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The Covert, Deep Threat of mCOOL PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4#21

It has appeared that R-CALF operates on three agenda levels: 1) What leadership tells the media are the reasons for their actions; 2) What they and the members agree are the real reasons for their actions and 3) The deep goals only the leadership knows about and most members haven't fathomed.

The revelations on confirmed this not only for policy but operational areas like membership and finances. Members were astounded to find out what leadership was really up to.

So it appears with mCOOL. The stated goal of R-CALF is to help and protect the consumer i.e. the consumer's "right to know." The real goal is to keep out imported cattle and meat.

But we have pondered for some time what may be R-CALF's deep, covert goal with mCOOL - to make importing beef or cattle so onerous and so expensive that most packers will give it up as not worth it. R- CALF brooks no opposition nor sees any risk too great to shut the borders. The Canadian-BSE case -- R-CALF risking consumer confidence in beef and costing the beef industry markets and plants and millions of dollars -- proved that. That debacle is not over. Should R-CALF and its LAG* allies succeed in getting Congress to allow implementation of mCOOL, packers will be in a gigantic quandary.

Will it be worth overhauling slaughter schedules, rail and cooler configurations, processing lines and tracking and labeling systems just to handle a few percentage points worth of Canadian cattle? What about a million or so Mexican feeder cattle, about four percent of domestic supply? We wonder if most packers will skip it with most, if not all, of their plants. Feedyards could only have a few plants they could sell Canadian cattle to. Southern feedyards might only have a major plant or two that would accept Mexican cattle. That would damage supply options and marketing opportunities for stocker/feeder operators and feedyards. The result would be fewer border region packers, fewer feedyards in those regions and fewer buyers and auction markets for cow/calf operators.

That's bad enough. Consider exports. In recent years, Mexico and Canada have been our number one and number two importers of U.S. beef, respectively. Think they'll be happy about the severe price drop or volume cuts or perhaps elimination of our imports of their cattle or beef? The repercussions could be fast and furious.

Diplomatic trade missions would be dispatched pronto, international trade formal complaints to the WTO could follow and formal and informal trade retaliation could follow. After stepping in and trading with us while Japan and South Korea fiddled, our two best partners would be slapped in the face. Canada and Mexico are among our top oil suppliers. Would there be repercussions?

What about Japan and South Korea? After an excruciating four-years-and-counting struggle to get them to trade on a fair and scientific basis, to work with us as stable and rational trading partners, how would they react to such protectionist, irrational behavior? It would give Japan especially a perfect excuse to waffle and backslide. There is a small amount of Japanese beef we import that would provide the perfect trigger.

So, the entire structure of our painstaking rebuilding of export markets, worth billions of dollars, could be trashed. And this considers just cattle and fresh beef. The frozen lean beef we need to satisfy ground beef demand that has outstripped our production capability, is another whole can of worms. Due to labeling problems, we would guess most all imported lean would end up in the foodservice channel where there is no labeling requirement. That is until the do-gooders target fast food mCOOL.

Of course, this would all advance the aims of R-CALF and the LAG. R-CALF has made it plain only the domestic market interests them. They want no competition from imported fresh beef and cattle, inconsequential as it is for producers. They have no use for exports. They profess fear of "safety" of imported products. Some LAG allies share imported food phobia, whether it's produce from Chile or meat from Canada or Australia. This while consumers snap up cheese, produce, seafood, lamb, wine and spices from around the world. Some of them, like Public Citizen, have direct ties to labor unions who vehemently oppose all trade.

These are just some potential consequences of mCOOL implementation to ponder. This would be a catastrophic protectionist disruption that would do nothing for beef quality or food safety for U.S. consumers.

*Liberal Activist Groups like 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

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Last Updated ( Monday, 16 July 2007 )
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