Cattle groups may need to stand in the corner

What's your beef? Why can't we all just get along?

Since remarrying this past summer, my house has become quite a bit busier. With my two kids and my wife’s three children, we now have three boys and two girls between the ages of 6 and 11. As you might guess, things can get a little loud sometimes.

The noise level particularly spikes when one of the kids feels they have been unduly wronged by one of the others. Then the finger pointing and name calling starts, as both parties frantically plead their case and try to blame the other for the sonic boom that has just occurred in the confines of our home.

That’s when my wife, Becky, or I have to step in and calm things down. Perhaps it’s time for someone to be confined to the couch, sent to a room, given a chore or sent to a corner for some calm, quiet time of reflection.

Sadly, the press releases that came through my e-mail this past fall as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and R-CALF USA locked horns over the USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule changes made me feel like I was watching one of the childish episodes that break out periodically in my house. I fully expected to eventually see a release from NCBA declaring, “R-CALF USA is a big ol’ poopyhead!” with a quick R-CALF response release titled, “NCBA is rubber, R-CALF is glue … !”

It wasn’t quite that bad, but close.

An NCBA editorial by President Steve Foglesong said, “As you listen to R-CALF’s rhetoric, please keep in mind that this organization has never done one single thing in their history to create any positive economic impact for beef producers. They are protectionists, and history has proven that protectionism is a failed business model. Always has been, always will be.”

In the editorial, Foglesong said the chief executive of R-CALF had “engaged in an effort to damage the reputation of the beef industry — an industry he claims to represent — to undermine public confidence in the safety of beef” through comments made in an Associated Press article.

The swift response from R-CALF was titled, “NCBA resorts to outright lies.” Comments from R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard included, “This is serious. Foglesong and NCBA are resorting to outright lies and deceit and are making unwarranted and false accusations against R-CALF USA and against me personally. NCBA is acting unethically and immorally.”

Bullard went on to say, “The debate over the merits of the USDA’s GIPSA proposed rule must be handled civilly and professionally. NCBA has jumped into the gutter, and we’re not following it there.”

Ummmm, just a question: When did calling someone unethical and immoral qualify as civil and professional debate? It didn’t stop there.

Next, NCBA questioned R-CALF’s affiliation with Food and Water Watch in support of the GIPSA rule. NCBA’s Foglesong said Food and Water Watch is full of “career activists” with a longstanding history of lobbying for stringent agricultural regulations that are devoid of science. The group did sponsor the infamous animal rights animated video “The Meatrix.”

“As a cattle producer, it is concerning that an organization in my industry is admittedly partnering with a group that spreads fiction as fact to 98% of the population removed from production agriculture. This industry can disagree – that’s how progress is achieved – but to blatantly misrepresent the hardworking men and women in this industry is something that we cannot take lightly,” Foglesong said.

The wedgie had been given, so it was time for a wet willy in return.

The response from R-CALF called the NCBA release, “a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that NCBA stands accused of cheating and misusing government-mandated Beef Checkoff Program dollars … .”

“People, particularly cattle producers, don’t appreciate organizations that try to deflect attention away from the issue at hand by trying to tear down other organizations such as Food & Water Watch,” Bullard said.

OK, I agree NCBA should have done a better job of accounting and not misused checkoff funds. I also don’t think an agricultural group hopping in bed with an animal rights and/or environmental activist group is such a good idea either. But what the heck does all of this have to do with whether or not the GIPSA rule is a good idea?!?!?! You see what I mean about how this was really starting to sound like an argument between two 8- and 6-year-old siblings?

Honestly, I really can’t tell you if the GIPSA rule proposal is good or bad. What NCBA and R-CALF claim to be the truth about GIPSA are pretty much in exact contrast. NCBA says the rule will only hurt the beef industry, will cost a lot of money and jobs, and will actually only lead to further consolidation. R-CALF claims the rule is the only way to keep consolidation from happening, will maintain a strong, diverse beef industry and will maintain or add jobs and money.

So, who do you believe, the one giving the wedgie or the one sticking a wet finger in their opponent’s ear?

Thankfully, USDA came out in December and said they were going to conduct a more thorough cost/benefit analysis of the new livestock marketing rules proposed by GIPSA. When exactly that analysis will be completed is hard to say. In the meantime, USDA is reviewing all the comments they received on the proposed rule. These comments, along with the pending analysis, will help shape a final rule that will likely be rolled out sometime this calendar year.

So, for now, the two combative cattle groups are in a prolonged timeout, until the USDA analysis is completed and GIPSA reappears on the radar screen. At that point, I hope the debate can truly take on a civil and professional tone, maybe even educational, and the childish outbursts can remain among true children, where they belong.

Check Also

Century farms offer lessons for 2020

By Matt Reese Amid all of the lunacy of 2020, I personally have found it …

One comment

  1. This is why I do not belong to any specific commodity organizations, by default, their views are too narrow, and often counter-productive. Good article, expresses my feelings on the issue as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *