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Fiddle-Dee-Dee! I Can't Think About That Right Now. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Saturday, 23 June 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4#20

I'll go crazy if I do. I'll think about that tomorrow. (Scarlett O'Hara Bullard.)

The war of words between R-CALF's Bill Bullard and the American Meat Institute's (AMI) J. Patrick Boyle highlights a huge problem for the beef industry. Bullard is telling everyone to not think about the damage R-CALF's mCOOL would inflict. He's creating diversionary word games, blaming Boyle, who's only preparing packers and cattlemen for the possible cataclysm R-CALF & its LAG* allies hatched.

Congress is expected to take up mCOOL implementation soon. The COOL-Bomb's timer is ticking. Picture Bullard with the bomb in his hands - and pontificating the bomb is just a figment of AMI's imagination -- and you've got the idea.

This episode began when Tim Hammonds, of the major retailer group Food Marketing Institute (FMI), sent a letter to AMI's Boyle outlining what FMI was recommending member retailers would need from packer suppliers to comply with the law. That triggered letters from AMI to packer members and cattlemen's associations.

With the mCOOL debate heating up, billions of dollars and a regulatory nightmare at stake and attorneys and liability insurance brokers circling like sharks, it would be logical to assume FMI and AMI were making shrewd political moves. Retailers don't want mCOOL. Packers don't want mCOOL. Many, many cattlemen don't want mCOOL.

So Bullard, with his sooty, blackened pot hidden under his Stetson, has the unmitigated gall to call the kettle black, accusing AMI of "a purely political ploy." (Shotguns don't have scopes, so Bullard usually can't see farther than the packers.)

But Bullard's accusations are diversions from facts. Calves potentially subject to the mCOOL law's provisions, are in cattlemen's pastures right now. Bullard doesn't want anyone considering this law's implications and pressing their Congressman to deep six it forever. Bullard's advice: don't think about that right now.

Boyle's June 13 letter to cattlemen's associations re-iterated that while AMI still opposes mCOOL, unless Congress takes delaying action, the law will take effect at the retail level Sept. 30, 2008. Boyle also noted that USDA has issued the Proposed Rule and other guidance indicating how "the agency

likely will view the statutory and regulatory obligations" of the beef production chain.

Boyle noted that the "Proposed Rule, if promulgated as a Final Rule," would require packers to either: 1) have country of origin documentation with slaughter cattle at delivery or 2) have "legal access" to such documentation on the cattle. USDA has indicated that "self-certification" regarding cattle origin will not suffice and some retailers have indicated they will not accept it.

Boyle said AMI had recommended to its members - no start date was mentioned - that they would need to require, with each load, verified origin documentation, affidavits regarding the audit trail in place, packer access to verify or audit the tracking system, third party system verification and indemnification of packer liability for inaccurate information from a feeder.

Boyle concluded that under the "current circumstances" the industry must "begin to prepare" for mCOOL.

Bullard cried foul, claiming that no one knows how the law will be implemented "until the final rule is actually written," that it is "inappropriate for AMI to try to force its will upon producers based upon only a presumption of what AMI thinks the requirements will be... " "We simply need to wait..."

In other words, ignore the Proposed Rule, let's not think about the implications of the law on the books because... we don't want you to. Wait until the cattle the law will cover will be nearly a year old when the Final Rule appears.

The disgusting sham is Bullard acting like he doesn't know what's in the law. He's been bragging for years about R-CALF's shining role in putting together the LAG coalition to get mCOOL legislation into the 2002 Farm Bill. R-CALF was instrumental - again -- in what could be an unmitigated disaster for us.

The bottom line: mCOOL would cost the entire chain a huge amount - whether it's $2 billion or much more. That cost will eventually make its way back to those with no one to pass it back to - cow/calf producers. If you doubt trickle down, remember how quickly last fall's rocketing corn prices dictated calf and feeder cattle prices.

Congress would be mandating a huge cost and intentionally creating a liability problem for everyone. Bunches of Congressmen are lawyers, so they may regard this as business development.

We see it as R-CALF ignoring stone cold facts they're responsible for.

"Fiddle-dee-dee. I can't think about that right now."

*Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America, Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, Consumer's Union, Organization for Competitive Marketing, National Farmer's Union, Center for Rural Affairs and others

Last Updated ( Monday, 16 July 2007 )
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