Jolley: R-CALF’s Bill Bullard and the COOL question

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Just a few short days ago, I received an email message from the American Meat Institute (AMI).  They were planning a teleconference in a few hours. The subject was COOL and, with the very recent decision by the USDA to double down on their ruling in spite of losing their World Trade Organization case, the content of that press conference was predictable.  The AMI was going to be against it and most of the North American meat industry trade associations were going to join them in a lawsuit.

The list of Plaintiffs joining the AMI include the American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, and Southwest Meat Association.  Note the Canadian presence.  Expect Mexico to strongly consider joining the group.

Leading the charge, Mark Dopp, AMI senior vice president of regulatory affairs, said this about the complexity of the USDA ruling during the teleconference: “Shoes might say ‘Made in the USA.’ They do not say ‘Leather from cattle born in Canada, harvested in the USA, tanned in South Korea and processed in the USA’, yet that is the sort of labeling that we are now being forced to apply.”

An angry Dopp said, “Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for meat and poultry -- not lifetime itinerary labeling. Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process.  Everyone loses under this rule.”

The meat and livestock organizations, backed by powerful legal counsel, said the USDA rule violates the United States Constitution by “compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest.”  They also claimed the rule “exceeds the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute does not permit the kind of detailed and onerous labeling requirements the final rule puts in place, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious, because it imposes vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit.”  Because it serves no health requirements, it serves no compelling government interest, either.

Catherine Stetson, attorney for the American Meat Institute and friends, dismissed that last point, saying, “Mere consumer curiosity is not a substantial government interest and it’s easy to see why.  There’s no end point.”

Not-so-curiously missing from the list of plaintiffs was R-CALF USA, a Montana-based group of cattlemen who have pushed hard for just such labeling.  Their CEO, Bill Bullard, a fiery spokesman for the group’s interests, has been outspoken about the subject, arguing forcefully that consumers are willing to pay more for American beef than they are for beef from Canada or Mexico and the driver behind an expanded label should be informed consumer preference. He says the meat industry is guilty of selling lesser quality foreign meat under the cloak of America’s good beef reputation and that amounts to an undeserved free ride.

John Maday, writing for Cattlenetwork shortly after the AMI Teleconference, reported Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), siding with the R-CALF position, said the lawsuit is another in a series of delaying tactics.  “Time and again, many organizations that represent or are heavily influenced by meatpackers have dragged their feet when it comes to COOL,” he says. “They prevented COOL from being implemented after the 2002 Farm Bill, tried to block it following the 2008 farm bill, and now are suing to stop the revised COOL rules from taking effect. Such delaying and stalling tactics only serve to deprive their customers of important information about the products they buy.”

I contacted Bullard in his Billings office and asked him to expand on R-CALF’s position.  He responded quickly:

Q. Bill, the American Meat Institute and seven other U.S. and Canadian organizations have field suit asking for relief from the recent USDA decision on COOL.  R-Calf was joined by the National Farmers Union to stand against the suit? What was your reasoning?

A. This lawsuit demonstrates that the NCBA and meatpackers, who have long opposed COOL, have unlimited resources with which to advance and protect their economic positions to the detriment of U.S. consumers and U.S. cattle producers. These groups have vehemently opposed COOL since its 2002 passage and have fought against it in various forums including within Congress, the Administration, the WTO, and now the courts.

The meatpackers and NCBA continually ignore the fact that U.S. cattle producers, Canadian cattle producers and Mexican cattle producers are global competitors. Only if the meat products produced by these competitors are distinguished in the marketplace can global competition occur. Without COOL, packers can source cheaper foreign cattle and pass it off to unsuspecting consumers as if it were produced under the reputation of the U.S. cattle producers.

Only with COOL can consumers choose to, and actually exercise nationalism, by purchasing products exclusively of U.S. origin. It is obvious that Canada, U.S. meatpackers and NCBA do not want consumers to be able to choose to support U.S. farmers and ranchers by choosing to support meat products that are exclusively of U.S. origin.

Q. During the AMI sponsored press conference announcing the suit, their legal counsel cited several reasons for their suit.  A violation of free speech, specifically a decree that would compel speech, was mentioned.  They made the point that there was no compelling government interests that would be served. In your opinion, is COOL a violation of the first amendment and is there a compelling government interest?

A. The argument that COOL violates free speech is meritless. The U.S. has long recognized that informing consumers as to the origins of consumer goods is a compelling government interest. That is why the U.S. requires virtually all consumer products that are imported into the U.S. from foreign countries to be labeled as to their origin – from pet food to hand tools to clothing. Even imported beef is required to be labeled as a condition of entry into the United States. The only problem was that U.S. meatpackers and U.S. retailers were not required to maintain the labels if the products were repackaged in the United States. One of the reasons COOL was passed was to prevent meatpackers from hiding the origins of imported meat simply by repackaging it.

