Anti-family farmer surprise in spending bill
OFU calling on Ohioans to call their U.S. Senators and Representatives
Published on December 14th, 2014
“This is an egregious abuse of power conducted in the dark of night with no public hearing or scrutiny on policy that greatly affects both consumers and family farmers,” said Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan. (ifoh.org)
COLUMBUS , Ohio — At the eleventh hour, opponents of consumers’ right to know where their food comes from have inserted language that could ultimately kill the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, severely threaten the integrity of livestock markets and halt the reform of a deeply dysfunctional beef promotion program. This last minute mischief occurred as Congress hurries to agree on a must-pass appropriations bill needed to keep the federal government in operation.
“This is an egregious abuse of power conducted in the dark of night with no public hearing or scrutiny on policy that greatly affects both consumers and family farmers,” said Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan.
According to the National Farmers Union, the language has shown up in the conference report for the bill that would fund federal government operations through the summer of 2015. Conference committees are used to reconcile differing House-Senate versions of a bill.
COOL legislation, passed as part of the farm bill in 2002 and again in 2008, has been a constant target of the global meat processing heavy weights. They have sued the federal government four times in the past decade, hoping to avoid the requirement to label imported foods as to their country of origin.
Each time they lost – upholding the consumers’ right to know about their foods. Sadly, their efforts have resurfaced in this appropriations bill.
Additionally, language was inserted that would prevent USDA’s implementation of pending regulations of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) – curbing anti-competitive behavior in the meat packing industry. Another segment of this “hat trick” of nefarious behavior was the insertion of language to prohibit the Secretary of Agriculture from pursuing reforms of the national beef checkoff program.
“The Ohio Farmers Union is asking all Ohioans who believe in fair markets and their right to know where their beef, poultry and pork came from to contact their members of Congress and Senators Portman and Brown to demand that language affecting COOL, the beef checkoff program and USDA GIPSA regulations be removed from the bill,” Logan said.
Logan noted that the nation’s second largest beef packer is now JBS, a Brazilian company. Meanwhile, the largest U.S. pork packer is Shanghui International Holdings, a Chinese company partially owned by the government of China. These recent foreign acquisitions of major livestock processing companies are but one illustration of the tremendous influence that multi-national corporations have over our food supply and even our democratic process.
Logan said these enormous multi-nationals benefit greatly by shopping the world for low cost meats and maximize returns if they can sell them in American supermarkets without labeling their sources. They are aided by organizations including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the prime contractor of the beef checkoff program.
“Due to industry consolidation, vertical integration and globalization the machinery of the checkoff has fallen under the influence of large meat processing and marketing companies,” Logan said.
The beef “checkoff” program is a mandatory one dollar per head tax on each animal sold at market. Congress approved a law some 30 years ago enabling the checkoff because the money was supposed to be used to market and build the U.S. beef market.
“Now, NCBA, the prime contractor of the beef checkoff, is using our money to kill COOL which would enable greater sales of foreign products and prevent U.S. consumers from having an informed choice at the market,” Logan said.
“This is simply a worst-case scenario for family farmers and consumers but we can stop it with calls to members of Congress and saying: Enough,” Logan said.
— Ohio Farmers Union