Why the Wrangle over Country of Origin Labeling Matters

We must restore our sovereignty to conduct our collective lives as we see fit.

Gilles Stockton

By Gilles Stockton

October 27, 2017

The wrangle over Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) has gone on for over twenty years. After it was finally passed and implemented, our COOL law was disallowed by a World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal prompting Congress, at the bidding of the meat packing cartel, to rescind COOL. But most cattle producers think COOL is a good idea and any consumer when asked if they would like to know the origin of their beef answers, “yes of course!”

The reason that COOL could be disallowed goes back to the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) rules that gives global corporations and foreign governments the right to challenge US laws and regulations that they claim interferes with their commercial interests. These Foreign Investor Rights Provisions are nothing more than a restriction on the Constitutional sovereignty of the American people, and an end run around the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution that says:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people.”

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to reform NAFTA or if that proves impossible to drop out of NAFTA completely. The administration has indeed opened up negotiations about the future of NAFTA and so far, our trade negotiators have held firm on repeal of Foreign Investor Rights. Needless to say, the global corporations are pushing back.

If you read between the “news” lines, the global corporate propaganda teams have mounted a full campaign to sell the benefits of “free trade” to the American people. Their major concern is the continuation of the Foreign Investor Rights because this gives corporations the power to challenge constraints imposed by nation states and ultimately frees them from the obligation to help fund that nation’s infrastructure. In other words, they can disallow laws they do not like and do not have to pay taxes.

The recently announced agreement with China to lift a ban on US beef and buy cattle directly from Montana ranches looks suspiciously to be part of this propaganda effort. There is nothing wrong with China buying US beef. It can’t hurt, but since we do not raise enough cattle to meet the domestic demand we will be needing to import more beef to make up the difference.

What we don’t know about this announced deal with a Chinese company is whether the cattle will be priced in an open public market or if it will be a vertically integrated system with no publicly derived price discovery. This arrangement with China could foster market competition but, probably, will result in more captive supply and speed the chickenization of the cattle industry.

Meanwhile Congress has been busy with what they tell us is tax reform. The center piece of the tax proposal is to lower the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 20%. The rational, we are told, is that by lowering corporate taxes we will encourage global corporations to re-patriate profits that they now keep in Caribbean tax havens.

The trade agreements, including NAFTA, openly encouraged the off shoring and outsourcing of manufacturing from the US to the country with the lowest labor costs and most lax environmental and consumer protection regulations. The next logical step was for the now global corporations to find ways to protect their profits from taxes. Most economists are skeptical that lowering the corporate tax rate will encourage the patriation of profits now safely residing in tax havens. The richest 1%, who own these global corporations, are no longer tied to any country, and have little reason to feel responsibility towards or contribute financially to any community of people.

However, not all manufacturing and business investments can be off-shored, particularly the selling of stuff. The implicit deal imbedded in the trade agreements is that the US encouraged the off-shoring of its manufacturing base, we also freely gave away our technological advances, and to top it all off, we allowed free access to the American consumers. What the American people got in return is the opportunity to buy a plethora of very cheap stuff. The assumption, we were told, was that the people who lost their jobs to off-shoring would find jobs in new high-tech industries and in retailing the stuff they used to make. This easily explains why the United States runs an annual trade deficit of half a trillion dollars and why so many people cannot find full time employment at a wage on which they can actually live.

Because corporations can off-shore much of what they do, this gives them tremendous leverage in negotiations with states and municipalities on their local tax responsibilities. In order to encourage global corporations to establish themselves in their locality, states and municipalities must bribe them with tax holidays. The most recent example in the news is the on-line retail giant Amazon’s quest for a second administrative and distribution center. Wherever Amazon builds their new distribution center, they will not be taxed for road maintenance, expansion of schools to educate their employees’ children, and the extra law enforcement needed to maintain security.

The point of all of this is to ask the question: who will pay for the infrastructure and services necessary to maintain modern and safe communities for our children? Those who have lost their livelihoods to off-shoring cannot pay taxes. The 1% who own half of the of the worlds assets will not pay taxes. It can only come from those who are lucky enough to have a job, a small business, or a farm or ranch. The trade agreements that the propagandists brilliantly labeled “Free Trade” has brought us to this stark reality. Congress may call what they are doing “tax reform” but it can only result in higher taxes for the middle class and fewer services and deteriorating infrastructure for everyone.

It all goes back to NAFTA and the other trade agreements that allowed corporations to go global and freed them from of the obligation to help pay for the national infrastructure. Eliminating the Investor Rights Provisions from NAFTA is a good first step. As citizens of the Unites States, and as members of the communities in which we live, we must restore our sovereignty to conduct our collective lives as we see fit. Foreign governments and global corporations should not have the right to overrule what we democratically choose to do.

COOL’s demise at the hands of foreign countries, global corporations, and bought and payed for politicians, makes it a symbol of what is wrong with NAFTA. Perhaps, we can’t fix everything that quickly or that easily, but as cattle producers, we can insist that beef that comes from cattle born and raised in the USA is labeled: Born and Raised in the USA.

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
Grass Range, Montana
406 428-2183

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Ricker on Government Regulation, 1938

Visitor From St. Paul – A.W. Ricker, Editor Farmers Union Herald Speaks Over Station KSAL

A.W. Ricker, editor of The Farmers Union Herald, St. Paul, Minn., visited the state Farmers Union office in Salina, January 21. That evening he made a speech over KSAL, Salina Radio station.

Reviewing the development of farm legislation he said, “Our old idea of government was that of the policeman whose job it was to keep the peace, leaving the individual free to do almost anything he might wish to do.

