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Dittmer: From the Golden Globes to R-CALF

Free Market Reflections with Steve Dittmer

R-CALF has been busy suing major packers and getting help from trial lawyers to sue the beef check-off and USDA.

Hollywood’s Golden Globe awards telecast is mostly about movies I haven’t seen and actors I don’t know. But my wife came and got me for something disturbing.The very first award winner, before thanking anyone, thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for making the pre-show dinner all-vegetarian to demonstrate how critical climate change is to the world. He also specifically linked animal agriculture to climate change.

More evidence of the American left’s firm belief that man causes climate change and beef production is the worst offender.

Politically, we have heard the two main opposition parties in Canada might try to delay the ratification of the CUSMA treaty, accusing the Liberals of “botching” the treaty revisions (Reuters).

At the end of the negotiations, there were two weeks of very intense sessions among the U.S. Trade Representative; Mexican negotiators, private sector businesses and legislators; Canadian negotiators; and the Working Group, about labour issues and enforcement. The U.S. was eager to please the labour unions and finish the treaty. Perhaps something in those last-minute negotiations displeased the Canadian opposition parties.

U.S. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had appointed a Democratic Working Group (no Republicans allowed) to “improve” the treaty. The working group was subdivided on four issues: drug pricing, labour, environment and enforcement. Labour and enforcement issues could be bothering the opposition.

U.S. labour unions had been asking that U.S. inspectors be able to make unannounced inspections of Mexican factories to check on compliance. Mexico considered that unacceptable.

Details are scarce but the final AFL-CIO official statement said “for the first time, there truly will be enforceable labour standards,” including some process for inspecting factories that are not meeting standards. That process could involve not systematic blanket inspections but investigations and inspections of suspected rule breakers.

The treaty specifies 75 per cent of auto parts to be made in North America and for Mexican workers making 40 per cent of production to be making $15/hour.

R-CALF has lately been busy suing the major packers and getting help from the trial lawyers to sue the beef check-off and USDA.

CEO Bill Bullard has a new target. He claims “importers” “control” sufficient numbers of imported cattle and beef that they influence Congress to block the resurrection of mCOOL.

Bullard has determined that the roughly three billion pounds of beef imported each year by the U.S., plus the feeder cattle imported from Mexico and Canada and the live cattle from Canada account for 6.9 million head. He contends that those “importers” that exercise “dominant control” through those 6.9 million head have “extraordinary influence in both Congress and the administration, enabling them to drown out the voices of U. S. cattle farmers and ranchers.”

In reality, 6.9 million head is minor compared to America’s 32 million beef cows and 33 million head of slaughter cattle.

Bullard seems to envision rascally Mexicans and Canadians loading up trucks and looking for a place over the U.S. border to dump loads of cattle and beef.

Actually, when American feedyards or packers or ground beef purveyors need cattle or beef, they find and buy it, say, in Canada, and bring it to the U.S., under inspection and clearances.

The three billion pounds of beef imported by the U.S. is 11 per cent of the total of 27 billion pounds. The total that upsets Bullard from Mexico and Canada is 778 million pounds, about a fourth of total imports and three per cent of total U.S. beef.

Those “importers” are not a foreign, monolithic evil empire. They are companies operating in America buying the products, not unseen conspirators force-feeding cattle and beef down our throats. The booming ground beef demand in the U.S. simply requires more cull beef and dairy cows than we have.

R-CALF has continually attacked imported beef or cattle, alleging that anything bad in the markets occurs because of the eight or nine per cent of the total fed slaughter that packers procure in Canada. Those cattle are not flooding our market. Some help border packers stay in business. Those packers harvest fed cattle from American feeders in areas with too few American cattle to support a plant. Area feedyards buy feeder cattle from local American producers.

Noteworthy: the number of feeder cattle from Canada going to the States continues to drop, some 70 per cent over a decade, partially because of legal, political and public relations efforts of R-CALF. Its efforts to keep the Canadian border closed over unfounded BSE fears and operational and cost factors caused by R-CALF’s ill-advised mCOOL efforts, triggered Canadian government help to Canada’s beef industry, boosted the packer and feedlot demand for cattle, and fewer feeder cattle now flow from Canada to the U.S.

It is opposition from the majority of U.S. farm and ranch groups, plus mCOOL’s illegality, that have prevented the reinstitution of mCOOL. It is not the “overwhelming influence” or “undue lobbying influence” of beef and cattle “importers” in Washington, D.C.

About the author


Steve Dittmer is the CEO of Agribusiness Freedom Foundation, a non-profit group promoting free market principles throughout the food chain. He can be reached at [email protected]



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