Q. Let’s look at another point they made.  The segregation of animals would be onerous, prohibitively expensive and hinder trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  True?

A. The meatpackers, NCBA, et al., make a sensational and outright fabricated claim that the new COOL rule prohibits packers from processing animals with differing born, raised, and slaughtered configurations during a single production run. This is not true. The May 23 final rule contains no such prohibition. Under the May 23 final rule, packers are free to use the same bar code system they use to track differing branded products during a production run to track differing born, raised and slaughtered configurations for COOL labeling purposes.

The meatpackers, NCBA, et al., erroneously claim the U.S. government has never suggested that the current meat labeling regime is deceitful. Indeed, the U.S. government made this very claim to the WTO stating the use of the USDA inspection label on imported beef was confusing as consumers were led to believe the product was a U.S. product even when it was not and stating that the prevention of consumer confusion was a legitimate objective under WTO rules that allowed practices that prevented deceptive practices.

Q. The USDA hasn’t responded to requests for comment, probably because their legal team needs to review the suit.  Do you think they were wrong to revise their rule after the WTO verdict?

A. Unfortunately, the USDA set itself up for this lawsuit. It did so by failing to timely close the unconscionable loophole that allowed meatpackers, since 2009, to mislabel meat exclusively of U.S. origin with a mixed-country label when a meatpacker comingled at least one foreign product during a day’s production. Had the USDA timely closed this loophole in 2009, as R-CALF USA and others had requested, rather than to allow this inexplicable provision to persist for four years during which time the public was provided inaccurate and deceptive labels, the meatpackers, NCBA, et al., would not be able to claim that the comingling loophole was an entitlement program as they now claim in their lawsuit.

Further, USDA set itself up for this lawsuit by choosing the more complicated modification option with which to comply with the WTO ruling. The WTO attacked COOL on the basis that it required more information from upstream suppliers (i.e., cattle producers) than was actually communicated to consumers via the label. Combined with Canada’s and Mexico’s relatively small shares of the U.S. market, the WTO found that this imbalance between information required of producers and information communicated to consumers resulted in the discriminatory treatment of imported livestock.

The U.S., therefore, could have addressed this criticism by either reducing the amount of information required of producers - the simple option - or increasing the amount of information communicated to consumers via a label - the complicated option. USDA chose the latter, more complicated option even though they knew it would increase the cost of COOL.

In comments submitted to USDA prior to the issuance of the May 23 final rule, R-CALF USA urged the USDA to adopt the simple option. We argued that USDA could eliminate all recordkeeping requirements for producers by authorizing meatpackers to initiate origin claims based on whether or not cattle were marked with foreign import markings – those that were would have two countries listed on the label, e.g., “Product of the United States and Canada,” and those that bore no import marking would be presumed to be exclusively of U.S. origin and eligible for the “Product of USA label.”

R-CALF USA pointed out that the 2009 final rule already allowed for this “presumption of domestic origin” methodology, but it authorized its use for cattle producers rather than for meatpackers. Had USDA adopted the simple option, the meatpackers, NCBA, et al., could not now argue that the new rule has increased their costs.

Q. Canada has already threatened retaliation if this version of COOL is allowed to stand and Mexico is considering its reaction.  The result could be an agricultural trade war between the three North American countries.  Is the imposition of the current rule worth the damage that might be done or is there room for compromise?

A. Canada and Mexico are whining because COOL will bring their undeserved gravy train to a halt.  You do not see Canada making any effort to market its beef in the U.S. market under its maple leaf logo or Mexico advertising its beef under its eagle and snake logo. That is because Canada and Mexico decided long ago that they would forgo competition at the retail level and would relegate themselves to be nothing more than commodity suppliers to U.S. meatpackers (as well as to meatpacker-aligned U.S. feedlots).  In other words, Canada and Mexico have been able to sell their cattle and beef into the U.S. market regardless of whether there was any consumer demand for their products.  We think beef from Mexican and Canadian cattle would command lower prices at the retail level than beef from U.S. cattle, but only with a COOL label would the meatpackers and Canada and Mexico be forced to price imported beef according to actual consumer demand.

Therefore, COOL will not start a trade war.  Instead, COOL will start competition in the U.S. retail market for beef produced in the U.S. and beef produced under the various production regimes of the various countries that want to compete against the U.S. farmer and rancher in the U.S. market.

Canada and Mexico are doing very well under this no-competition regime.  In 2012, for example, Mexico exported to the U.S. more cattle, beef, beef variety meats and processed beef than the U.S. exported to Mexico, leaving Mexico with a positive trade balance of nearly a half million dollars.  Canada enjoys a much larger positive trade balance with the U.S. than does Mexico.  Its 2012 trade balance with the U.S. for those same products was nearly three quarters of a billion dollars.  In fact, over the past five years (2008-2012) the U.S. has accumulated a trade deficit with Canada and Mexico in those products of more than $5 billion.  I do not believe for a minute that either Canada or Mexico will start a trade war with the U.S. and leave that kind of money on the table – over a billion dollars a year.    

