Mortem Analysis of NAIS

Rhonda Skaggs

New Mexico State University United States of America

1. Introduction

The appearance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States in late 2003 resulted in severe economic impacts to the U.S. livestock sector. U.S. exports of beef and live cattle were immediately embargoed by importing countries as a result of BSE, and markets have not fully recovered eight years later. The trade status of the U.S. beef and cattle sectors was severely harmed when trading partners used BSE as justification for increased protectionism. The trade response to one BSE-infected cow and the desire to protect the U.S. livestock industry’s economic interests enhanced concerns about intentional and accidental disease outbreaks. The first BSE-infected cow identified in the United States and ongoing fears that a virulent disease (foot and mouth disease, in particular) could cost billions and destroy the U.S. livestock sector led many people to conclude that a nationwide individual animal identification system was necessary. As a result, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was set forth in early 2004 by a working group including both industry and government officials. The NAIS built on the National Animal Identification Plan initiated in 2002. The goal of the NAIS was nationwide 48-hour traceback of all livestock and poultry in the event of a disease emergency. The Animal Health Protection Act (AHPA) enacted with the 2002 Farm Bill set the legal stage for the federal government to be involved in the national animal identification effort. The 2002 AHPA includes language that indicates the federal government’s intention to expand regulation of livestock due to interstate commerce and related movements of pest or disease threats (O’Brien, 2006). The AHPA was interpreted as giving the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture the ability to prohibit all movement of livestock unless producers participated in the NAIS. The NAIS entailed three components: Premises registration, animal identification, and animal tracking. Premises registration was the assignation of a unique premises number to all facilities where animals are managed or held. Animal identification assigned a unique number to individual animals or lots in the case of animals that stay with the same group their entire lives. Animal tracking involved the collection of data for animal movements and the recording of those data in a central recordkeeping system which could be quickly and comprehensively accessed in the event of an animal health emergency. A 2005 USDA document indicated that the NAIS would begin as a voluntary program, but would become mandatory in 2009 (United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service [USDA-APHIS], 2005). The USDA stated in a 2006 document that while the agency had the authority to make the system mandatory, it had chosen to make every component of NAIS voluntary at the federal level (USDA-APHIS, 2006a). In a 2008 report, the USDA designated cattle as the highest priority species with respect to NAIS implementation and presented revised timelines and benchmarks for NAIS progress by species (USDA-APHIS, 2008a). Implementation benchmarks for cattle were scaled down from previous NAIS documents, and the cattle implementation timeline was also extended. NAIS benchmarks were scaled back for other species, although not as much as for cattle. In June 2006 the USDA published a document intended to provide guidance for “noncommercial” livestock producers and their position within the NAIS. This guide attempted to alleviate small-scale livestock producers’ concerns about the system, stating that NAIS participation was voluntary and that the NAIS would “largely focus on commercial operations and animals” (USDA-APHIS, 2006b). Critics of NAIS quickly pointed out that many statements in the report were inconsistent with other NAIS documents regarding the government’s plan to extend NAIS coverage to all livestock and livestock movements within the United States. The federal government issued numerous grants and cost-shares to states and tribes as inducements for premises registration and spent more than $120 million in the process; however, at the end of 2009, only 36% of premises were registered nationwide (USDAAPHIS, 2010). Some states achieved higher levels of premises registration by tying it to other state-level licenses or programs. In September 2008, the USDA issued a memorandum which stated that premises registration would be mandatory for emergency disease management or for state or federal activities involving diseases regulated through the Code of Federal Regulations. Although this memorandum was cancelled in December 2008, the USDA maintained that the federal government has broad authority to assign premises identification numbers as part of their normal animal health program activities. Recent livestock disease outbreaks in some states thus have resulted in mandatory NAIS participation for affected producers. In June 2009, federal funding for NAIS in its current form was dropped from the fiscal 2010 spending bill by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, with House leaders indicating that no future funds would be available for the program unless USDA developed and implemented a mandatory NAIS. The USDA conducted numerous NAIS “listening sessions” throughout the country in 2009 and received many more comments on NAIS at the Regulations.gov website. Since the inception of NAIS, the federal government has asserted that the future economic viability of the U.S. livestock industry rests on improved disease management through nationwide animal identification and traceability. However, over the last several years, many U.S. livestock producers raised concerns about the security and confidentiality of premises and animal data provided to the national system, increased liability on the part of producers as a result of traceback to the farm level, the costs of NAIS participation, and the overall feasibility of the system. Opponents of NAIS claimed it was unconstitutional, a violation of their property rights, inconsistent with religious beliefs, an invasion of their privacy, and a loss of freedom. They did not believe USDA’s assurances that NAIS information would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests or that use of the information would be restricted to animal health emergencies. The 2009 “listening sessions” were dominated by NAIS opponents, with a small minority of session participants speaking out in favor of the system. The comments posted at Regulations.gov were nearly unanimous against NAIS. In February 2010, the USDA announced that it was abandoning the NAIS (USDA-APHIS, 2010). The agency indicated that it was going to “revise prior animal identification policy and offer a new approach to achieving animal disease traceability” (USDA-APHIS, 2010). The new approach will apparently only apply to animals moving interstate, although the operational details of the approach have yet to be developed. The agency’s February 2010 Factsheet also stated that the new approach intends to “help overcome some of the mistrust caused by NAIS.” For almost a decade, proponents maintained that NAIS would protect producers’ animals, investments and neighbors, and that “as producers become increasingly aware of the benefits of the NAIS and the level of voluntary participation grows, there will only be less need to make the program mandatory” (USDA-APHIS, 2006a). The USDA stated that NAIS would help protect U.S. livestock and poultry from disease spread, maintain consumer confidence in the food supply, and retain access to domestic and foreign markets (USDAAPHIS, 2007). In 2010, the federal government was forced to admit that arguments in favor of NAIS had fallen flat with a large segment of U.S. livestock producers. The cattle industry was designated by the USDA as having the highest priority for full NAIS implementation; however, the cow-calf portion of the beef cattle sector was very resistant to NAIS (evidenced by continuously extended timelines and increasingly modest benchmarks for implementation). The economic, structural, and socio-cultural reasons for cow-calf producer resistance are the subject of the rest of this paper. If future livestock disease traceability efforts in the United States are to be successful (and disease catastrophes are to be avoided), it is absolutely essential that the context of cow-calf producer resistance to NAIS be fully understood. The objective of this paper is to describe the context and implications for the post-NAIS traceability framework.

