Cattle Producers Urge Senate & House Ag Comm To Adopt COOL

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R-CALF: Cattle Producers Urge Senate & House Ag Comm To Adopt COOL

1/18/2008 6:49:00 AM


R-CALF: Cattle Producers Urge Senate & House Ag Comm To Adopt COOL



Washington, D.C. – R-CALF USA on Wednesday sent a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Agriculture Committee to urge them to encourage the 2007 Farm Bill Conference Committee not only to adopt mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL), but also to adopt critical competition reforms to restore the competitiveness of the U.S. cattle industry.


“We appreciate the considerable work that both the House and Senate have expended to move the 2007 Farm Bill forward,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry. “Our members are farmers and ranchers who raise and sell cattle, and they have communicated to us in no uncertain terms that Congress must update the antiquated rules that define our U.S. cattle market to ensure the future success of their U.S. cattle industry.



“R-CALF’s priorities reflect our members’ understanding that the U.S. cattle industry is the last frontier for the concentrated meatpacking industry, as it is the only major livestock sector not vertically integrated from birth to plate,” he continued. “U.S. cattle producers seek to restore market competition by preventing concentrated meatpackers from exerting economic control over their industry, an action that leads to vertical integration and industry contraction.”



Thornsberry wrote that, “The ongoing contraction of U.S. livestock industries is well advanced as evidenced by trends documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)…” USDA documented the following trends that show an alarming contraction of U.S. livestock industries from 1980 to 2005:



U.S. sheep and lamb operations declined from 120,000 to 68,000.

U.S. hog and pig operations declined from 667,000 to 67,000.

U.S. cattle operations declined from 1.6 million to 983,000.



“Unless Congress takes aggressive steps to restore the competitiveness of the U.S. cattle industry, the contraction of our industry will accelerate,” Thornsberry warned. “The opponents of the prohibition on packer ownership are coming unglued – claiming the sky will fall if packers can’t continue owning cattle, but that’s simply not the case at all.



“The 2007 Farm Bill is the appropriate vehicle to restore competition to the U.S. cattle industry, and the following priorities already contained in one or both versions of the 2007 Farm Bill are needed to accomplish this important objective,” he emphasized.



R-CALF USA’s seven priorities are:



1) Adopt House and Senate Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) Language: Mandatory COOL is needed to allow U.S. cattle producers to maintain the separate identity of their U.S. cattle industry and compete with the growing volumes of imported beef and cattle.



2) Adopt Senate Ban on Packer Ownership of Livestock: This ban would restore market integrity by targeting large packers that use packer-owned livestock to limit producers’ market access and depress prices. The ban only prohibits large packers from owning and having day-to-day management control over livestock for more than 14 days before slaughter. The ban exempts small packers and does not interfere with alternative marketing arrangements where the producer maintains ownership and management control of livestock prior to slaughter.



3) Adopt Senate Establishment of Office of Special Council for Agricultural Competition: This measure is needed to ensure proper enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). In 2006, the USDA Inspector General identified serious enforcement problems regarding the PSA, spanning over a five-year period, which were not corrected by USDA officials. This measure would improve transparency and coordination between USDA and the Department of Justice in carrying out proper enforcement actions to protect independent producers from unfair and deceptive practices.



4) Adopt Senate Authorization for Voluntary Arbitration: This measure is needed to make arbitration of disputes between producers and livestock and poultry companies voluntary, instead of forcing producers to sign binding, mandatory arbitration clauses as part of non-negotiable contracts. Arbitration is prohibitively expensive for producers, and limits their legal rights. Producers should not be denied a choice of whether to arbitrate a dispute.



5) Adopt Senate Requirement to Define “Unreasonable Preference or Advantage”: The USDA has not defined this term under the PSA, though a definition is needed to ensure that packers do not discriminate against producers who market smaller volumes of livestock.



6) Adopt Senate Authorization for State-Inspected Packing Plants to Engage in Interstate Commerce: This measure is needed to allow state-inspected packers to sell meat across state lines, a practice that currently is prohibited under current law. This prohibition inhibits expansion of smaller state-inspected packing plants thus minimizing competition in the packing industry.



7) Remove Senate Language Regarding a National Animal Identification System (NAIS): The Senate included language to facilitate an NAIS even before Congress has determined if it is feasible, let alone needed. This language is premature as it provides tacit justification for a potentially onerous system that Congress has not explicitly authorized. R-CALF USA requests that this language be removed from the 2007 Farm Bill.



“A final 2007 Farm Bill that adopts the foregoing recommendations would greatly enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. cattle industry for independent farmers and ranchers,” Thornsberry asserted. “Specifically, it would ensure that independent U.S. cattle producers’ opportunities for profitability are not restrained by the concentrated meatpackers’ desire to exert greater control over their industry. We encourage the 2007 Farm Bill Conference Committee to make certain Rural America has the opportunity to flourish through the implementation of these direly needed competition reforms.”



Note: To view the letter, visit the “Competition Issues” link at http://www.r-calfusa.com, or download at this link:

http://www.r-calfusa.com/Competition/08 ... ittees.pdf.
 
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This leaves only the Packer bought out and controlled NCBA as a cattle/Ag group that opposes Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling...But thats no surprise as they have been Corporate Packer puppets for several years and no longer speak for the US cattleman... :(

R-CALF USA applauds the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), whose registered voting delegates on Tuesday – by an electronic vote during AFBF’s 89th annual meeting held in New Orleans – voted 62 percent to 38 percent, or 212-132, to support mandatory country-of-origin labeling. R-CALF USA Region IX Director George Chambers serves as an AFBF delegate for the state of Georgia and attended the meeting.



