Opinion: A Reader Response On Industry Division

As a regular reader of Beef Daily I have to say Troy Marshall is dedicated to his ideology, what he stands for I am not sure, but what he is against is USDA intervention in the beef industry by way of implementation of the Packers and Stockyard Act (PSA).

As a regular reader of Beef Daily I have to say Troy Marshall is dedicated to his ideology, what he stands for I am not sure, but what he is against is USDA intervention in the beef industry by way of implementation of the Packers and Stockyard Act (PSA).

His condemnation of the R-CALF leadership is severe to say the least. I haven’t read some of the articles or statements he alludes to in his condemnation of R-CALF leadership and sympathizers, however, my impression of Max Thornsberry is that he is an honest honorable man with a vast amount of experience and a profound grasp of the challenges facing the sustainability of the mama cowherd and the folks tending the mamas. He represents a sizable portion of the livestock industry. The majority of his supporters are cow-calf producers and small feeding operations, as the name R-CALF indicates.

The merger of the cattlemen associations, feeder associations and packer associations, which includes the marketing interests of the beef industry, was a sure way to create a deeper division in an already divided “industry.” The word industry is not an adequate word to identify all aspects of our individual, varied, and oftentimes opposing interests in production agriculture. A way of life that is neither comfortable nor viable when considered as a commodity.

In the last 30-40 years, as Marshall likes to use as a comparable to a vague prior period or maybe the future, the commodity concept has become very real. Land has become a commodity for investment because of a lack of manufacturing and research in our economy. Land is a stable, better than gold, the supply is fixed, they ain’t makin’ any more.

Stockers, feeders, fats, etc., are all commodities to be traded by folks that don’t know or care where it comes from or what it is. It is a game.

I can’t blame the traders. The rules and oversight of the trading industry are created and enforced or not enforced by government at all levels, elected, appointed, hired, authorized, unauthorized, some bad, some not so bad, but still government. The days of trust and equals shaking hands are not the norm any more. A total rejection of enforcing the PSA provisions and acceptance of an ill-regulated Board of Trade and international trade agreements engineered by multinational corporations is not an intellectual milestone.

The folks that R-CALF represents are neither Neanderthals, nor uninformed or unsophisticated throwbacks to an age gone by. The merging of all entities in any sector of industry is an invitation to abuse and distrust. The honest tension among sectors and open dialog both on a local as well as worldwide scale are healthy, but can’t exist when one organization represents the whole industry.

I will agree that government has no place in the free enterprise system.

However, things have happened over the past 60 years that we all have known about, but haven’t done anything to stop. Major mergers of the industry have taken place with the blessings of the government. All such mergers have to be approved by government, and in spite of legitimate opposition from many players in the meat business, they have been approved with industry “involvement.”

Government agencies, with the blessings of the industry giants, have so over-regulated the small independent packers that they no longer exist, all in the name of food safety. We still have large amounts of contaminated food reaching the consumer in spite of a government inspector in every packing plant.

I will regress to the good old days when the local packinghouse put out a bad product he caught hell from the locals, not the government, and it worked! He had to go to church on Sunday and a ballgame on Friday night or whereever. Now, there is no accountability by anyone. The government is the ethics/moral entity. “Yeah!”

Let’s stop the slander on both sides and set down as ladies and gentleman, forget the turf battles and the political parties, forget past ideological positions. Maybe the organizations should take a look at their policy books. The past giants, and there were many, would turn over in their graves if they saw what is going on now.

Most of the policies coming from National Beef Organization and its outreach arms are, for the most part, staff and commentator’s work product. It has become an embarrassment to a lot of the folks in the country trying to hold operations together in hard times and encourage the young folks to stay home and love the way of life when their representatives are engaged in destroying each other rather than respecting each other.

We have major challenges ahead; let’s solve them together.
-- J.D. Wright, Olney Springs, CO