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On voting, censorship & American beef

TAGS: Management
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As a nation votes, this rancher discusses censorship on social media platforms, why everyone shouldn’t vote and the potential for American-labeled beef.

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

Those are the words of John Adams, our second president of the United States, and the quote rings even more true today than it did in the late 1700s.

Much has happened in 2020. Unthinkable tragedies, loss, death, destruction, isolation, corruption, manipulation — it’s been a hard, hard year, for everybody. We mourn those we have lost due to COVID-19, but we also must be mindful of the increased rates of divorce, suicide, depression, abuse, neglect, unemployment, homelessness and more.

On this election day, much is at stake, and we certainly have a big decision to make at the polls about the America we want to see in the next four years.

As I pondered what I wanted to write on election day, I decided instead of making one last case for my preferred candidate, I would instead focus on a few other issues that are on my mind.

I’ll keep it brief, but as the nation chooses a president, here’s what I’m thinking about moving forward:

1. Voting

Unpopular opinion here, but I deeply dislike the campaign to make voting popular and cool. Encouraging everybody to do it in hopes that they’ll vote for your preferred candidate is silly at best and dangerous at worst.

Voters should be informed, well-read and well-versed because the implications of even the most innocent of ballot initiatives could be devastating to people in communities.

Here’s a great example — how many times has the Humane Society of the United States passed one of their egregiously overreaching pieces of legislation by appealing to the emotions of the masses? Oh, animal welfare is on the ballot? I love animals! I’ll vote yes.

And that yes vote often leads to worse care for animals, fewer producers in business, the next to outsource and import agricultural commodities from other countries and higher prices at the grocery store.

But hey, the kitty in the commercial was super cute, right?

I think my point speaks for itself here. Don’t encourage people to go out and blindly vote. Next election, let’s encourage people to read, think critically, ask questions, hold their elected officials accountable, poll their peers and spend some time truly evaluating what’s on the ballot.
Knee-jerk reactions based on irrational emotions have dire consequences. And perhaps that’s a good reminder for us in agriculture. We must appeal to our broader audiences with more than just the facts. We must appeal to them on a personal level that appeals to their emotions. Frankly, we are getting our butts kicked in that arena. Sometimes our practicality and realism gets in the way of making earnest connections.

2. Censorship

We are seeing an increased rate of censorship for conservative voices on social media platforms. Big tech and these supposed “free speech” platforms are absolutely manipulating what we read and see on a regular basis. This level of disinformation, suppression and censorship, especially during an election year, highlights the importance of fighting for our first amendment rights and maintaining platforms that allow all voices to speak and share freely without fear of being removed, banned or stripped of their rights to speak in the public square.

In agriculture, we have been experiencing this censorship for years. We can no longer post that we have heifers, steers or bulls for sale on Facebook. Try selling quarters of beef, and you’re sure to be flagged. Huge agricultural groups on these platforms have been wiped out or are being suppressed to reduce their outreach. If they speak out against some of these ballot initiatives or the political rhetoric that seeks to strip ranchers off the land, the censorship is often real and immediate. And the silence as differing voices are removed is absolutely deafening.

This is wrong on every level, and again, as I’ve asked many times, where does animal agriculture fit in with regular society when meat, animal, eggs, pigs, cows and sheep are unwelcome on these platforms?

3. American beef

In the past four years, we have seen a greater push for Made in America products. Now for years, mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) has been the divisive topic between cattle industry groups.

And while the economists have told me in a thousand different ways why MCOOL is not effective or practical, I must ask, if not mandatory, how can we get an American label on the grocery store shelves that would truly be attractive to American consumers?

Because frankly, while MCOOL may not be the golden goose, the reality is that American ranchers are struggling right now. So unless you’re “getting big or getting out” as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue once said in a speech or you’re entering a niche, value-added market, it’s really tough out there when you’re competing against foreign ranchers who can operate at lower costs without Congresswomen Alexandria Osacio-Cortez and her environmental cronies breathing down their necks about climate change and sustainability.

Now before you bristle up and wonder why I’m not walking the “perceived” party line here, pause for a second and ask yourselves how many ranchers have folded or are struggling to stay afloat right now? How many next generation kids are coming back to the farm? How many can afford to take on the capital risk when it’s much easier and cheaper to mix up a batter of fake meat in a laboratory?

Then take note that absolutely nothing has been operating like the status quo we have become accustomed to in the last four years under President Trump. He’s shaken up and changed nearly every industry, and in my opinion, mostly for the better. Why should the beef industry be any different?
Heck, if President Trump loses his bid for re-election today, he could probably start his own “Made-In-America Trump Beef Label” to sell alongside his wine, and I’m guessing there would be plenty of patriots to sell into that value-added program. While we are at it, you can hire me for your marketing team, Mr. Trump!

All joke aside, what I’m saying here is simple — maybe we are looking at this issue of labeling, market price issues, transparency and other polarizing issues that divide us in the wrong way. Maybe a true shakeup is in order to revitalize the beef industry for the prosperity of the next generation of beef producers. And if that’s the case, what exactly does that look like?

I’m not claiming to have all the answers here, and frankly, I’m not sure there’s a beef industry leader out there who has the perfect solution. I do look forward to a boisterous discussion on this one. Let me have it if you vehemently disagree with me. I welcome that!

But as we close out this election season and move forward with the final voting results, I ask every passionate cattleman and woman out there to get creative, get innovative, think outside the box and look at new strategies that we can implement in order to effectively work alongside our elected officials to make the American beef industry the best it can be!
God bless the USA! God bless our great people! And God bless the U.S. beef cattle industry!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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