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Let science be the determinant

I was pleased to see "Biotech Quandary" in your November issue (page 10). This whole issue has been blown out of proportion primarily because of the StarLink corn fiasco. If those responsible in FDA for the approval of this genetically-modified (GM) crop knew how corn moves in the market place, they would not have approved it for animals without a simultaneous approval as a human food. Its not that

I was pleased to see "Biotech Quandary" in your November issue (page 10). This whole issue has been blown out of proportion primarily because of the StarLink corn fiasco.

If those responsible in FDA for the approval of this genetically-modified (GM) crop knew how corn moves in the market place, they would not have approved it for animals without a simultaneous approval as a human food.

It’s not that StarLink corn is safe for animals but not for humans. Rather, the necessary allergic testing for human approval wasn’t yet complete at the time it was approved for animal use. I think it is reasonable to assume that if it is safe for animals, it is unlikely to have any risk for humans.

Now come the Europeans and the announcement that McDonald’s has written to Greenpeace Germany that it intends to no longer serve animal products coming from animals fed genetically engineered feed. What’s the problem? The world has been consuming hybrid corn and other grains since the 1930s.

Most GM crops have been developed to resist insect damage (Bt corn) or improve weed control (Roundup-ready soybeans), thereby decreasing the need for insecticides and herbicides, and reducing the chance of animal and human problems associated with mycotoxins from mold in damaged grains. These are some of the benefits from the science of genetic engineering.

Science has given the world many life-improving benefits. The worldwide anti-science movement is intent on destroying the rigorous process by which these benefits are discovered and demonstrated to be safe. The consumer will eventually pay the price.

Rodney Preston, PhD
Thornton Distinguished Chair
Pagosa Springs, CO

We Think You’re Right
Your November "Editor’s Roundup" (page 4) and Clint Peck’s "Commentary" (page 8) are at the top of a very excellent issue. We usually find much to learn from and/or that we agree with in your magazine. Then, there are the really special ones. November is definitely a special one.

We’re so weary of those who attack our beef industry and agricultural progress in general. Groups like the Livestock Marketing Association are as aggravating as having a sorry cow dog that also bites your leg, to bend your phrase a bit.

Thanks for those home runs that boost our mood.

Ralph and Maxine Jones

Your Pick Makes No Sense
Regarding your October editorial, please substantiate for me the following statements:

  • Bush offers "the best program of leadership abilities and leadership concepts."
  • "Gore’s package of ... class warfare..." could not weather such a downturn.
In the first example, exactly what is this program? Isn’t a program something that one develops and puts into action? Does a program include "abilities" and "concepts" of anything?

In the second example, exactly what two (or more) classes are at war? If indeed you can document some nebulous class warfare, how in the world could such a war impact on any president’s ability to weather an economic downturn?

I’ll give you credit for one insightful statement – "It’s a fact of life that economic busts follow economic booms." Taken to its logical conclusion, that statement translates to an economic bust if the Democratic heir-apparent to the healthy economy of the Clinton administration happens to lose in his race against George W.

I guess one could call that foot-in-mouth disease.

A.J. Koltnert

Another Turkey Nominee
Give another "Turkey" award to Joe Roybal ("Editor’s Roundup," November, page 4). He would rather tell lies and have a beef checkoff stuffed down our throats than "we, the people" be able to exercise our God-given and constitutional right to vote. It’s another case of the tiger’s tail (those spending the checkoff dollar) wagging the tiger (we, the people that the money is taken from). A vote is all I ask.

Ralph L. Yates
Frannie, WY

Don’t Tell Us How To Vote
How can you as editor of BEEF magazine come out and tell people that for their own good they should vote for George W. Bush (October, page 4)? You should print the qualities of each presidential candidate and let people make up their own minds.

Margorie Loutsch
LeMars, IA

We’ll See The Fuzzy Math
If your pick gets in (October, page 4), remember his promises and remind him often to actually do those things. I can see the companies that profit from the "military machine" getting a lot of business if he gets in. You may get to see his "fuzzy math" explanation on why the ag industry won’t get much help.

