I am Joe Maxwell

Joe Maxwell is The HSUS’s Director for Rural Development and Outreach. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

I am Joe Maxwell, a fourth generation family farmer from Missouri, and Director of Rural Development and Outreach for the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is not asking that you join them, only that we join together to stop NCBA from using check off dollars against our common interest.

I have spent most of my life fighting for family farmers and ranchers, meeting Mike Callicrate along the way.  In the late nineties as a Missouri State Legislator, I sponsored and passed legislation that implemented a state COOL law, a packer ban on ownership of livestock, and, we gave the Missouri Attorney General the authority to implement the Federal GIPSA rules.  US Senator Wellstone was in attendance along with several thousands of farmers and ranchers as Governor Mel Carnahan signed it into law. Ironically, within just a few short years, both men would die in airplane crashes.  Almost immediately after the bill was signed into law in Missouri, I was sued by the Missouri Cattleman’s with support of the NCBA.  Go figure.  We won at the Supreme Court, but it took so long that the bills’ authorization ran out before it could be implemented. Many of you on this email chain remember that.

During this period, Mike Callicrate was on a panel at the Callaway Livestock Center in Missouri trying to convince a packed audience that they should fight the big packers and consolidation. That is when I stood up from a balcony and demanded that the head of the Missouri Cattlemen, who was also on the panel, tell everyone in the room why he had sued me and why they were supporting the big packers.  That is how Mike and I met.  That was in the late nineties.  

Today, I am working with HSUS because they are not our enemy.  They are the enemy of Corporate Ag and its unsustainable practices.  They oppose the abuse to our environment, the farmer/rancher, the worker, and the animals.  I oppose those things too. 

In the 1980’s, we could get tractorcades and hundreds, if not thousands, to rally for the family farmer and rancher.  I remember in the 80’s, Jesse Jackson standing on the steps of the Missouri state capitol in front of an overflowing crowd of farmers chanting “We are Somebody”.  I remember in the 90’s when we were at the Boone County Fairgrounds- Wellstone came to speak and Carnahan signed the farm bill that Gary Wiggins, Sam Leake and myself had passed. We filled the building.  Unfortunately, today, unless Cargill, Monsanto, NCBA, NPPC and the Farm Bureau sanction the event we are lucky to get 50 people to attend.  I stood with Dick Gephardt and a few of you on this email chain against NAFTA and WTO influence over our markets.  You remember don’t you?

“I know of no species with less instinct for survival than the family farmer.” Dr. Harold Breimyer

Last year, with the discussions starting over the farm bill, I realized there were not enough of us left to make the fight.  Not that we wouldn’t go to battle, but we were not going to be able to hold the line on the small victories we had gained in the past; therefore, when Wayne Pacelle stopped me in the halls of the state capitol and asked me what I thought, I told him.  It made me think.  I then began talking to nontraditional supporters to see if they would join our cause.  Having worked with HSUS as a legislator on anti-cock fighting legislation and having had the conversation with Wayne, they were a likely ally, folks who in the past we may have seen as our adversaries, but today we are finding common ground.

HSUS was looking for somebody to help them in the agriculture community who had a background in the family farm and independent rancher cause.  HSUS has committed to finding ways to help the independent rancher and family farmer sustain their operations, they asked me to help.  With my help, they are committed to moving their membership and support base of 11 million people to fight for our cause.  I have told them the proof is in the pudding and they are showing me they are sincere in this effort.  They did support the GIPSA regulation and continue to support COOL.  They had their federal lobbyist team make calls and send emails.  They are working with the Nebraska Farmers Union to help find markets for family farmers and independent cattlemen. They are doing the same thing in Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa.

Because of past fights and because Corporate Ag continues to steal our names, all of agriculture has been getting a black eye for the extreme agriculture practices that Big Ag deploys in the name of Greed.  Big Ag uses your family and mine to whitewash their filth and it’s causing many of our consumers to think we are all bad actors and that they can’t trust our food, especially meat.  HSUS has agreed to help highlight what is good in agriculture; to show their 11 million members and supporters our face, give us back our name and promote our good stewardship for the animals and the land. 

So, you bet I am working with them.  Not because there is no other hope, but because I believe it is the right thing to do.  I am determined to win. Recently, I was accused of trying to divide agriculture.  I never thought of it that way.  What I am trying to do is keep Corporate Ag from using my face, your face, or any other independent rancher’s or family farmer’s face to protect their bad practices.  If that divides us, so be it.

Every year there are less of us.  Big Ag is driving us off the land and has been for over 30 years. Look at the USDA reports or just drive down the road and see how few of us are left.  You blame that on HSUS?  It is not our enemy.  As you are tired of seeing the NCBA use our check off dollars to lobby against our interests and those of other agriculture sectors, so are they.  That is the common ground that OCM found.  We should focus on the law suit and use whatever resources are available to win.

God has blessed me with friends like Mike Callicrate and many of you on this email chain.  I hope that others of you who are receiving this email will stand with us.  If you can’t stand with us then I ask that you not stand against us. 

Thank you and God Bless.

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