If beef from Canada and Mexico find profitable niches in the U.S. market, both countries will continue to trade with the U.S. If either country were serious about their trade war threats, they would have long ago initiated a boycott by refusing to export any cattle or beef into the United States in an effort to persuade the U.S. to capitulate to their demands.  But, they are making far too much money to cease exports to the U.S. so their antics are nothing more than hollow threats made in an effort to cause USDA to buckle.

Q. Taking it to the bottom line, if the public doesn’t care and no need is served, is COOL necessary?

A. COOL is widely supported by producers and consumers as evidenced by a COOL letter recently sent to USDA and signed by 229 groups.

We are hopeful the courts will recognize that the only reason this lawsuit was filed was to allow meatpackers to continually exploit U.S. consumers by sourcing lower-priced imported cattle and charging consumers full price for the resulting meat as if the meat had been produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers.

We are also hopeful that the USDA will vigorously defend its final COOL rule and that COOL will emerge unscathed from this packer-lobby lawsuit.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.


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David P    
Roseburg, OR  |  July, 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Well said Mr. Bullard. The worst thing that ever happened to us producers was the merging of the NCA and Beef Board. People need to understand that while packers and producers are in the same industry, we're competing for percentages of the margins in any given animal, and so are competitors. With few exceptions, what benefits packers hurts the individual producers. When the packers were making record profits over a decade ago, cattle producers were losing their shirts. It is disingenuous at best to have the NCBA claim that it represents producers when fighting COOL.

TomT    
July, 20, 2013 at 12:15 PM

If meat packers do not want to label their beef as required by U.S. laws, then let them leave the U.S. and sell their products in other countries where there is no labeling requirements. If you want to sell into U.S. markets, you must follow the laws of the land OR LEAVE!!! The continual pandering by our political and judicial elite is astonishing. It is causing us more problems and they are making our business elite into spoiled brats. There is a long list of anti-Americanism afoot in our businesses. They cry foul when they are not able to mislead anymore because it has become so profitable to them. Thanks Bill, for the comments on the meat packer's and their foreign allies' arguments. I for one think these kind of discussions have gone on for too long. We need a government that can actually govern instead of one that continually panders because organized money wants this or that. It is time for new management at the head of these businesses and for the investors that followed them in the pursuit of money to pay the price of outright misinformation. It is a consequence of their own devices.

Jerry J    
Kirby  |  July, 20, 2013 at 12:19 PM

I have no idea why you keep giving Bill Bullard a podium in which state his ideas. His group is against anything that is progressive.

Really?    
July, 20, 2013 at 12:59 PM

So Bill, if you are so certain that consumers care deeply about country-of-origin, and you're so certain that meat that exclusively of U.S. origin would command a higher price, why isn't the meat case already overrun with packages labeled this way? Surely no greedy meat company would forego such a premium, if it was right there for the taking. The usual blather from a publicity hound who's far more interested in promoting himself than offering any logical arguments.

TomT    
July, 20, 2013 at 01:32 PM

I am a consumer and I want to know where everything I buy comes from. I don't want COOL legislation duly passed to be watered down by corporations who make more money not labeling for the COOL require4ments. There are some Canadian products I would still buy as well as products from other countries but I WANT TO KNOW the information ON THE PACKAGE. Just because meat packers can source more cheaply from different sources DOES NOT MEAN THEY CAN AVOID COOL LAWS. Yes, REALLY! YES, R

RL freeborn    
Redmond Oregon  |  July, 20, 2013 at 05:27 PM

It's hard to believe that people can be so uninformed of the facts that they continue to support and unsupportable position in regards to country of origin labeling. They remind me of the recent court ruling where a jury found the man not guilty based on the facts.R calf continues to point the finger when they are in fact guilty self-interest more than any other industry organization. I don't know what they're taking to maintain that illusion but at some point they're going to have to sober up

TomT    
July, 20, 2013 at 07:27 PM

RL, every person of every country should be guilty of self interest for their country. Canada has a poultry industry that does so and that is not a bad thing, in my opinion. The legislators in the country need the economy to work for the people of the country and not the other way around or not for pure corporate interests. What is unsupportable about country of origin labeling and then please tell me how that relates to "Angus" marketing or USDA grade cuts being labeled on the package. If the current meat packers can not label their product properly and follow the laws of this country then maybe they should move to another country. I hear Brazil has a keen ear towards meat packers along with just as much industry coddling or more of the top companies in that country.

