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Instant Replay & Russian Roulette PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 27 July 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #18

Not satisfied with the damage they have done to the beef production chain in the U.S. and Canada, R- CALF is gunning again.

After winning a preliminary injunction in the Eighth District, R-CALF has lost every step since. Now, they have managed to persuade the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider reopening the whole Canadian border BSE battle. No, this isn't a nightmare. This is 2006 and R-CALF's fishing for the Instant Replay button. R-CALF's appeal brief is due at the Ninth District Court on Sept. 21 and the court has agreed to receive it.

What are the broad issues here? It is whether the government should continue to make treaties and trade policy, as the Constitution specifies. Further, should government handle animal-health regulations? Or should government cede those responsibilities to some other group ? like R-CALF ? or the courts?

The results of the lawsuit to date are: R-CALF made sure the short-term pain (two-plus years) for ranchers, feeders and packers on both sides of the border lasted as long as possible. The whole fiasco financially weakened all parties. It permanently forced packing capacity from the U.S. to Canada and it has fostered a huge fund of private and government market development money for the Canadian beef industry (they already have individual animal ID - no R-CALF there). And we have a legacy of borderline, unreplicated science and horrible quotes for the media to recall.

The bottom line: millions of dollars in lost sales to the entire beef chain, lost efficiencies and millions spent in legal fees - all over roughly four percent of our market net.

R-CALF's supposed goal was defending the little guy, the independent cattleman. Instead, we have:

  • Small, regional packers out of business or weakened financially
  • Fewer packers to buy cattle from feedyards
  • Fewer regional feedyards to buy calves and yearlings from ranchers
  • Fewer cow slaughter operations
  • Large packers operating out of their efficiency range

While the border was closed, R-CALF claimed the closure was the reason cattle prices were higher. Once the border opened, there was no severe dip in prices, despite their $20/cwt. crater predictions. They don't understand supply and demand.

But they did their best to confuse the media, the public and the courts so that they would confuse animal-health issues with food safety non-issues.

The intervention step they downplay is Specified Risk Material (SRM) removal at slaughter as the mechanism for virtually eliminating risk to human health from beef.

R-CALF's actions silver-plattered a bargaining chip to delaying Japanese negotiators. They gave consumer activists like Carol Tucker Foreman and Ralph Nader and their beef industry adversary groups' credibility by appearing on stage with them, disparaging U.S. beef.

This is bad enough. The foundation of the entire beef industry stands on consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef. You can't get any more dangerous than deliberately tampering with that.

Now, they're trying to engage the Instant Replay button!

They're back up strategy is almost as suicidal. They want to use BSE as a lever to inject mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL) into the system. They've again called for immediate implementation of mCOOL to "save" U.S. consumers from Canadian beef.

For R-CALF's strategy to work, here's what they would be doing with mCOOL. For American consumers to run screaming from beef labeled "Product of Canada" ? R-CALF's real goal ? R-CALF and its LAG allies would need to convince American consumers that there was something unsafe about Canadian beef. Quickly, consumers would realize that any of the beef they might have eaten in the past eight years might have been Canadian and "dangerous."

Key to this strategy would be destroying the trust American consumers have in USDA. USDA would have had to be either in on the "conspiracy" or negligent for this to have happened. And R-CALF allies like Public Citizen and Consumer Federation of America already have people working to destroy public confidence in USDA. They would love this opportunity.

The result ? no U.S. beef industry. And this would be an R-CALF victory?

For us, this Instant Replay attempt just looks like Russian Roulette. Only the gun is pointed at us.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 01 September 2006 )
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