2. Overview of U.S. agriculture and the beef-cattle sector

The history of U.S. agriculture is dominated by a relentless march toward increased concentration. Ever fewer numbers of farms are producing an ever larger percentage of total agricultural output. Of the 2.2 million farms enumerated in the 2007 Census of Agriculture, 10% generate almost 85% of the value of all agricultural sales (United States Department of Agriculture – National Agricultural Statistics Service [USDA-NASS], 2009). The remaining 90% of farms are responsible for 15% of output value. U.S. agriculture wasn’t always this concentrated and much of the history of U.S. settlement and economic development is one of smallholders supporting their household through agricultural production, while generating a small marketable surplus. Technological changes occurring throughout the 19th and 20th centuries worked to increase productivity and drive down per unit production costs; new lands and resources were brought into production, and real prices for agricultural commodities plunged. As the relative purchasing power of raw agricultural commodities decreased, so did farm household incomes. Extreme structural upheaval occurred, many farms failed and millions of farm families exited agriculture. Their land was subsequently absorbed by survivor farms which grew larger. The remaining farms were successful as long as they managed to stay on the technology treadmill or otherwise survive decreasing real prices for their products. Consequently, many farm households now achieve acceptable income levels as a result of non-farm income sources. One-third of all U.S. farms have consistently negative net farm incomes and nearly 83% of total national farm household income in 2004 originated from off-farm sources (Hoppe et al., 2007). At first glance, it would seem that negative net farm incomes should prompt continued outmigration of people and resources from agriculture. But, it isn’t happening.