Chuck    
Kansas  |  July, 21, 2013 at 09:22 AM

Jerry, I have no idea why you would be against the free and unfettered flow of information and opinion, the basis of American free speech. My duty as a journalist is to give everyone an opportunity to speak their mind. It's your duty as a citizen to filter all those opinions and make up your mind about issues based on the facts.

Chuck    
Kansas  |  July, 21, 2013 at 09:22 AM

Jerry, I have no idea why you would be against the free and unfettered flow of information and opinion, the basis of American free speech. My duty as a journalist is to give everyone an opportunity to speak their mind. It's your duty as a citizen to filter all those opinions and make up your mind about issues based on the facts.

L.R.    
co  |  July, 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM

R-CALF members hope packer owned feed yards will bid on their cattle so they may receive all the money possible and as well the feedlots that have packer marketing contracts. Why do they not refuse these bids and stand for their principles? Be counted...

L.R.    
C  |  July, 21, 2013 at 01:23 PM

R-CALF wishes to sell our product to other countries but not buy their products for our use. They do not want to admit we sell a large amount of beef products to Mexico and Canada. In trade war as they encourage we easily lose 10 to 15 dollars per hundred in value of a finished steer. That equates to 15 to 20 dollars in lower calf price at the ranch. That is we would lose would all trade. Let us hope it will only be partial.

TomT    
July, 21, 2013 at 02:58 PM

L.R., you are starting to sound a little ridiculous here. Can you enumerate to make a point?

TomT    
July, 21, 2013 at 03:05 PM

L.R., where are you getting your information? If Mexico and Canada need COOL rules, then they are perfectly well and able to make their own laws and put them there. Their rights are the same as any we have here in our country as far as putting more information on the package for consumers. I see you making a case with no real information and just pulling it out of the air. Would you please quote some sources here on how much is lost by putting information on the label? Are you assuming that no one would actually eat Canadian or Mexican or U.S. meat sold in a different country than the one it came from?

Rex    
nebraska  |  July, 21, 2013 at 04:42 PM

I am confused by Mr. Bullard's claim that there is a simple option compared to the USDA proposed rule. As a producer, my sale records contain a statement that cattle were born and raised on my ranch with location. My brother's in law had a stocker operation and occasionally purchased cattle born in Mexico at salebarns in the US desert. They would have to keep a record of which cattle were born there and which on US ranches and the whole bunch would get sold into feedyards in the Midwest where the feeder would have the same responsibility. As I understand Mr. Bullard's claim, the Mexican born cattle would loose their identity on the first sale so we did not have to have a national animal identification system. Or would it mean that all the cattle they bought that year would be Mexican so that a national animal identification system would be avoided?

L.R.    
co  |  July, 21, 2013 at 05:54 PM

Tom T: If R-Calf members are opposed to captive supplies, why do they continue to sell their calves to feed yards and packers that create captive supply. I did not indicate that Mexico or Canada should nor are contemplating their own version of COOL. Mr. Bullard should explain his vision for U.S. foreign trade policy. Foreign trade for U.S. beef is not autonomous to other products both exported and imported by our country. He should explain if there is a cost for COOL and if so who will stand the cost and why.

TomT    
July, 21, 2013 at 06:24 PM

COOL legislation will not directly affect captive supply problems. It may in an a very indirect way. As a consumer, I want ALL of my packages labeled as to country of origin especially my food. I come from the gulf coast and like gulf coast shrimp. Thank goodness I can look and buy that shrimp properly at the store rather than be surprised when I taste it, and yes, there is a difference. With the problems in China and across the world importing into the U.S., I want to know where that food is being produced. The recent China melamine cases being some of the other reasons. If there is a cost to COOL, then it shouldn't be any more than the cost of labeling "Angus" or "Choice", or whatever else. Some of the very high costs quoted by the meat packers for these costs makes me, as a taxpayer, want to make the meat packers pay a whole lot more for having to check on these labels from a regulatory stand point. If they don't want to do it and we have to hire extra bureaucracies to help to make sure they do, then they need to pay for those costs, not taxpayers. This industry is the most regulated because they have needed it. If they weren't run by a bunch of crooks through history, we probably wouldn't need that type of regulation on them. It is of their own making when they lied about their products as much as they do to out compete their competitors.

TomT    
July, 21, 2013 at 06:34 PM

L.R., the captive supply problem is one that has also been made by the meat packers. They had market rules that made them pay the same for the same cattle but they were not satisfied with it and started cheating the market. This is a problem of their own making. The market rules were set up that way so that meat packers would make their money on packing meat, not on cheating market participants out of their value and capturing that value. In the poultry industry in Canada one of the large meat packers tried to enter and take over that industry similar to what they did in the United States. The poultry industry stood up to that meat packer and would not change the rules so that it could be gamed as it is in the U.S. I say, great for Canada for protecting their producers. That meat packer moved out of Canada saying they "couldn't" make money. What they meant to say is that they couldn't game the political system to change the rules to make monopoly profits. If there is a huge cost to implementing COOL, then the U.S. should tax meat packers to pay for all the regulatory oversight it takes to make them follow the laws they don't want to follow. I have just about had enough of this pandering to corporations at the expense of the economy.

