A group of protectionist, anti-free-trade ranchers known as R-CALF has pulled the wool over our eyes. They= ve convinced a Federal District Court judge in Montana that they know more than the best scientific minds around the world on how to protect the U.S. against BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).
The R-CALF approach doesn= t involve controlling cattle feedC the source of BSE. It doesn= t involve processing only younger cattle that are scientifically proven to be BSE-free. It involves locking out their Canadian competitors to preserve historically high profits for R-CALF members at the expense of workers and consumers.
While R-CALF frantically waves the flag in the name of beef safety and protecting the U.S. cattle herd, take a moment to consider the hypocrisy of their position.
Why locking out Canadian cattle doesn= t help the United States:
It doesn= t keep out Canadian beef (which is safe). In August of 2003, the USDA elected to allow imports of boneless boxed Canadian beef under 30 months of age as a first step toward totally opening the border to live cattle.
U.S. consumers ate more than one billion pounds of Canadian beef last yearC more than 32 pounds for every man, woman and child in this country.
This isn= t a food safety issue. As noted above, we= re already eating beef from the same cattle that are being stopped at our borders.
We= re not protecting domestic cattle. The USDA proposal for March 7 was to open the border to cattle under 30 months of ageC younger than the scientifically proven onset of BSE. BSE is not conveyed through contact. Bringing Canadian cattle into the U.S. does not create a risk of contamination for the U.S. herd. Shipping only under-30-month Canadian cattle directly to U.S. processing plants in sealed containers would be an added precaution.
It isn= t a hasty step. Our border has been closed to Canadian cattle since May of 2003. What science has made very clear over the past two years is:
There is no scientific evidence that cattle under 30 months show evidence of BSE. Of 1.6 million cattle less than 30 months tested for BSE in the United Kingdom in 2002, not a single one tested positive for BSE.
What R-CALF has accomplished:
Perpetuating an unfair advantage for Canadian beef processors. The price of comparable fed cattle has averaged $265 per head less in Canada than in the U.S. That price differential shot from $115 to $325 within one week after Federal District Judge Richard Cebull issued his March 2 ruling keeping the border closed to Canadian cattle.
This sizeable advantage for Canadian processors is cutting into U.S. beef sales domestically as well as in countries like Mexico, where we compete with Canada.
The outsourcing of U.S. beef industry jobs to Canada. While more than 272,000 U.S. beef industry workers and their families have been economically harmed as our industry has run more than 9 percent below pre-BSE levels, the Canadian beef processing industry grew by 24 percent in 2004, with another 19 percent growth predicted by 2007. The jobs created in Canada likely will never return to the U.S.
A continuing drain on the U.S. economyC particularly in those regions where beef processing is significant. Based on a Colorado State University economic impact study, it= s estimated that the Greeley, CO, community alone has lost more than $250 million in economic activity in 2004 just based on a 9-10 percent production slowdown.
Extended nationwide, that translates to between $6-8 billion in lost economic activity in one year alone.
R-CALF supports protectionism, not safety:
Some members of R-CALF are playing both sides of the fenceC buying cheap Canadian cattle to earn huge profits if/when the border is openedC while running up the price of domestic cattle by charging that Canadian cattle are A unsafe.@
A Japanese official was quoted as saying that R-CALF= s opposition to opening the border may delay the start of beef exports to Japan. Since the U.S. is demanding that Japan use scientific standards as a reason to reopen their border to U.S. beef, how can we justify denying entry to Canadian cattle that meet the same criterion?
Even the staunch consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, has criticized the continued closure of the border to Canadian cattle. A American ranchers alleged health concern about young Canadian cows exposing American consumers to BSE is all sizzle and no steakC it has nothing to do with human health and everything to do with protecting their profits,@ said CSPI= s Caroline Smith DeWaal.
Besides hurting thousands of U.S. beef industry workers and their families and flouting scientific evidence, the R-CALF ranchers are keeping beef prices high. One economist estimates domestic beef prices will drop a nickel per pound once the border is opened to Canadian cattle under 30 months of age.