“Acting on that theory of government, we have destroyed our forests, mined the earth of mineral wealth, wasted and destroyed our soil fertility and permitted the strong and powerful to become more powerful, and the weak to become weaker.

“This idea of government at last brought us face to face with dust-bowls, eroded hillsides, denuded forest areas, and mineral wealth in process of exhaustion, all of which has caused us to come to regard government as something which must conserve the resources of the nation and regulate the actions of citizens, so far as those actions relate themselves to the general welfare.”

—courtesy of Tom Giessel

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What Other Men Think of Farming

  1. “The first and most respectable of all arts is agriculture.”-Roseau.
  2. “Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor to man.”-Daniel Webster.
  3. “Of all occupations from which gain is secured, there is none better than agriculture, nothing more productive, nothing sweeter, nothing more worthy of a free man.”-Cicero.
  4. “Husbandry supplieth all things necessary for food.”-Spencer.
  5. “Tis sweet to spend one’s time in the cultivation of the field.”-Ovid.
  6. “Farmers and their families make up about 30 percent of our population. They exceed in number any other group engaged in one general industry.”-Henry G. Wallace.
  7. The agricultural population produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers, and a class of citizens that least given of all to evil designs.”-Cato.
  8. “The first farmer was the first man, and all historic nobility rests on possession and use of land.”-Emerson.
  9. “Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”-George Eliot.
  10. “The plow is to pray-to plant is to prophesy, and the harvest answers and fulfills.”-R. G. Ingersoll.

–courtesy of Tom Giessel

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Flimflam men are still faithfully serving corporate interests.

(The letter published below is written by A.M. Kinney, vice president of the Kansas Farmers Union, and former editor of this paper. Let us hope he writes letters to “Jonas” and that he lets us read the letters.)

Hon. Jonas Slickery, M.C.,
House of Representative Office Bldg.,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Jonas:

It has been a long time since I have written to you, but I got to thinking today of those old times when we went to school together in the old sod school house in the sand hills, and I could not resist the temptation to again remind you that I have kept tab on you all of these years. Of course I know that it is a long way from that old sod school house, and the sod house which you were born in, to the position which you now hold as a Member of Congress, corporation attorney for the largest corporations in the country, with your great show farm with its blodded stock, your winter home in Florida and your summer home in Maine: but I have no doubt that you have honestly earned your position and these good things of life by your faithful service to the corporation whom you represent in Congress.

I noticed by the papers that you were a charter member of the “American Liberty League.” When I first heard of this organization, I said to myself, “I’ll bet that Jonas will get in to this up to his neck.” You always have been a “jilner” Jonas, especially in any organization which you thought would advance your personal interest; but I am afraid you have made a mistake this time; the common people of this country have been going through a terrible crisis, and they are too much interested in the promise which the “New Deal” holds out to them to be flimflammed by catch words and fake liberty organizations. This “American Liberty League” put me in mind of the Missouri mule: “It has no pride of ancestry, or hope of posterity.” Ever since I can remember, slogans have been invented, and fake organizations have been formed by the class whom you represent to keep the people divided on the real issues which confront them.

Talking about flimflamming; you always were an artist at that. Do you remember Millie Johnson, the school teacher who taught our school so long? Soon after you hung out your shingle to practice law in the old town, Millie decided she wanted to homestead a quarter of land. Up in the North end of the valley there were two quarters that had been homesteaded and abandoned, one a good quarter all in the valley, and the other one all in the sand hills. You found out that Millie wanted a homestead, and you told her if she would give you three hundred dollars, you would contest the good quarter and she could file on it. You got the money, and filed contest on both quarters, and when they were canceled, you filed on the good quarter and Millie had to take the one that would only raise sand burrs and jackrabbits.

You are pretty good, Jonas; you must be, to live in an agricultural district, and be reelected year after year by farmers who have been bankrupted by the practices and methods of the people whom you really represent in Congress.

You will probably hear from me again.

Your old school mate,

A.M. Kinney

—courtesy of Tom Giessel “1934 letter that could be published today”

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This Ag Economist Preached Bigger is Better. Now He Says the Evidence Favors Small Farms.

by Nick Stumo-Langer | November 2, 2017

Since the 1960s, there’s been a concerted effort by economists and policymakers to consolidate family farms into large-scale industrial agriculture operations. The thinking was that these giant farms could better feed the world.

Today’s guest, John Ikerd, was one of those economists — that is, until the farm crisis hit in the 1980s. Ikerd took a hard look at what was happening in rural America, and at the mounting empirical evidence that something had gone wrong in our food system, and he had a dramatic shift in his thinking.

In the episode of the Building local Power podcast, Dr. Ikerd, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, sits down with ILSR co-director Stacy Mitchell to explain that shift and discuss the reality of consolidated agriculture and what it’s doing to rural communities, the environment, and our health. Despite the rhetoric of Big Ag, over 70 percent of the world’s food today is produced on family farms, according to Ikerd. And the evidence, he says, indicates that it’s a superior way to feed people.

“Today we don’t have a large number of small farms. We have very few large [agribusiness] firms. What sociologists and others have concluded is where you’ve got four or five large firms that control over half the overall market, you don’t have out and out collusion because they all know what each other is doing,” says John Ikerd, of our current concentrated agriculture sector.

He continues: “That’s the natural tendency of a capitalist economy. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the government…to not allow that to happen, rather than to sanction it or even encourage it.”

You can listen to the episode on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website here:

Or directly via iTunes here:

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