U.S. farm-level commodity production is very diverse although 98% of U.S. farms are family farms, organized as proprietorships, partnerships, or family corporations that do not have hired managers (Hoppe et al., 2007). U.S. family farms range from small limited resource operations, to the extremely large industrialized farms that account for the majority of farm-level production. The USDA estimated that in 2004 57% of U.S. farms were retirement or residential/lifestyle farms, and that these farms’ off-farm income as a share of total household income was 98% (Hoppe et al., 2007). According to the USDA, rural-residential farms account for only 7% of the value of production and include 35% of farm assets (including land). Small farms of all types, defined as having annual sales of less than $250,000, are 90% of farms, generate 25% of production value, and hold 68% of farm assets. Small farms, and especially retirement and residential/lifestyle farms, tend to specialize in the production of beef cattle, primarily cow-calf enterprises (Hoppe et al., 2007). There are several economic reasons for this specialization, including lower labor and management intensity (desirable to operators who are retired or who hold full-time non-farm jobs), relatively low cash costs of beef cattle production, and favorable tax treatment. Productivity gains in U.S. agriculture over the last century have been astounding. However, the beef cow-calf industry is a notable exception to the productivity increases which characterize agriculture overall. This is due to the biological limitations of bovine reproduction. The rate of reproduction in cattle continues to be stable and low, with one cow rarely producing more than one calf. Natural twin production continues to be an unusual occurrence in beef cattle herds, and often results in extra production costs and/or sterile female offspring. By comparison, the U.S. hog industry has been characterized by steady increases in piglets/litter and litters/sow/year. Genetic advances and the adoption of industrialized confinement production by the hog industry in the post-World War II era led to dramatic increases in productivity, decreases in real hog prices, and industry concentration. The lack of equivalent productivity gains in beef cattle production are reflected in the much less drastic decrease in the real purchasing power of the calf commodity over the last half century, and an unconcentrated cow-calf sector. The nature of the bovine digestive system also has contributed to relatively low productivity gains and limited adoption of capital and management intensive technologies in U.S. cow-calf production. Land-extensive calf production processes continue to be used in much of the cow-calf sector because the beef animal functions as a scavenger, using and transforming low value forages produced on marginal lands into a higher-valued product. Land-extensive production processes are generally not compatible with management intensive technologies, adoption of which is driven by the need and opportunity to increase returns per unit of capital and management input. Most of the advances in technology and increases in efficiency in the beef industry have occurred beyond the farm gate at the feeding and packing levels. The feedlot and meat packing sectors have dramatically increased in size and concentration to achieve economies of scale. The beef feeding sector is increasingly dominated by a small number of extremely large operations, while the four largest beef packers controlled 84% of the market in 2007 (Hendrickson and Heffernan, 2007).

The beef cow-calf sector is the foundation of the beef cattle industry. Cow-calf production is not concentrated, dispersed nationwide, and occurs in every state, with an estimated 33 million national beef cow inventory living on almost 765,000 farms and ranches (USDANASS, 2009). Cow-calf operations produce the calves (or the animal frames – including skeleton, internal organs, and hide) upon which the cattle feeding sector accumulates meat using higher energy feed resources (usually under confinement conditions). The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) divides cow-calf producers into three groups: Those who have cow-calf herds primarily for income objectives (14% of producers), those whose beef cow-calf operation is a supplemental source of family income (72%), and those who keep cattle for some reason other than for providing family income (e.g., pleasure) (14%) (USDA-APHIS, 2008b). Differences in management practices for calving, animal health, feeding, marketing, and record keeping for different types of cow-calf operations are statistically significant and strikingly obvious in the NAHMS survey results (USDA-APHIS, 1998). Management of non-primary income herds is consistently less intensive, and productivity indicators for the herds are less favorable. The technologies used in cow-calf production have not changed greatly over the last century, although some advances in cow-calf productivity have been made through selective breeding, use of veterinary pharmaceuticals, and improved forage management. Cow-calf production in the United States continues to be characterized by low entry costs, low cash production costs, low technology requirements, and low management intensity. Cow-calf operations also have lower exit probabilities than other farm enterprises because of their compatibility with off-farm work (Hoppe & Korb, 2006). The technological stability of the U.S. cow-calf industry is evidenced by the small change in the average size of a U.S. beef cow herd over the last ~30 years (it went from 40 in 1974 to 43 in 2007) (USDA-NASS, 2009). By comparison, the average size of a U.S. milk cow herd went from 26 in 1974 to 133 in 2007. Nationally, almost 80% of U.S. beef cow-calf operations have fewer than 50 cows with these farms accounting for 29% of the country’s beef cow herd. Most research exploring U.S. cow-calf producers’ motivations has been conducted in the West by investigators interested in rangeland management and public land policy issues. For example, the desire to have a rural lifestyle was found to inflate the value of farms and ranches in the West (Gosnell & Travis, 2005) while a relatively small percentage of ranchland value can be explained by livestock income in the Southwest (Torell et al., 2005). Gentner & Tanaka (2002) found that half of western public land ranchers earn less than 22% of their total income from ranching, that a ranch business “profit motivation” is a relatively low-ranked objective for all types of ranchers, and that public land ranchers are strongly motivated to be in ranching for tradition, family, and lifestyle reasons (i.e., consumptive objectives). Similarly, Cash (2002) noted that most U.S. beef cattle producers are not actually in the business of farming. The multiple roles of livestock in traditional societies have long been recognized by anthropologists, human ecologists, and other social scientists. In traditional societies, livestock are mobile stores of wealth and status. And even though the United States has a very advanced economy, cattle continue to be viewed as “banks-on-the-hoof” by cow-calf producers (Eastman et al., 2000), who say that when they “need the money” is a key factor in determining when they market their cattle (Lacy et al., 2003). For many cow-calf producers, cattle and the land used to produce them are investments, savings, and financial safe-havens. Cattle provide emergency funds, and are also a stable supply of high quality meat for family consumption. Similar to their counterparts in traditional societies, cattle are also a source of identity and a cultural touchstone for many U.S. cow-calf producers. Pope (1987) concluded that “romance, recreation, the achievement of a desired social status, or simply the maintenance of a family tradition” are the primary motives for many western