Ken Johnson

I Don’t Like Either Kisser
In the choice between the Oprah kisser and the wife kisser, (George W. Is My Pick," October, page 4), you picked the one who kissed the person the beef industry fought in court. The truly sad part is that both "kisses" were staged in an effort to pick up votes.

The bottom line is that both of these guys will say and do anything to get votes. The bright spot is that recent history supports the probability that the candidate elected will only be a one-term president.

Michael Tigges

"Big Dogs" And Cow Dogs
Your November commentary on the beef checkoff ("Checkoff protest has deep roots," page 8) was interesting. I’ve never heard of the Northern Plains Resource Council, but I also do not agree with how the beef checkoff is run. Grass roots operators are not being represented. To put it another way, if you don’t run with the "big dogs," you don’t count much.

If all cowmen could have a 500-plus cow outfit, good grass and irrigated pasture, plus a small feedlot, we could look at the marketing situation differently. I’m still for beef advertising, but I don’t think it’s being handled very well.

A final thought: the bull in your article needed to have a couple of good dogs working on him.

Earl King
Madera, CA

We Don’t Want To Be Serfs
I read with dismay the November commentary (page 8). The article bashed the Northern Plains Resource Council, which has been instrumental in getting ranchers and environmental advocates talking and working together for the common good. It also insinuated that cattle ranchers should become the same as Tyson or Smithfield/Murphy chicken and hog farmers/serfs. I don’t know a single cattle rancher that wants to be a sharecropper/slave for IBP, Con-Agra (Excel) or Cargill!

Karen Englehart
Meadow, SD

Clint Peck Is Right
Your November commentary tells it like it is. The Northern Plains Resource Council is not working in the best interest of any natural resource industry.

The beef industry should be working together to stay profitable, not tearing down programs designed to keep us in business. This doesn’t mean that we all think the same or market our cattle in the same way. But, it does mean we all must market our product to the same people – consumers.

Without a consumer, we don’t have a business. And, without a market for our beef we don’t have a business. We can’t stand alone and survive.

With checkoff dollars we are actively working together to expand beef markets both domestically and abroad. In my opinion, the best thing we have that works for producers is the beef checkoff.

Lesley Robinson
Dodson, MT

It’s Our Money
Clint Peck’s November commentary (page 8) hits the nail on the head. It is about time we stood up to the LMA and their "agenda." If only they’d do a little research on the value of that dollar, they’d realize that both the foreign and domestic marketing programs our checkoff dollar uses are absolutely worthwhile and quite effective. Now, instead of doing more marketing and research, our dollar is going to be used to help USDA investigate those 146,000 signatures.

Laura Lickley
Jerome, ID

NPRC’s Important Role
Clint Peck’s November issue commentary is way off base. The Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC) is the only organization standing up to the large corporations consolidating all phases of the agricultural scene and forcing family farmers off the farm.

The anti-trust laws are on the books, but the large corporations have the politicians in their pocket, and the laws are not enforced. We must have an organization that will point out the problem. NPRC is doing that.

Drury G. Phebus
Baker, MT

You Speak Blasphemy
I take offense at your November articles regarding the beef checkoff (page 8) and your blasphemy of the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), page 4.

I see BEEF magazine editors Joe Roybal and Clint Peck are now swinging a "programmed bat," along with NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to attempt to squelch a checkoff vote.

LMA represents 1,200 U.S. auction markets. Thus, I dare say it represents the majority of the 1.2 million U.S. livestock producers.

Some years ago, many cattle producers and independent cattle feeders came to LMA wanting a vote on the beef checkoff. Our officers and directors voted to pursue a national referendum. We followed all the rules to get petitions signed and submitted by deadline to USDA, which has now had them for more than a year. Nothing has happened.

For Joe Roybal to say, "The livestock auction group largely sat on its hands while the industry evolved to more progressive marketing methods" is ridiculous. Where does he think a market comes from? Who makes a market for the hundreds of thousands of cattle produces who sell cows and bulls and feeder cattle, creating a market for those who don’t even sell at the auction?