L.R.    
co  |  July, 21, 2013 at 08:19 PM

It appears you have worked in the processing or marketing of beef retail products. There is a great difference in labeling "Angus" or "choice product versus country of origin. Could you enlighten me on the number of chains, chain speed or chill boxes required to have segregated meat sources versus a certified Angus label that could be placed on any animal of Angus descent no matter the origin. I am not confident of the shrimp analogy."shrimp" are sold as a single product of a species. Cattle tissues are fabricated into many products. Yes, companies that process and market beef intend make profit. The only alternative would be to socialize the industry by government aquisition. Would you please expound on the specific lies packers use to "out compete their competitors". No, I am not employed by the AMI, a packer, or NCBA. I am a producer of cows, calves, stockers and occasionally feed cattle.

L.R.    
co  |  July, 21, 2013 at 08:31 PM

Tom t and Mr. Bullard should discuss the potential for tariffs and other trade retaliation should we ignore the WTO ruling on COOL. If they have more accurate data on the cost or implied cost of ignoring the WTO ruling, I would welcome their input. It may be that implementing COOL will not change our marketing opportunities just as it may not change demand for beef. Creating dissension in the industry does not solve the problem.

L.    
CO  |  July, 21, 2013 at 08:41 PM

Tom T and Mr. Bullard should discuss the potential for tariffs, embargo and other trade retaliation if we ignore the WTO ruling on COOL. If they have more accurate data on the cost of ignoring the WTO ruling I would welcome their input. It may be that implementing COOL will not change marketing opportunities just as it may not change demand for beef. Creating dissension in the industry does not solve problems.

TomT    
July, 21, 2013 at 08:53 PM

Potential for tariffs? I think tariffs should be increased 5 percent every three months until we have and maintain a balance of trade. Otherwise the U.S. is just allowing others to do the employment that Americans can and should do instead of drawing government checks for nothing. I have just about had it with Clinton's and the job sucking republican free trade BS. As far as WTO telling us what we can and can not require on a label--- well, let us just say you can't type that on this site. I could ask the WTO to take their rules and butt out of our country and good riddance. The WTO needs to follow our standards, not the other way around. When it becomes the other way around, we need to just dump them. If the WTO is used to stop any factual labeling, we should pull out of it right away and let it shrivel up and die along with the people who use them as a tool for their own purposes. I don't care what corporation loses money on that deal. As far as packers needing to segregate their production lines for efficiency's sake, I have a big fat who cares for them. Perhaps we should care if the top management gets a kiss by Rudolph this year. If they can't do it, then let them turn their business over to those who can or don't allow them to sell into the U.S. markets at all. This reminds me of the recent international banking rule that required disclosure or not use the U.S. financial system. The law was passed in 2010 and they gave international banks another 6 months extension to comply last month. Shut them out of the U.S. financial system for one week and all of that would stop immediately. The republicans are right. Our government isn't working and it is because they pander to big money instead of govern.

L.R.    
co  |  July, 22, 2013 at 12:38 AM

to RL freeborn: I apologize tor leading the conversation away from your important point. Tom has never indicated his profession or if it is related to basic beef production. As a self appointed spokesman to R-Calf dogma, why would R-Calf go on defense when asked for information? Do they have doubt of their suppositions? Why have they never gained enough membership to become a major voice for the cattle industry? Their only claim to leadership is the ability to use fear tactics on membership and the public. I do not feel we should identify ourselves as republican or democrat to produce beef. Today's discussion points out the ability of R-Calf to not address questions submitted but to selectively attack the points that cause the maximum fear.

Really    
July, 22, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Well apparently a pretty small percentage of consumers share this desire, or Kroger, Safeway, Walmart, etc. would wrap all of their USA-only beef in red, white and blue and watch customers flock to that section of the meat case. If YOU want the information ON THE PACKAGE (see, my keyboard also does ALL CAPS), then go to one of the many places that sells locally sourced products and labels them as such. If consumers cared enough about this issue to vote with their wallets, you wouldn't need mandatory labeling. But it's always more popular to veil one's argument in "This is what consumers demand" nonsense rather than, "I think I'll personally make more money if the government requires this. So, let's pass a law."

J.B.    
NE  |  July, 22, 2013 at 10:35 AM

As a consumer and a rancher I'm interested in both sides of the issue. I like knowing where my food comes from. There are labels on fruit and vegetables. Why not meat?? I support R-Calf because they help the little guy--us. The packers are no help to the ranchers. And yes I suppose our calves end up there. They are looking for the cheapest meat they can find and that means Mexico and Canada which brings down our prices. As a consumer I will pay more for better quality and I am not alone. I am amazed at the attitude of this magazine and the comments. As though comsumers are dumb and you just have to get them to buy whatever you produce no matter what chemical or gmo or country it happens to be from. What happened to" the customer is always right"?