U.S. cattle producers. Identity objectives are financially feasible, compatible with other lifestyle and household objectives, and are encouraged by the nation’s tax system. Lifestyle goals, particularly the desire to live in the country, were the most highly ranked strategic ranch goals among small-acreage livestock producers interviewed by Rowan (1994). Technological advances, structural adjustment in response to technology, economies of size, and the wringing out of cultural identity objectives have not occurred at the cow-calf producer level as they occurred throughout much of U.S. agriculture in the 20th century. As a result, household-level cow-calf production has maintained more of its traditional economic, social, and cultural character than any other geographically dispersed agricultural commodity sector in the United States today.

3. The NAIS pushback

The trend of fewer numbers of ever-larger beef feeding and packing operations throughout the United States has led many cow-calf producers to be concerned about the structure of the overall beef industry, the negative effects of downstream concentration, and their belief that they are at the losing end of the structural change. Many believe that prices received by cow-calf producers are depressed as a result of non-competitive market behavior by feeders and packers. Domestic cow-calf producers feel threatened by the market impacts of imported feeder cattle from Mexico and imported fed cattle from Canada. Live cattle imports are viewed favorably by a majority of feeders and packers, who generally welcome the flow of the animals into the U.S. market. Many in the cow-calf sector vigorously promoted country of origin labeling (COOL) for U.S. beef. COOL was opposed by feeders and packers as a result of their integration with the rest of the North American as well as the global cattle-beef markets. The schism between the cow-calf sector and the feeding and packing sectors led to the creation of a new industry lobbying group, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA). R-CALF consistently appeals to cow-calf industry fears about trade liberalization and global market integration, property rights erosion, loss of freedoms, and invasions of privacy. R-CALF was opposed to the NAIS. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) represents cow-calf producers, as well as feeders and packers. In the view of R-CALF, the NCBA and the United States Department of Agriculture do not represent the interests of “independent cattlemen.” The NCBA publishes Beef Magazine, was very supportive of the NAIS, and was a key player in the effort to establish a centralized, NCBA-affiliated, privately held database for animal tracking information. In 2005 Beef Magazine reported that 76% of survey respondents said a national system of individual animal ID and traceback was needed for health monitoring purposes, and 63% indicated such a system should be mandatory. According to the magazine, 83% of cattle producers who responded to their survey individually identify their cattle and 12% use electronic ID tags. These results are very different from USDA NAHMS 2007-08 survey results, which found that 53% of U.S. cow-calf producers use no form of individual calf identification and less than 1% of producers use electronic ID technology (USDA-APHIS, 2009a). In 2006, the Cattle Industry Work Group (established by the USDA to develop NAIS guidelines and standards for the cattle industry) declared electronic ID technology (specifically, radio frequency identification (RFID)) as the technology to be used to individually identify cattle under NAIS (USDA-APHIS, 2006c). Although originally conceived as a means to deal with animal health emergencies (zoonotic and otherwise), NAIS proponents and technology vendors consistently emphasized the valuable management benefits to producers from individual animal identification and performance record keeping (particularly in their RFID and electronic forms). NAIS proponents and technology vendors have assumed that management intensification and the tools to accomplish it are desired by producers. However, cow-calf production is an intrinsically low-management intensity activity. It is a land-extensive activity and one where it is often not desirable, necessary, or feasible for producers to increase management intensity or capital investments. NAIS proponents touted individual animal identification’s role in maintaining international market access and cattle and meat trade flows. This justification has not been well received by cow-calf producers who believe international trade is a threat to their industry. In their opinion, shutting off beef exports would be a small price to pay for shutting off the live cattle imports with which they directly compete. For the cow-calf sector, NAIS became an attempt to impose a technology mandate and modernization on an industry where cow reproductive limitations, producer household and personal objectives, and cattle’s efficient use of low-value forage have limited and will continue to limit technology adoption and modernization. Much of cow-calf producer opposition to NAIS was founded on fears that they would pay for the NAIS while the feeding and packing sectors would benefit from animal tracking and performance information derived from the electronic data. Cow-calf producers’ fears about the costs of NAIS were confirmed in a 2009 USDA benefit-cost analysis of the system (USDA-APHIS, 2009b, 2009c). The analysis concluded that beef cow-calf operations would incur 79% of the total annual beef cattle industry cost of a fully implemented NAIS. Given existing economies of size, the cost of an individual cow-calf animal ID system with full traceability ranged from a low of $2.48 per head for the largest operations to a high of $7.17 per head for the smallest operations. These data supported NAIS opponents’ long-running contention that NAIS would benefit large agribusiness at the expense of the smallest farming and ranching operations in the country.