U.S. auction markets collect more than half of checkoff funds at no cost to the industry. We are acting on behalf of beef producers to have a periodic vote on the checkoff (we suggest every four to five years). What better way to keep a check and balance situation in effect?

Clint Peck writes, "The livestock markets, pure and simple, see themselves being left in a cloud of dust as the beef industry charges into a new era. No longer is the local auction barn the center of an area’s livestock marketing activity."

Eliminate the U.S. auction markets, and producers will go wanting for a market. Take a look at what has happened to the poultry industry and independent hog producers and how they have been put out of business.

You owe U.S. livestock growers an apology for insinuating they don’t know what they’re doing. The local auction market is the center of any area of livestock marketing activity, even for those who sell direct. It is that market in those local communities that creates a market so a cow man knows what the market is.

Patrick K. Goggins
Public Auction Yards
Billings, MT

Checkoff Has Helped
Congratulations to Clint Peck on his November commentary in defense of the beef checkoff.

Both the Northern Plains Resource Council and the Livestock Marketing Association have their own agendas in opposing the checkoff.

The products that are increasing beef consumption, however – such as micowavable sirloin steaks, chuck roasts, and beef stew – are all products of the checkoff. In addition, the recipes and health information given to dietitians, doctors and published in magazines are also the result of the checkoff.

There is no way an individual rancher could achieve what the beef checkoff does for us with its research and promotion.

Chuck and Marilyn Fuller
Wyola, MT

It Needed To Be Said
I commend Clint Peck and BEEF magazine for saying what has needed to be said for years.

The Northern Plains Resource Council has definitely turned into a group of radical environmentalists that opposes everything that commodity groups try to accomplish.

The checkoff is the most critical issue facing our industry today. If we should lose it, we would likely go down the same road as the sheep industry. I commend you and hope you continue to print articles that our so germane to our industry.

John Swanz
First vice president
Montana Stockgrowers Ass’n

Analysis Is On Target
Clint Peck’s analysis of the Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC) is right on target, and I appreciate his candor in laying out the facts.

The beef checkoff has helped find new and better ways of presenting our product to the public. The advertising and research has improved the perception the consumer has of beef.

Peck is correct that change is inevitable, and the beef industry is not exempt from change – not even the livestock markets. Many of them are finding new ways such as electronic marketing, to ensure that they continue to be players in the business.

Larry Switzer
Richey, MT

It’s Time To Pasture Finish
Your Internet exclusive article "Grazing Must Get More Efficient" (posted October 2000) confirms what Galloway cattle breeders have known for years: the time has come to rebuild the cattle industry around efficient use of pastures.

The forage conversion efficiency the industry is looking for can be found in Galloway steers, which finish to high Choice at 1,100-1,300 lbs., 18-24 months of age and solely on managed pastures and winter hay. None of the Continental breeds and few individuals in the other British breeds are as well adapted to managed pasture as Galloways.

We pasture-finish Galloway and Galloway-cross steers on managed pasture and direct market to consumers. Galloways are early maturing and post a 3-lb., average daily gain on managed pasture. Galloways also calve unattended on pasture, milk heavily and defend their young against predators. Their double winter coat saves on winter feed, and the bulls are gentle and easily handled.

Raising grain to finish cattle is inefficient. The petroleum, environmental and labor costs of raising feed grains is far too great. The cattle industry must address these costs or lose out to poultry and pork.

Stephen L. Castner
Cedarburg, WI

Ridicule Is Out Of Line
As a livestock market operator, I was pleased to find out that I have been sitting on my hands in the last year while more progressive forms of marketing evolved (November "Editor’s Roundup," page 4). Please tell me what some of these more progressive approaches are.

It’s obvious you have a big problem with the Livestock Marketing Association and their position on the stance of a vote on a referendum. Please tell me what is so wrong giving producers the fundamental right to vote on the program that they totally fund themselves. Shouldn’t we have the right to reconfirm to the people that we like or dislike what they are doing?

The grassroots producers have voiced their opinions to us and we are carrying out those concerns. Do we deserve to be publicly ridiculed for listening to the concerns of the very people that help us earn a living?

Jon M. Schaben
Dunlap, IA