L.R.    
July, 22, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Does a steer from Canada have a higher or lower protein content of a like cut from Nebraska? Does a steer from Mexico have more or less iron per ounce? A bovine in Canada remains bovine upon arrival in Nebraska.

TomT    
July, 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM

L.R., why does any of this matter? If you want to sell meat in the United States, it mus be labeled as to country of origin, and that includes Brazilian beef, not just Canadian or Mexican beef. There are labeling laws for shrimp and other seafood and other foods as well. If you want to sell into this market, then label it or don't sell it. It is just that simple. None of the other questions really matter. If you don't want to follow the labeling laws of the land, then don't sell into this market. Period.

L.R.    
July, 22, 2013 at 12:11 PM

For beef is the labeling law needed? What benefit is it to the industry? Why would we wish to burden our industry with more regulation? And FYI I believe Brazilian beef has the same amount of available B vitamin as a steer born in Mississippi. maybe we consider removing COOL legislation.

TomT    
July, 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Because it is the law. It doesn't really matter if you want to do it or not or if you agree with it. If you want to sell meat into the U.S. label it or don't sell it here. Our markets and their labeling laws do not require your approval. Label it or don't sell it here. Period. Perhaps if labeling rules are too hard to follow, you could sell beef from other countries to other countries and by pass the U.S. markets. No one cares if meat packers like it or not. It is the law they must follow for U.S. markets or they can leave. Sometimes it would probably be easier to just ask them to leave than to burden them with added expenses. That option is available to them and how about this---It is a free option. Not every law has to be for meat packer's benefit. Sometimes they can be for consumers. This is one of them. With all the big fuss and time they are taking we should probably just ask them to leave the U.S. markets if they can't comply willingly.

dee    
July, 22, 2013 at 01:14 PM

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm - - Mexico sold all this beef into the USA. Someone forgot to mention that they sold it real cheap because there was an extreme drought at poin of origin. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm - - There are at least 2 or possibly 3 USA slaughter houses that would be in serious trouble if they couldn't source cheap Canadian cattle to add to the chain. Real interesting - - cattle move from western Canada into the western USA and from eastern USA into Canada - - - its got something to do with shipping costs. But, of course, R-calf doesn't know ANYTHING about that (maybe because they think like an ostrich). If the consumer didn't vote with their wallets - - - hmmmmmm - - - maybe we should really let the consumers vote with their wallets and let Argentina/Brazil et al ship us the cheapest cuts for grinding. Then we might find out what IS really important to that mythical consumer (I think its price, price and price and then at about the 2% line quality for most consumers). If price wasn't the primary objective why would there even be melamine in baby formula (IIRC)? R-calf is very very long on rhetoric (mostly self serving) and very very very very short on logic (I don't think they get into that in ag school!).

L.R    
July, 22, 2013 at 01:50 PM

Why does the packer continue to be entered into the conversation? I am a producer and a consumer . I don't call a packer to ask him how to operate my business. I am the only one responsible for profit and loss in my business. R-Calf attempts to find someone to blame for issues the production portion of the industry should address. R-Calf members should take responsibility for the success or failure of their business model. As I wright, I am attempting to purchase cattle on a video this morning. If I pay too much and lose money it is my fault, not the packer.

maxine    
SD  |  July, 22, 2013 at 01:58 PM

First, R-CALF is so weak it has to have a crisis in order to generate dues and donations. How better to do that than to create 'enemies' by demonizing packers and successful cattle producer organizations? Reminds me of how some cattle auction owners used to do the same thing by demonizing packers to their customers complaining that the auction should be working harder to get better prices for cattle sold there! Second, the group appears to want the benefits of selling a branded product. It is easier to get the government to mandate your 'brand', "bred, born, raise, slaughtered in the USA" than it is to go the route of Laura's Lean Beef, for instance, or Ranchers Renaisance, CBB, or many of the other fine brands of beef the cattle owners spent their own money to create. So, when the political climate was right, they 'created' COOL, the fatally flawed rule we are all now saddled with. Because they did not want what the consumer TRULY wants: to know the RANCH of origin. Insisting that packers would use that information to somehow blame individual ranchers for any 'flaws' in the meat, R-CALF with their typical hysteria used government to inflict this ridiculous, costly law on all cattle producers. Anyone who believe it is not costly to comply with government regulations, please stand up! Packers, like most businesses, do not have time to play games with their customers. If imported beef is such a problem, why is so little of it imported, compared with our exports? Why is most imported beef very lean and inexpensive, when we in the USA produce high quality beef which is naturally a more fatty product? It's logically so that we can make more money and remain viable producers!