4. Conclusion

A few years ago, the author of this paper was forcefully told by a USDA official that anyone who wanted to “produce or market cattle in the United States” would have to comply with NAIS. This official clearly did not recognize what a critical wedge issue NAIS would become within the U.S. beef-cattle industry. He and the broad complex of government animal health personnel, large agribusiness interests (particularly feeders and packers), and established industry associations failed to appreciate the deep distrust many cattle producers have of them. The proponents of NAIS also seem to have been unaware or dismissive of the deeply ingrained socio-cultural aspects of cow–calf production and traditional small-scale lifestyle agriculture in the United States. Although this paper focuses on the cow-calf sector, many traditional small-scale producers of other species objected to the NAIS using arguments similar to those of cow-calf producers. Serious miscalculations by government officials about livestock producers and owners fed and strengthened grassroots-level resistance to increased animal health regulations. NAIS proponents in government and the private sector sent too many conflicting messages to NAIS skeptics. Official NAIS reports and documents that appeared on and disappeared from the USDA’s website following criticism added to confusion, suspicion, and hostility regarding NAIS. As a consequence, new disease management risks have been created and the ability of the nation to effectively deal with real animal health emergencies has been compromised. The level of suspicion created by NAIS among traditional livestock producers led to an environment where, should a disease such as FMD arise in the United States, many producers will not respond as they should in a true emergency. Rather, they will suspect that a false emergency is being used to expand government control of their activities. Efforts to implement livestock movement control, quarantine, condemnation, and depopulation will be hampered and defied by some producers. Under these circumstances, disease outbreaks could be catastrophic for the entire nation. The USDA appears to have recognized the suspicions and potential for civil disobedience within the livestock sector which resulted from the NAIS experience, as evidenced by official statement that the new animal disease traceability framework has trust issues to overcome (USDA-APHIS, 2010). However, memories of NAIS will negatively affect whatever form a federally-promoted traceability framework takes in the future. Cow-calf producers’ distrust of federal regulation and their suspicions about relationships between large agribusiness NAIS supporters and the federal government are unlikely to moderate under any new federal traceability program. NAIS became part of the paranoia smaller (and many larger) producers feel about industry structure and market power relationships within the U.S. beef-cattle sector. The USDA’s recent statements that the new traceability framework will apply only to animals moving interstate will not mollify many cow-calf producers, as the vast majority of beef calves produced in the United States cross state lines at some point in their lives (even if they are first sold “locally”). Specifically, the February 2010 statement from USDA-APHIS that small producers who sell animals “to local markets” will not be a part of the new disease traceability framework has yet to be operationally defined. Unfortunately, much federal and state credibility has been lost in the rush to mandate a culturally insensitive, high technology, management-beneficial, and trade-oriented animal identification program. NAIS represented an enormous leap in government involvement in the beef cow-calf sector. From the beginning of NAIS, government was under the impression that it was dealing with an “industry”; however, much of U.S. livestock production is deeply grounded in culture and lifestyle. Expanded regulation of culture and lifestyle choices was an uphill battle for NAIS, and will continue to be so in the future. USDA’s unsuccessful efforts to promote NAIS as a management tool and as a means for supporting trade carried little weight with the large percentage of non-management intensive, non-trade oriented cow-calf producers. These producers’ concerns about competition from U.S. imports of feeder and fed cattle aren’t going away simply because federal animal disease traceability efforts are being renamed. Successful animal disease management in the future will require significant rebuilding of trust between state and federal animal health officials and grassroots-level producers. This will require that animal health officials credibly demonstrate their independence from large-scale agribusiness and from identification technology vendors. Previous disease management and eradication programs (e.g., scrapie, brucellosis) haven’t required producer investments in electronic eartags and other equipment. Furthermore, a comprehensive, nationwide, 48-hour traceback objective probably is infeasible under any existing and future technology and management assumptions, regardless of what technology vendors say. The USDA-APHIS announcement that future federal animal disease traceability efforts will apply to animals moving interstate means that any new program is likely to have much in common with NAIS. A future federally-influenced traceability program will thus encounter resistance and disease management will be compromised because of the NAIS experience. The loss of federal credibility and increased mistrust of government which resulted from NAIS has made the United States beef industry vulnerable to trade barriers and protectionism. The U.S. beef industry needs international trade, and post-NAIS, also needs programs that assure the quality and safety of U.S. beef products to overseas buyers. The demise of NAIS and potential cow-calf producer resistance to future government-mandated traceability systems have created a vacuum that industry-driven quality assurance or process verification programs can fill. In the wake of NAIS, an industry-driven system that covers willing buyers and sellers and financially rewards specific attributes or processes will be more successful than government regulation at holding and growing international markets for U.S.-produced beef. Even though NAIS was not implemented, animal disease hazards haven’t disappeared. In their recent factsheet, the USDA indicated that post-NAIS animal disease management and traceability efforts will be led by the states and tribal nations (USDA-APHIS, 2010). NAIS-related damage control needs to be high on the agenda for state and tribal agencies responsible for animal disease management. Whatever reservoirs of trust grassroots livestock producers have for state- or tribal-level animal health agencies desperately need to be refilled before new or well-known pathogens emerge to threaten livestock or human health throughout the United States.