Consumers should tell their Congressmen that we shouldn= t let a group of radical fringe ranchers dictate our food safety and agriculture policies just so they can line their own pockets. Return control to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and put the U.S. beef industry on a level playing field with its foreign competitors.
President & CEO
Swift & Company
Nebraska= s reps refusing to support the border closure
Why have Nebraska's Congressional representatives refused to sign the Resolution of Disapproval (HR 23) which keeps the Canadian border closed to live cattle?
Why aren't they working to secure mandatory country-of-origin labeling? Why has the United States guaranteed that it won't export Canadian beef to Japan when it has blocked efforts to give American consumers that choice?
Why are Nebraska's representatives willing to risk the loss of consumer confidence by waiving the rules on BSE established in l989 by World Health Officials? Do they realize that if the border opens under relaxed regulations, the U.S. would have the lowest health and safety standards on imported cattle of any developed nation? Will the U.S. become a dumping ground for beef from other BSE-infected countries?
We lost our largest export markets because one infected Canadian cow was identified in the U.S. Why would we EVER put our domestic market at risk by further relaxing existing regulations?
If the livelihood of Nebraska's ranchers and farmers is important to our representatives, then Osborne, Terry, and Fortenberry should sign on as co-sponsors of the Resolution of Disapproval so a vote can be taken.
CAFTA And Its Parallels With History
The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to the Tea Act of 1773 that was passed by Parliament to rescue the British East India Company from impending failure. The Tea Act essentially eliminated all taxes on tea except the three pence Townshend tax. It allowed the company to sell American colonists tea at a lower price than that of the colonial smugglers (independent importers). As a result, the British East India Company would be saved from bankruptcy, the colonial smugglers would be out of business, and the principle of parliamentary taxation would be upheld.
The British East India Company lobbied the British Crown for advantageous tax and trade legislation. Modern day versions of the multinational are lobbying congress for similar trade advantages. CAFTA could give multinationals that set up new businesses in other CAFTA countries a "patent" or temporary monopoly by removing import duties immediately but phasing out export duties over 17-20 years. By that time domestic competition would be out of business.
Cheap goods that we could import because of CAFTA would come at a cost. Not only would production (the source of wealth) move out of the country, but every act of Congress would be subject to review by an international arbitration tribunal that could declare laws passed by the U.S. Congress "illegal." Such declarations would not be appealable to a higher governmental body. Resulting rulings could not be brought to the Supreme Court. Trade penalties could be imposed until Congress changed the offending law.
CAFTA is not a trade agreement, it is an import agreement. There is no free lunch. CAFTA asks us to sell our collective soul for a few cheap imports.
In the 1770s Colonialists in America rejected the opportunity to buy cheap tea by giving away their national sovereignty. We should follow their brave example and reject CAFTA.
Double S Livestock
U.S. breeding cattle into Mexico
I am a good friend of Dick Crow and he told me you= d be a good contact for information. I read with a lot of interest your article about the trilateral meeting in Mexico City. You covered the aspect of U.S. breeding cattle into Canada and the prospects of Canadian breeding cattle into Mexico. However, I did not see any references to U.S. breeding cattle into Mexico.
My primary business for the last 30 years has been the export of cattle and cattle related products into Mexico. Primarily the states of Sonora and Sinaloa. You can imagine the hardship that this ban has imposed on my income stream. I ranch as well in Mexico where we run 900 cows, about half are commercial cows and the other half are Balancer and Simmental herds. The bull sales in Mexico have been super, all our bull calves have sold before 12 months of age at very good prices. However, we depend on American genetics to keep our genetic pool in Mexico in the same century as the genetic pool in the U.S. I feel we are losing ground, especially in this competitive fast changing times.
The gist of this letter is to ascertain if you have a better guess than the rest of us, as to when the American breeding cattle can head south.
Ray Rodriguez, Ph.D
R&R Agrotech, Inc.
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