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Opinion: The Hits Just Keep Coming

You might want to send your favorite cattle industry lobbyist a gift certificate to a steakhouse close to your capital city; odds are he or she can use a break.

Why is it that the more industry-friendly sounding title politicians give a bill, the more likely it is to screw things up? Today’s populist wave seemingly has no bounds. The latest example is a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), entitled “The Livestock Marketing Fairness Act.”

As the joke goes, the only reason we have been seeing captive supplies decrease is that even the packers aren't crazy enough to feed cattle. And this bill indicates that JBS-Swift was right to be worried about a ban on packer ownership (see last week’s item, “JBS Prepares For Expected Packer Ban Legislation,” by clicking here ).

It appears the political winds are blowing even stronger than JBS-Swift thought. Enzi’s bill would eliminate a great number of Alternative Marketing Arrangements, even forward contracts. Studies indicate that policies like this bill advocates would decrease beef quality and cattle prices. At first glance, you would think that a bill like this would have no chance of passage.

But Enzi’s bill incorporates the one key component of all bad legislation, which is that it makes the obvious entity to be harmed to be the villain. Everyone seemingly dislikes big packers, and this bill singles them out while exempting producer cooperators and all smaller packers.

It’s increasingly apparent that many people view the world as a zero sum game where in order to benefit one party you have to take from another. With this world view, there’s nothing immoral about wronging someone; after all, that particular entity’s success indicates they must have wronged someone. This distorted thinking holds that because value-added forms of marketing and risk-management tools haven’t benefitted everyone equally, eliminating them is deemed as somehow being both noble and fair.

It’s amazing how a little global recession can cause enough indifference in a populace that most are willing to sit back and see personal choice and liberty curtailed, as long as it doesn't affect them personally. It distinctly appears that we as a nation and people have lost faith in the markets and free enterprise.
-- Troy Marshall