Speakers Deliver during R-CALF USA's 16th Annual Convention
R-CALF USA's two-day convention in Denver, Colo. was jumpstarted by Angus Mc McIntosh, Ph.D., who has served as an expert witness in nationally renowned private property rights lawsuits. McIntosh provided a detailed analysis of the process the courts have used to confirm that western ranchers have acquired significant property rights on lands that they graze but that the federal government manages under what is called a split estate. McIntosh also explained why farmers and ranchers east of the 100th Meridian, which essentially divides the United States between east and west, should be concerned about the federal government's efforts to restrict western ranchers' water rights, grazing rights and easement and right-of-way rights acquired on federally managed lands.
McIntosh exclaimed, "If they (government officials) can take property rights away from westerners because of endangered species or a potential endangered species, then they can start to tell you how to farm in the east using the same factors."
Wyoming rancher and attorney Tracy Hunt provided an exceptional presentation demonstrating how the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the multinational meatpackers including JBS, Cargill and Tyson, and retailer giants McDonalds and Walmart are teaming up to capture the supply chain away from independent cattle producers under their newly formed Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).
The tool the GRSB is using to capture the cattle supply chain is vertical integration, which Hunt said is how competition is killed in an industry.
Hunt said that what the government failed to achieve under the ill-conceived National Animal Identification System (NAIS), the WWF, NCBA and other roundtable partners are now trying to accomplish under their Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
Hunt explained that the GRSB is proposing a top down, planned economy for the U.S. cattle industry, which he said is in sharp contrast to a free market economy.
"They will force ranchers to use RFID ear tags; they will correlate those ear tags to the ranchers' premises; they will require ranchers to report animal movements; they will require a 3rd party verifier to verify WWF environmental requirements; and, if you don't do what they say you can't sell your cattle because roundtable partners control the market outlets," he said.
Because the GRSB partners control about 85 percent of the marketplace, Hunt said the only way independent producers will be able to avoid being under the GRSB's control is to sneak their cattle through the feeders or packers that feed the last 15 percent of the market.
Hunt contends the GRSB is not about achieving economic viability, social responsibility or environmental soundness as claimed by its backers.
"There is no GRSB for pork or chicken. This is not about greening the environment. It's about control." He said additional evidence is that neither the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement nor the Fast Track bill includes restrictions based on carbon footprints.
Hunt said the NCBA is allowing the GRSB to put the face of the American cowboy on the face of the corporate effort to disappropriate ranchers from their land.
Former R-CALF USA President Max Thornsberry, D.V.M., told attendees that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has completely changed the way it addresses foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). He explained that the USDA has changed its past focus of keeping FMD out of the United States to its new focus of trying to facilitate more trade even with disease-affected countries.
"Many U.S. veterinarians have never seen FMD because we have done everything in our power to keep the disease out," but that is now changing he said.
Thornsberry said if the USDA wanted to continue keeping FMD out of America, then it would not be trying to allow imports of fresh beef from Argentina and Brazil, which are countries where FMD is known to exist.
"It is absurd to say a state or region in Argentina or Brazil is FMD free because those countries lack critical infrastructure," he said adding that many people in those countries are impoverished and lack access to staple foods.
Thornsberry urged attendees to help make the USDA understand that this is a mistake. "The USDA is turning everything that we did to protect our country upside down."
Brian O'Shaughnessy, Chairman of New York-based Revere Copper Products, Inc., told attendees that his copper and brass sheeting and coil manufacturing firm faces the same trade challenges as do cattle producers.
O'Shaughnessy explained that the U.S. needs more good-paying manufacturing jobs so more consumers can afford to eat more beef at prices that support farmers and ranchers.
But, O'Shaughnessy said that is not the direction the U.S. has been heading: "Since 2000, 30% of the manufacturing plants that Revere shipped to have shut down and/or moved offshore.
"We (the U.S.) got outsmarted when we decided to lower tariffs," O'Shaughnessy said adding, "The U.S. is about the only country actually practicing free trade."
O'Shaughnessy's presentation walked through the process of how nearly every country in the world, except the U.S., implemented a value-added tax (VAT) at about the same time they agreed to lower tariffs. The new VAT, which is World Trade Organization- (WTO-) legal, is then applied to imports. In addition, the revenues received by the VAT are used to offset major production costs for manufacturers, such as payroll taxes.
He said when VAT revenues from imports are used by mercantilist countries to offset their domestic production costs, the VAT functions just like a tariff.
"The VAT supports jobs and wages everywhere except here," he exclaimed. O'Shaughnessy said the group he co-chairs, the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), has shared 13 critical trade principles with members of Congress that, he said, would begin to put the U.S. back into a trade-competitive position.
Before closing, O'Shaughnessy explained why he and other manufacturers support the U.S. mandatory COOL law:
"The COOL law transcends everything because most Americans want to know where their food is produced."
R-CALF USA Sheep Committee Chair Bill Kluck described how America's rural economy could be boosted if the U.S. were to adopt trade policies to reverse the nation's dependency on imported lamb and wool. Kluck said that the unrestricted importation of Australian lambs at prices below the domestic cost of production is what caused the U.S. sheep flock to decline by millions of sheep, thus significantly reducing the nation's production capacity for lamb.
"It was the displacement of domestic production by cheaper, imported lamb that has created America's new dependency on this imported food," Kluck said adding, "The sheep industry is the cattle industry's canary in the coalmine so we need to figure out how to rebuild it."
During the group's COOL panel, R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz explained why none of the bills introduced in Congress to repeal COOL or to make COOL voluntary should pass. "Our U.S. Trade Representative has demonstrated that the actual cost of COOL on foreign livestock is only a small fraction of what Canada and Mexico are claiming and it does not justify making any changes that would weaken COOL," he said.
COOL panelist Mike Callicrate agreed stating that the only legislation needed for COOL is legislation to add more beef to the list of beef products that are subject to the mandatory COOL law. Callicrate recommended legislation to remove the exemptions for food service establishments and processed food items. He said these current exemptions result in only about one-half of all beef products being covered by the COOL law.
Dudley Butler, former Administrator of the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), delivered a banquet speech that earned him a standing ovation. Butler's message was that Washington has lost any semblance of common sense. Just one of his examples was Congress' multi-year appropriations effort that effectively blocked USDA and from writing regulations to make it unlawful for meatpackers to retaliate against farmers and ranchers. He said farmers have been retaliated against for complaining to their members of Congress about how they were being treated by a packer. "How can any member of Congress be for retaliation," he asked rhetorically.
"We must call out the politicians, but call on the statesmen and stateswomen," Butler concluded.
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It 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.