5. Acknowledgement

This research was supported by the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA.

6. References

Beef Magazine. (2005). What You Told Us. Vol.41, No.11(July 1). 11.03.2011, Available from

http://beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_told_us/ Cash, J.A. (2002). Where’s the Beef? Small Farms Produce Majority of Cattle. Agricultural

Outlook. USDA Economic Research Service, pp. 21–24. 11.03.2011, Available from

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/agoutlook/Dec2002/ao297g.pdf Eastman, C., Raish, C. & McSweeney, A. (2000). Small Livestock Operations in Northern

New Mexico. In: Livestock Management in the American Southwest: Ecology, Society,

and Economics, R. Jemison & Raish, C., (Eds.), 523-554, ISBN 0-444-50313-7, Elsevier

Science, Amsterdam, Netherlands Gentner, B.G. & Tanaka, J.A. (2002). Classifying Federal Public Land Grazing Permittees.

Journal of Range Management, Vol.55, pp. 2-11, ISSN 0022-409X

Gosnell, H. & Travis, W.R. (2005). Ranchland Ownership Dynamics in the Rocky Mountain West. Rangeland Ecology and Management, Vol.58, No.2, pp. 191-198, ISSN 1550-7424

Hendrickson, M. & Heffernan, W. (2007). Concentration of Agricultural Markets April 2007. 11.3.2011, Available from http://civileats.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/2007-heffernanreport.pdf

Hoppe, R.A. & Korb, P. (2006). Understanding U.S. Farm Exits. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service Report #21. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err21/err21.pdf

Hoppe, R.A., Korb, P., O’Donoghue, E.J., & Banker, D.E. (2007). Structure and Finances of

U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 Edition. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Economic Information Bulletin #24. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib24/eib24.pdf