“This was the third time that I’ve taken the delegate floor to speak on the Georgia Farm Bureau’s behalf,” said Chambers. “Georgia Farm Bureau is an affiliate of AFBF, but I’ve told my R-CALF friends that even though we’re affiliated with AFBF, in many situations – especially with competition reforms and COOL – that our policy is almost verbatim the same as R-CALF’s policy.



“The (AFBF) convention is over, so this is a done deal,” he continued. “What surprised me as much as anything was the margin, and also, once I yielded the floor back, there was no one that got up and spoke in opposition. It wasn’t even debated.”



Chambers, citing polls that show that consumers want to know where their food comes from, also told the delegates, in part: “I have looked in this policy book and seen no less than 18 references to buy American or to the promotion of United States product – both domestic and abroad. How then, can we not remedy this contradiction in ideology? Our trading partners have asked for it, and most importantly, the American consumer has demanded it. In light of recent national food scares, like the Topps meat recall – which was proven to be of non-domestic origin – had we had mandatory country-of-origin in place, perhaps Topps Meat might still be in business…


“I leave you with this thought, and this is true. This morning when I woke up in the New Orleans Hotel, I used French-milled soap when I got in the shower. The bath cloth I put it on was made in Israel . The towel I dried off with was made in Bangladesh . The underwear that I put on was a product of Mexico . I went to the lobby and had breakfast: steak and eggs. I asked the chef what the country of origin of my strip steak was. He said, ‘I have no idea.’ I said, ‘Can you find out?’ He said, ‘I have no way of knowing.’ Fellow voting delegates, I leave you with this: I know what I put on my butt, but I have no idea what I put in my gut.”



Chambers’ entire statement is copied at the end of this news release.



“It’s just great that Farm Bureau has come over to help support R-CALF, and I, being a member of the Illinois Farm Bureau, think it’s just a good thing,” said R-CALF USA Member Fred Baker, of Illinois. “It just shows good judgment and it’s good for the AFBF membership.”


Baker has been a delegate to AFBF’s convention from his county and he serves on the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Governmental Affairs Committee.



“We’ve seen time after time, whether it’s the Zogby poll or university studies, people want to know where their food comes from,” Baker continued. “We can’t ignore what the consumers are telling us, so I applaud AFBF. Any more, there are very few farm groups that don’t support COOL. Sometimes folks are a little late to the party, but we’re glad to have them.”



“The (AFBF) membership has voted, and hopefully will give direction to the Farm Bureau administration to continue to support a position that many state Farm Bureau chapters have supported for years,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz.



Chambers’ statement:



“Fellow Delegates and Farm Bureau Members,



Recognizing and appreciating the fact that we have dealt with this issue many times in the past, I think that it’s time to finally put the baby to bed. An August 2007 Zogby poll showed that 90 percent of over 6,573 people showed that Americans believe that knowing the country of origin would allow for safer food choices. Moreover than that, 94 percent said that consumers have the right to know.


A November 2007 Reuters poll of over 8,656 American housewives showed that if finally afforded the opportunity to know the country of origin of their food that they fed their families, they would overwhelmingly purchase that of U.S. origin, thus creating a premium-pay situation for the U.S. farmer and rancher. I’m not aware of anyone in this room or in American agriculture who would not be in favor of receiving a premium for the product they produce.



All of our major trading partners – especially those in the all-important Pacific Rim – have established as one of the conditions for re-establishing full trade of beef is that it is distinctly of United States ’ origin.



Ladies and Gentlemen, how can we can we assure this to our trading partners without mandatory COOL? Considerable time and effort by most all industry groups went into finding a workable solution to COOL in the House markup of the pending Farm Bill. They must have done something right if they can get both houses of Congress to agree on anything. In fact, numerous amendments that were offered – none of which dealt with country of origin. It was accepted into the Senate markup in exactly the same way as offered in the House. Even the traditional industry groups that had historically opposed Mandatory Country of Origin have come out and publicly said this is a workable version.



The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere without country-of-origin labeling. This includes countries like Honduras , Nicaragua , El Salvador and Chile , all of which, in most instances, we in the United States view as third-world in development. But it would appear to me, that on this issue, we are the ones who have been left behind.



We in Farm Bureau say that we are the voice of agriculture, and I truly believe that we are. We stand here and purport that we have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world, yet, as an organization, we haven’t seemed to have been proud enough of that fact to support mandatory labeling of our products on the world market.



I have looked in this policy book and seen no less than 18 references to buy American or to the promotion of United States products – both domestic and abroad. How then, can we not remedy this contradiction in ideology?



Our trading partners have asked for it, and most importantly, the American consumer has demanded it. In light of recent national food scares, like the Topps meat recall – which was proven to be of non-domestic origin – had we had mandatory country-of-origin in place, perhaps Topps Meat might still be in business. Congress has provided for it in its markup, and it is time that we give them what they want.



I leave you with this thought, and this is true. This morning when I woke up in the New Orleans Hotel, I used French-milled soap when I got in the shower. The bathcloth I put it on was made in Israel . The towel I dried off with was made in Bangladesh . The underwear that I put on was a product of Mexico . I went to the lobby and had breakfast: steak and eggs. I asked the chef what the country of origin of my strip steak was. He said, “I have no idea.” I said, “Can you find out?” He said, “I have no way of knowing.” Fellow voting delegates, I leave you with this: I know what I put on my butt, but I have no idea what I put in my gut.”



A Jan. 15, 2007, AFBF news release states: “The policy approved at the annual meeting will guide AFBF’s legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2008.”
 

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