NOBULL: Responding to Scott George, NCBA President, Statement Defending NCBA’s Opposition to COOL, By Gilles Stockton

September 23, 2013

Editorial Responding to Scott George, NCBA President, Statement Defending NCBA’s Opposition to COOL

The twisted and circular logic concocted by the NCBA to justify its opposition to COOL is simply amazing, and the recent attempt by the current NCBA President, Scott George, is no exception. If COOL is too expensive as NCBA claims why has no one noticed any changes in prices – either lower or higher? It is probably true enough, as Mr. George writes, that that many consumers are not aware of the COOL information and, therefore, COOL has not resulted in much of a market impact. But is that because consumers are not-interested or because they can’t read the tiny COOL print?

We were also informed by Mr. George that the NCBA opposes government mandates. Very nice! Why is it that I seem to remember that a federal judge ruled that the beef checkoff tax is “government speech?” The NCBA was sure happy that day to be the integral part of a government mandated boondoggle that …“takes decisions out of the hands of cattlemen and place them in the hand of bureaucrats.” And why is it, Mr. George, that those of us who pay this tax are not allowed to vote if we want to continue letting NCBA use the checkoff to lobby against our own interests as cattle producers?

So Mr. George, let me remind you why most cattlemen and beef consumers are in favor of COOL. The beef packing cartel and the giant retail stores with which they are vertically aligned have been mixing imported beef with domestic beef and stamping it all USDA inspected. This is fraud because the USDA stamp, in the minds of many consumers, implies that it is a product produced entirely in the US.

Besides the issue of fraud and the right of people to know where their food comes from is the fact that the imported cattle and beef are a “captive supply” that the beef packing cartel uses to manipulate cattle prices. This results in real price impacts on cattlemen’s income. Do you want proof? In 2003, when Canadian imports were temporarily cut off, domestic feeder-cattle prices jumped by 25%. On that day it became clear that really serious money was being extracted from of our rural communities by the systematic manipulation of the imported “captive supplies.” So if NCBA wants to use the “government speech” beef checkoff tax to benefit our bottom line, they should stop their beef packing cartel buddies from using “captive supplies.”Make the packers bid in an open, transparent, and competitive market for their cattle.

COOL cannot and will not solve all of our problems and COOL won’t stop the imports of beef and cattle. But if consumers indicate that they prefer to buy a US product it could mitigate against the flagrant mis-use of “captive supplies” coming from Canada and Mexico. So COOL is only a good beginning but we have more work to do because step by step the cattle industry is being vertically integrated. If we don’t do something, pretty soon there will be no market transparency from the moment the cow is impregnated until the consumer walks out the door of the super market. Maybe the members of the NCBA don’t mind the loss of independence but I, for one, don’t want to be a serf on my own land. No one, not producers and not consumers will be served by a vertically integrated monopolistic cartel controlling all protein sources.

Cattle prices are pretty good right now, but I have lived long enough to have learned that good times never last for long. Someday soon, the young starting ranchers are going to be squeezed very hard trying to pay for expensive land with cattle that are way too cheap. So give us a break and quit wasting everyone’s time. Let the packer monopoly carry their own water.

Gilles Stockton

Grass Range, Montana 59032