An Open Letter to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Leadership

August 30, 2002

An Open Letter to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Leadership

Dear Wythe Willey, NCBA President; Eric Davis, President Elect; Jan Lyons, Vice President; and Terry Stokes, CEO:

After reading your open letter to cattlemen, it is clear that you still don’t get it. You continue your haughty hard line stance of no government intervention. Do you suggest the same no-law-enforcement policy for drunk drivers? Are you suggesting our markets don’t need protection from those who would eliminate them? Does NCBA not see a roll for government in stopping the economic raping of the cattlemen you claim to represent? Do you suggest that every cattlemen who is unable to market his livestock, enter the “free” market and build their own packing house and retail outlet in competiton with Tyson/IBP and Wal-Mart?

Your model of  no-rules “free trade” is bankrupting entire countries, reducing U.S. communities to ghettos and returning the U.S. to colony status. No country can survive exporting below cost of production while at the same time acting as a dumping ground?  Last year the U.S. posted over a third of a trillion dollar trade deficit. Global corporations are becoming our quasi government. They are sucking us and other nations dry, enslaving us as their tenants under their shared kingship. Our economy is rapidly heading in the same direction as Argentina’s as you plan your self-promoting town hall brainwashing sessions.

You continue to block good legislation. You recently helped defeat the competition title in the farm bill, which would have provided better market access and more choices for livestock producers. Instead, you supported a farm bill that fails to restore competition and fair distribution of the consumer food dollar. You supported a farm bill that makes farms more dependent on the government by guaranteeing oversupply and low grain prices…bad for farmers and tax payers, but good for packers who own and control their captive-supply livestock, and retailers who want to increase their profits.

You fought mandatory price reporting. When you and your colleague, American Meat Institute, representing big packing and processing failed to block the legislation, you and your former corporate friends within USDA still prevailed with an underhanded, backroom writing of the rules, effectively reversing the intent of the law. Because of the confidentiality provision, we now have price reporting without price information. Far less price information is available now than ever before.  You are implementing the same deceitful strategy with country of origin labeling.  Your packer/processor/retailer bosses want cheaper imports and they don’t want the consumer to know where the meat came from.  It now appears that your scheming will result in approximately half of the imported beef going unlabeled – another example of reversing the intent of good legislation and rejecting the wants of consumers.

Unlike NCBA, I am in the trenches everyday facing the abusive packer/retailer cartel that you call your allied partner.  I see first hand the looting of our communities.
An unprecedented tag-team extraction of wealth brings with it a shining example of your “vision”: we are experiencing the economic plundering of Northwest Kansas. Your allied packer partners Tyson/IBP, Cargill, ConAgra, and Farmland rustle the cattle we produce, along with the crops and labor that go into producing our cattle, while your retail alliance partners (Wal-Mart, Kroger, and other national chain food retailers) rip the heart out of our main streets with unfair competition, including predatory pricing and daily money transfers out of our communities. They leave behind bankrupt and broken farms and ranches, less than poverty level wages, increased welfare, and people who can’t afford health insurance and medical care.

Once prosperous business owners are now working at the same Wal-Marts and Kroger owned stores that drove them out of business. They now see higher prices on the same goods they once sold to their neighbor/customers when they where in business. Today, Wal-Mart is the only grocery store in Goodland, Kansas, having driven the two independent grocers out of business. Now they expect us, like many other dying communities they pick clean, to buy their low quality, leftover, pumped, and mechanically tenderized meat and other consumer goods made with exploited labor and below cost of production raw materials – Your “Vision”!

With friends like NCBA promoting this “vision”, we don’t need enemies. How is this destruction of our food-producing, wealth-creating communities not a national security issue? How can a country, supposedly wanting to become less dependent on foreign oil, allow its domestic food suppliers to be driven out of business, their assets transferred to your allied partners’ multinational corporate bank accounts, and vital domestic production replaced by foreign imports? This massive extraction of wealth from Kansas communities has predictably left our State with a four-year cumulative deficit of $772 million, and a bunch of State legislators that can’t see the real problem for believing your propaganda.
As a cattle feeder and member of NCBA, I’ve experienced the retaliation of the packer, with no support from you. I and many other cattle feeders have been disadvantaged, discriminated against, and shut out of the marketplace while your actions continued to support non-enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Instead, you represented what was best for your allied packer and mega-retailer partners’ profits.  Largely, because of your misguided advocacy and “vision”, many of us in the cattle feeding business have been forced to exit, our operations idled or purchased at bargain prices by packer-aligned feeders who are advantaged with unfair preferences…your member feeders, who in following your advice to align with the big packer, have destroyed our cash market.

You supported biased studies – by your own and other biased Land Grant economists – and disseminated the false and misleading information forcefully. You have continued to mislead your membership, members of Congress, and the administration on ag policy and trade. You have decided to promote a centrally planned economic system that works for a few, rather than be a part of creating a competitive, democratic system that works for everyone. You are placing this nation’s food supply and economy at great risk.

I am offended by the way you use your vast media network, purchased and controlled with my checkoff dollars, to spread your propaganda and to slander myself and others. You back-bite and name-call, and ridicule those of us that are risking everything we have in this battle for competitive markets and a dependable and safe U.S. food system. We are convinced, and history proves, competition – within a just and fair marketplace – creates opportunities and prosperity… a healthy vision for our nation and the world. We are fighting powerful multinational corporations who have purchased voting rights at the NCBA, effectively hijacking a once strong cattlemen organization. Contrary to what you say, these companies have asserted control over NCBA policy and behavior.

NCBA is bankrupt in character and integrity. NCBA leadership and staff have spun, twisted, and distorted the truth for so long they have lost all credibility. You are literally killing cattlemen with your actions, inactions and accusations (check out the suicide rates with the crisis hotlines). You accuse U.S. cattlemen of overproducing. You tell them their failure is their fault, all of which you know is a lie. If you really want to begin to show integrity, you will discharge your spokesman Walt Barnhart and any others responsible for his most recent slanderous letters. Letters he crafted for unaware NCBA members to endorse for broad media distribution.
Despite what you think of me and other “activists” fighting for open competitive markets, economic fairness, equal opportunity, and healthy, sustainable communities, we are not the “terrorists, radical, renegade, beef-bashing, industry-destroying, ranting, garbage-spewing demigods, vegetarian, members of PETA,” you have exclaimed. Through your Director of Trade Media, Walt Barnhart, NCBA’s true personality has been exposed.
We are in a fight for our lives and our livelihoods against a packer/retailer cartel that continues to steal from us with impunity, while you, NCBA, provide their cover by telling law-makers and law enforcement officials, armed with existing laws that could save us, “Wait, it’s different this time.”
The following article is an example of how your disgraceful “free trade” policy, “no access without access”, is a loser for independent producers everywhere around the globe, and a profit windfall for your allied partners and their associates who are leveraging producer against producer and country against country: Cargill, Tyson/IBP, ConAgra, ADM, etc.
If you want to understand the reasons NCBA is failing and the checkoff is under attack, I invite you subscribe to the email list at You may also want to consider joining R-CALF USA .
Mike Callicrate

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