L.R.    
July, 22, 2013 at 02:12 PM

I appreciate Chuck Jolly providing a forum to discuss issues important to the industry. Thank you......

maxine    
SD  |  July, 22, 2013 at 02:15 PM

Sorry, an error in my previous post should have stated CAB as a branded beef, while CBB is the Cattlemens' Beef Board, governing board of the national half of the beef checkoff dollar.

TomT    
July, 22, 2013 at 04:47 PM

Maxine, the COOL rules do not supplant any ranch or locally produced programs, nor does it supplant the Angus program or any other value added programs but you do make a good point that these do bring value to cattle producers. I just visited my own Ag. teacher in Texas who has been marketing his grass fed beef for over 20 years that has added much value to him and his property management. He is getting in his mid 80s and about to retire from the day to day operations due to his wife's health. If you happen to get one thing wrong, then you are bound to get many more wrong. All regulations regarding U.S. COOL labeling should be born on the backs of those who are actually importing cattle, not anyone else. I thank you for working towards those goals. Packers continually play games with their customers and that is why they are one of the most regulated businesses. If they didn't, there would not be a need for any regulations. They only arise because they continually play these games. A handshake is not a handshake anymore nor is a signed contract. Meat packers have proven this time and time again. They have to have USDA inspectors to make sure that they grade the cattle correctly and not sell it under assumed qualities. Mechanically altering cuts instead of grading and producing good quality is one of their constant ruses. Imported beef is not a problem, but it should be labeled. It should have been labeled without a law but you know those meat packers, always trying to pull another one. U.S. meat is not naturally fatter, it is made so by the feed out process and more tender by breeding and handling processes. Do you actually raise cattle or is all of this new to you?

Jeff    
Iowa  |  July, 22, 2013 at 06:24 PM

If there is so much value in labeling, why isn't anyone getting rich by selling beef that is U.S. bred, born, raised, slaughtered, and packaged? This can currently be done under voluntary COOL, yet virtually no one is doing it. I know people have tried, and the fact it wasn't very succesful tells us the consumer really doesn't care nearly as much as activists tell us they do. If we can't make additional money by labeling beef as all U.S., then all we do with mandatory COOL is raise cost to the system which will reduce bids from the packers and/or raise prices and reduce purchases by consumers.

LR    
July, 22, 2013 at 07:29 PM

Tom again recites the propaganda manual of R-calf. Do you work in their administrative office? Tom forgets that feed yards and stocker operations also import cattle. A packer does not stand those costs of COOL on feeder cattle.. Be specific where packers are currently not legal in their operations.

David P    
Roseburg, OR  |  July, 22, 2013 at 07:52 PM

The problem that no one has mentioned is that the U.S. consumer, as a rule, believes that if it has the USDA bug of inspection on the package, it's U.S. Beef. They don't understand the inspection system. If you don't believe me, hang out at the meat counter and start some conversations about what that bug means with meat-shoppers. People are flabbergasted that they might be buying Mexican beef, yet paying for what they assume is U.S. beef. THAT is the reason that the packers are fighting this (in addition to the extra costs). They understand and exploit this misconception to the benefits of THEIR bottom line. I know the country of origin of EVERYTHING I buy, including all other food EXCEPT meat, and I'm always willing to pay more for the U.S. produced products when they're available. THAT is the whole point, is to STOP misleading the consumer. At the least, they're paying more than they should have to for imported beef, believing it's U.S., and at the worst, they're buying a product that they wouldn't purchase if they knew they were buying it.

Tom    
Montana  |  July, 22, 2013 at 10:04 PM

What would happen if R-Calf could get 82.5% of their operating budget from the beef check off instead of the NCBA?

LR    
July, 23, 2013 at 12:19 AM

R-calf would waste the money on frivolous lawsuits as they did when they joined the humane society to bring suit against our industry. The checkoff money is to be spent for the good of the industry for research and development not petty lawsuits.

LR    
July, 23, 2013 at 12:59 AM

David, I would appreciate you sharing the research indicating the consumer would pay more for a COOL label. I have never read this research publication you must be referring to. If the packer has as much power as R-calf claims, why would they pass any profits from COOL to the industry. It gives me no reason to back COOL.

David P    
Roseburg, OR  |  July, 23, 2013 at 07:03 AM

LR, I suggested that you do your OWN research. However, you're misquoting me. I said that "I" am always willing to pay more, but that's not the point of COOL, especially given that beef has hit a price ceiling in our current economy. As a general rule, if something is good for the packers, it's bad for producers, considering that they have a strangle-hold on prices paid to feeders and producers. If you can't grasp that, you don't understand the challenges facing us. You haven't justified why EVERY OTHER PRODUCT has country of origin except for meat.