Lacy, R.C., Little, R.D., Forrest, C.S., & Gregory, T.L. (2003). Attitudes of Small Beef Producers toward Selected Production and Marketing Practices. Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1126. Mississippi State University. 11.3.2011, Available from http://msucares.com/pubs/bulletins/b1126.pdf

O’Brien, D. (2006). Animal Identification and the Next Farm Bill. University of Arkansas School of Law, National Agricultural Law Center. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/articles/obrien_animalidnewfarmbill.pdf

Pope, C.A. (1987). More Than Economics Influences the Allocation of Rangeland Resources. Choices 4th Quarter, pp. 24-25

Rowan, R.C. (1994). Are Small-Acreage Livestock Producers Real Ranchers? Rangelands, Vol.16, No.4, pp. 161-166, ISSN 0190-0528

Torell, L.A., Rimbey, N.R., Ramirez, O.A., & McCollum, D.W. (2005). Income Earning Potential versus Consumptive Amenities in Determining Ranchland Values. Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Vol.30, No.3, pp. 537-560, ISSN 0162-1912

United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services. (1998). Importance of Income in Cow-Calf Management and Productivity. 11.3.2011, Available from http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/32792/1/info03.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. (2005). National Animal Identification System Draft Strategic Plan 2005-2009. 11.3.2011, Available from http://xstatic99645.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/nais_draft_stra tegic_plan_42505.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. National Animal Identification System. (2006a). A User Guide and Additional Information Resources. Draft Version. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/NAIS-UserGuide.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2006b). The National Animal Identification System: A Guide for Small-Scale or Non-Commercial Producers. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.nh.gov/agric/divisions/animal_industry/documents/Guide_Smal_ NonCommercial_6_2_06.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, (2006c). National Animal Identification System Cattle Industry Work Group Report “Executive Summary.” 11.3.2011, Available from http://xstatic99645.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/cwg_executive _summary_9_5_06.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2007). National Animal Identification System- A User Guide and Additional Information Resources. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Ahfss/Animal_Health/pdfs/NAIS/NAIS-UserGuide1207.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2008a). A Business Plan to Advance Animal Disease Traceability Through the Harmonization of State, Federal, and Industry Programs and Convergence with the National Animal Identification System, Version 1.0. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/TraceabilityBusinessPlanSe pt2008.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services. (2008b). Beef 2007-08 Part I: Reference of Beef Cow-Calf Management Practices in the United States, 2007-2008. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/beefcowcalf/downloads/bee f0708/Beef0708_dr_PartI_rev.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services. (2009a). Beef 2007-08 Part III: Changes in the U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Industry, 1993-2008. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/beefcowcalf/downloads/bee f0708/Beef0708_dr_PartIII.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2009b). Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System, January 2009, 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/Benefit_Cost_Analysis.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2009c). Overview Report of the Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System, April 2009 (slightly revised), 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/NAIS_overview_report. pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services. (February 2010). Questions and Answers: New Animal Disease Traceability Framework. Factsheet. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/content/printable_versi on/faq_traceability.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2009). 2007 Census of Agriculture. 11.3.2011, Available from http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/index.asp

WHY FARM PUBLICATIONS AND FARM BROADCASTERS WON’T TELL THE TRUTH
By Derry Brownfield
November 2, 2010

NewsWithViews.com

As Ben Roberts so eloquently stated in his book, Past, Present, and How We Can Survive For The Future in the Beef Cattle Business, “Five generations of cattlemen have lived through repeated successions of boom and bust. The ups and downs were serious problems in the past. Today, they cause even greater hardships, and cattlemen are squarely against the need to smooth out the problems we have in the beef cattle industry.” As far back as the 1860’s, four families, Swift, Armour, Hammond and Morris, launched the meat packing business and soon found that by working together they could control the meat market to their mutual advantage. The meat packing industry and the way packers secure their livestock has changed very little in almost 150 years. Today only four companies control the beef business: Tyson – Cargill – JBS Swift – National Beef. Today’s system of marketing slaughter-ready cattle is rigged and the cattle producers are abused.

In 1921 Congress realized that livestock farmers didn’t have a FAIR marketplace and passed the Packers & Stockyards Act. This 89 year old law has never been fully enforced. Recently the United States Department of Agriculture, along with the Department of Justice, decided to level the playing field between the meat industry and the livestock and poultry producers, to allow farmers and ranchers to receive a fair price for their production.

