Non-logic and the NCBA

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association wants to keep consumers in the dark?

The NCBA is currently making a media and lobbying push to have the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) – better known as NAFTA-II – ratified by Congress.  In their press info NCBA states: “USMCA maintains science-based trade standards while rejecting failed policies of the past, like mandatory country-of-origin labeling.” This statement reveals two of NCBA’s fixations because along with COOL, the NCBA is obsessed with exports while denying any negative effects of beef and cattle imports.

In the NCBA world view only through more exports can cattle producers prosper. They manipulate trade statistics to make it look as though we export more beef than we import by conveniently not accounting for the nearly two million head of live cattle imported from Canada and Mexico. The NCBA then claims that exports increase beef’s value by $313.39 per head. I don’t know how they made up that number, because I am certainly not making $313.39 per head on cattle sales. It is clear that imported cattle are strategically used by the beef packing cartel to manipulate the market, yet NCBA totally ignores the fact that the market for cattle is neither transparent nor competitive.

Many of us had high hopes that re-negotiating NAFTA would result in a better trade agreement, but that does not seem to be the case. Corporations still have every incentive to outsource their manufacturing. They can still hide their profits in off-shore tax havens. Food safety standards are still not equivalent. The workers still have no rights. Environmental pollution is still happening. The World Trade Organization (WTO) can still overrule domestic laws, and COOL is still not allowed. The upshot from the point of view of cattle producers, is that beef and cattle imports still undermine our domestic market.

As for our Canadian neighbors, why do they remain dead set against US consumers knowing that they are eating Canadian beef? I understand that they think that they are protecting their interests, but COOL is the least of their problems. Their real issue, which unfortunately affects us too, is that Canadian cattle funnel into a captive supply system that results in lower prices for both them and us.  If our Canadian colleagues would wake up, they would realize to what degree that they are being used. What they should do is petition their government to insist that the US enforces the Packers and Stockyards Act. Real market competition would cure a lot of problems on both sides of the border.  

I recently had a conversation with Congressman Greg Gianforte and asked him if he would support a bill to restore COOL.  He said no, because the cattle industry is not in agreement over this issue.  I guess in his estimation, ninety percent of consumers and a majority of cattle producers can be ignored because a handful of NCBA lobbyists say so.  Mr. Gianforte is running to be our next governor.  If he comes to your town, a good question would be to ask him if he supports COOL. If enough people ask, maybe he will have a change of heart.

Senator Tester is totally in favor of COOL. In fact, his support for COOL was key both when it was first passed in the Montana legislature in 2005 and later in Congress in 2008. If you see him tell him thanks. As for Senator Daines, I don’t know his position.  He is running to defend his seat, so it would be a good time to get him on record.

This is a good question to ask all of the men and women running for various national or state offices. The same advice for those of you who might be reading this in another state.  Ask your candidates if it makes sense that all imported manufactured items and foods carry a mandatory country of origin label except for pork and beef.   And if that doesn’t make sense to them, remind them that NAFTA-II is not an improvement and COOL must be restored.

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
Grass Range, Montana
406 428-2183
gillesstockton@gmail.com

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It’s Still Called Stealing! – Trump administration continues to ignore the big meat packer cartels plunder and pillage of the livestock industry.

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Ag Secretary Purdue is Putting the Cart before the Horse.

by Gilles Stockton | July 1, 2019

Most cattle producers have probably not paid enough attention to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s recent announcement that adult cattle in interstate commerce will be required to carry RFID tags. This includes all cattle vaccinated for brucellosis. It is going to cost you and is a step towards requiring that all cattle (including feeder calves) be nationally registered from birth to death.

This administration promised less regulation, but maybe that only means relaxed scrutiny of big corporations. When it comes to the little guy, and this ID regulation is certainly aimed at the little guy, the standards seem different.

We are told that RFID tags are needed for enhanced surveillance and response to disease outbreaks, but the Secretary does not explain how or why. The little – and free – metal tags have successfully been used to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis in most of America. If RFID tags are needed anywhere, they are needed in the bison and elk of Yellowstone Park. That is the source of brucellosis today and that is where our government’s failure to address the problem continues to put cattle herds at risk.

As for Tuberculosis, we would have that eradicated too, except we keep importing it from Mexico. Obviously, what is needed are more stringent protocols for cattle imported from Mexico or maybe no Mexican cattle at all. Less obviously, but needed, is medical oversight of Mexican farm workers as it has been shown that Mexican farm workers infected with the bovine form of tuberculosis have transmitted it back to cattle here in the United States. I have nothing against Mexican citizens working on ranches, feedlots, and dairies. They need the work and the cattle industry needs the help. What we could all benefit from is less politics and bluster, and instead, an enhanced system for guest workers.

We are told that the RFID tags are really needed for surveillance and response against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), but this argument does not hold water either. If/when FMD is introduced into America, the immediate response will be to ban any movement of cloven-hoofed animals. This will be followed by intense surveillance of all livestock. Where FMD is discovered, there will be a required vaccination of all livestock in a ring around the infected herd. Whether the cattle have or don’t have RFID tags beforehand will be totally irrelevant. However, to be fair, if we are to eliminate FMD after it has been introduced, some form of identification will be needed from that point on.

I think that all of us are willing and anxious to do what is needed to protect our cattle herd from introduced diseases. What Secretary Purdue does not do is inspire confidence that USDA is holding up their end of the bargain. The budget for the Veterinary Service is being cut just when we are importing more beef from countries of South America with endemic FMD. To top it off, USDA is in the process of moving their most highly contagious disease research to Kansas, right into tornado alley where they have the strongest and largest twisters in the world.

A competent veterinary disease surveillance and response program needs a lot more than ear tags in cattle. And the ear tags are the least important part. To respond to an outbreak of FMD the first step will be to have rapid diagnosis. This is not as easy as it might seem. There are over twenty different strains of FMD, and a correct diagnosis is needed in order to respond with the proper vaccine. Keeping all of the possible vaccines ready and on hand is also an expensive and complicated endeavor.

By far the best scenario for FMD is to not import it in the first place. It is highly infectious and has an incubation period of up to fourteen days. That means that once introduced it will have spread all over the country before anyone knows there is a problem. It will also infect deer and feral pigs which will serve as a reservoir for the disease. Although FMD is not necessarily fatal to livestock and is also not harmful to people, it will stop our beef exports. As we all know, the market for cattle and beef is controlled by the beef packing cartel, who will use FMD as an excuse to collapse cattle prices. By allowing the imports of beef from countries with endemic FMD, our government has chosen to play Russian Roulette with the muzzle pointed directly at the head of America’s livestock producers.

The Secretary also promises that these RFID tags will enhance beef exports, alleging that international customers want to know where their beef comes from. But they already know where it comes from because that’s what the branded beef programs are for. With the government requiring electronic tagging this will simply give the source verification information away for free, allowing the packing cartel to undercut all of the branding programs.

In making this announcement requiring RFID tags, Secretary Perdue makes no attempt to assure us that USDA’s many relevant departments, are ready, properly staffed, and funded to prevent and respond to an FMD outbreak. Isn’t this a cart before the horse scenario? Show us how RFID tags fit into a surveillance and response system that truly protects our cattle, cattlemen would then be happy to participate.

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
Grass Range, Montana
406 428-2183
gillesstockton@gmail.com

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Catholic Rural Life: Eating is a Moral Act

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The Six Unapproachable Loaves

Courtesy of Tom Giessel

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