TomT    
July, 23, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Jeff, you are under the mistaken impression that in order for there to be a law, it has to be shown to benefit the industry where the law applies along with a cost analysis. I say this whole assumption is wrong. Meat packers are regulated with USDA officials that make sure they grade cattle correctly to receive a grade label for the public to use. This and their food safety inspections came as a result of rampant abuses in meat packer actions. It costs meat packers and the public to have these costs and there is hardly a cost benefit analysis that can justify these expenses. It is only a floor or standard that the industry must meet in order to sell its products. I personally believe that any taxpayer costs to these programs are nothing less than an industry subsidy which should be corrected. There can be public policy goals to subsidize these costs for smaller companies and make larger meat packers pay more. Again, this would not need any of these fictional studies of cost benefit analysis. Indeed, many of these analysis are skewed towards corporations in these industries instead of weighing the public policy goals that they intend to promote like making the markets actually work for the whole economy instead of just the corporation in question. Henry Ford didn't need this government interference to pay his workers more, for instance, as he saw their larger pay as something good for the economy and just as importantly, the middle class and his own business success. Without the regulations on meat, people would have no confidence in its safety and the market would shrink. The industry has been unable to self regulate as their goals are making more money for their investors, not necessarily public goals.

LR    
July, 23, 2013 at 11:41 AM

David: You are correct and I did my research this morning. I went to the local Wal-Mart. First item: stewed and whole tomatoes distributed by Wal-Mart with no COOL as was many other under great value brand. Second item: Butter Kernal corn distributed by Fairbault foods but no COOL. third item: Del Monte whole kernal corn distributed by Del Monte but no COOL. The next item was at the local hardware store. Farmer's Garden Pickles packaged to appear homemade. Packaged by Vlasic and distributed by pinnacle foods with no COOL I checked radishes, cucumbers even compared red delicious apples to citrus oranges. Evan comparing apples to oranges I found no COOL.

LR    
July, 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM

David: I stopped by a third store on the way to the ranch to notice whole onions, 5th season chopped onion, McCormick salad toppings,Weber Cajun pepper and all without COOL.

Tom    
Montana  |  July, 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM

LR, The NCBA is wasting our checkoff money on this frivolous lawsuit, COOL. We need mandatory COOL.

LR    
July, 23, 2013 at 12:23 PM

I not been given a reason to need MCOOL. We tried arguments of illegal activities of packers, greedy organizations and their member producers, desires and demands of the consumer, WTO is not a valid entity to be contended with, it is important in order for the survival of the beef industry, all other foods do it so we should. All of these arguments have not been proven in full to be true. R-calf had better find some new propaganda.

TomT    
July, 23, 2013 at 02:37 PM

LR, you don't need another reason. The law is there and the WTO should not be used in the way it is being used by foreign interests and domestic interests who do not want to show Country of Origin. The consumer's right to know supersedes all of these issues and any and all that you are bringing up. None of your fear mongering supersedes the right to put factual labeling of any kind on the package that consumers see in the United States. You are right that all attempts to do so are frivolous.

Barry    
July, 24, 2013 at 01:29 AM

Tom and David, There are several people here who have seen Mexican and Canadian cattle on the hoof and followed them to the rail. They've also done the same to domestic cattle. Good cattle are good cattle and bad cattle are bad cattle, regardless of where they reside or were born. The feeders in this country do an amazing job of adding value to cattle, regardless of where they are sourced. You are right, though, that the consumer has the right to know if he or she wants that information. It's currently available in multiple branded programs that will be happy to have your business. Please patronize these programs and make them successful in the free market. Personal failures and sanctimonious crying sessions should not be made into governmental mandates when viable alternatives are readily available.

TomT    
July, 24, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Barry, I am of a different view. I think any and every product sold in the United States should have COOL. We have had a consistent trade deficit in this country for decades and it is caused by corporations or individuals who use lower world price goods in U.S. markets. Our politicians and trade representatives are fixing this problem and it is a drain on our national wealth and living standards. I personally want to know where every product in the market comes from so I can, on a personal level, do what our US Trade Representative are not doing. This does not mean that I will do this on every item nor does it mean that I won't buy Canadian or Mexican products. Our NAFTA agreement has helped hollow out not only our economy but has helped kill small Mexican corn farmers and destroyed their meager income from these sources. This is all so some big commodity producer could dump a little more heavily subsidized corn on other markets. What is really sad is that cattle is not the main culprit but it has been used by multinational corporations to reduce the value of U.S. producers and the ability of the ranchers in the U.S. to feed people in the U.S. The larger culprits are in manufacturing and production of the items you have seen in Walmart and other stores following the lowest cost goods. We have had such a degradation in the meats markets that Smithfield is now being bought by the Chinese and JBS has bought our largest poultry company in the U.S. I personally do not want to support the system that produced these results and have hurt so many U.S. producers although the choices have become even more limited. If people on this list want to continue arbitraging our food sovereignty, I have the right to "No".


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