On August 27th, the USDA and the DOJ held a workshop type meeting in Ft. Collins, Colorado where the public could be heard. Approximately 2000 farmers, ranchers and consumers packed the meeting place. During the all day session many voices were heard and the meat industry was there in full force to discourage the USDA and the DOJ from doing their job. The agricultural (farm) news media, just like ABC – NBC – CNN and the other secular news companies, is controlled by their advertisers. The big spenders – the multinational corporations – control what goes out over the air, what is printed and who receives the information.

R-CALF President, Dr. Max Thornsberry, pointed out how the farm publications tried to “down play” the Ft. Collins meeting and discourage farmers and ranchers from attending. Dr. Thornsberry quoted: Beef Magazine, “The meeting in Ft. Collins will inevitably be looked back on as a colossal waste of time and energy; it will do nothing to affect real opportunities like building beef demand. The meeting will be a sideshow, but the rules and their effects are anything but.”

Beef Today reported, “They seem to be shooting into the wind. I bet there’s some of that very kind of shooting at Ft. Collins next week.” Drover’s Journal stated, “The parade of cowboys from both sides to Ft. Collins is wasted effort and wasted resources.” Dr. Max stated, “These editorials attempted to discourage attendance or draw attention away from the joint hearing on competition in animal agriculture, before the meeting even took place.”

For over 40 years I was a member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and the multinational corporations were many of my accounts. Up until the last decade I considered most of those farm supply companies to be honest, reputable and fair minded businesses. I’m sure there are still a few honest corporations out there who really want to help their customers, but a majority of the CEOs of those multinationals look only at the bottom line of the balance sheet.

It’s one thing that so many of these large corporations mistreat the people they rely on for their profits, but the fact that the agriculture media promotes them is pathetic. Just as the farm publications won’t “write” the truth about these companies, the farm broadcasters won’t “tell” the truth. Many of the writers and talkers don’t know any better, but the majority are afraid to speak out for fear of losing the “advertising dollars.” Since I receive no advertising dollars from Tyson, Cargill, Monsanto or any of the biggies, gaining enough income to stay on the air becomes a problem, even so, I will continue to inform my listeners as to what is taking place.

These corporations send audio messages, news releases and interviews to broadcasters and publishers who use them exactly as the public relations firms have them written. My conscience will not allow me to be a spokesperson for an organization that is destroying American farm life, which made this nation great.

Dr. Max has an excellent idea. He says: “I think to be an editor of one of these magazines it should be a requirement to have to feed two pens of fat cattle a year, and to independently market them.” This should hold true for farm broadcasters as well. I’ve been farming since I was 16 years old and in 62 years of buying, selling and being taken advantage of, I have learned a lot. It’s sad that the bulk of the farm media have become nothing more than choir members that sing the lyrics written by their advertisers.

(c) 2010 Derry Brownfield – All Rights Reserved

Derry Brownfield was born in 1932 and grew up during the depression. He is a farmer and a broadcaster. Derry attended the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri where he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees. He taught Vocational Agriculture several years before going to work as a Marketing Specialist with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Derry served as Director of the Kansas City Livestock Market Foundation at the Kansas City Stockyard prior to establishing himself in farm broadcasting.

Derry started farming when he was 16 years old and received the Future Farmers of America State Farmer degree in 1949. Since that time the Brownfield Farm has grown to over 1000 acres maintaining a herd of 200 registered Charolias cows.

In 1972, Derry and his partner established the Brownfield Network which now serves 250 radio stations throughout the Midwest with news and market information. In 1994, Derry started his own syndicated radio talk show and he is one of the most popular radio talk show hosts in America. The Derry Brownfield Show can be heard on approximately 80 radio stations in 23 states. With his entertaining sense of humor and witty commentary he has captured audiences for over 30 years. His ability to present an informative talk show while being light and colorful is why he has a large loyal listening audience.

Derry Brownfield is a practical farmer, a practical business man and a very entertaining speaker. He travels extensively throughout the country speaking about his common-sense point of view.

Web Site: www.derrybrownfield.com

E-Mail: derrybrownfield@learfield.com

Powered by WordPress Web Design by SRS Solutions © 2017 National Association of Farm Animal Welfare Design by SRS Solutions