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Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 25 August 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #22

In 30 years of attending cattlemen's meetings, including NCBA and its predecessors, USMEF, state associations and beef councils, I don't ever recall being asked to leave a meeting, unless a personnel matter was to be discussed.

So what is so secret that the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) doesn't want you to know about? You see, the OCM would not allow me to sit in on their membership business session, only their speaker session at this year's annual meeting.

OCM has been closely allied with lawsuits against packers, with legislation to ban contracting of livestock with packers, bans against packer ownership cattle - which would hamper or destroy many branded beef programs and alliances. They've also worked hand-in-glove with R-CALF and LMA on many issues.

In fact, a recent OCM newsletter revealed that OCM has turned over their own checkoff program, the Cattlemen's Competitive Market Project (CCMP), to R-CALF. The CCMP program, we assume, is what R-CALF has in mind in attempting to "reform" the national beef checkoff so that someone who pays into another checkoff - presumably the CCMP - would be exempt from paying the national beef checkoff. They want to divert funds from the existing state beef councils and the Cattlemen's Beef Board.

OCM came out this winter supporting the legislation that would have prohibited cattlemen from contracting livestock to packers. They've opposed packers owning livestock, claiming market manipulation. In fact, their past promotional material has demonstrated hairsplitting only a lawyer could love. They claim not to oppose alliances or branded programs - many of which involve cow-calf operators, feeders, packers and retailers owning cattle together - but oppose cattlemen contracting with "existing packers." Question: How many cattle can you slaughter before you turn into an "existing" packer from a what - virgin packer?

They also oppose free trade and corporate involvement in agriculture, at either the production end or processing end. They support COOL and R- CALF's border closure efforts against Canada. They can't, however, be happy with the results of their packer lawsuit program.

So the directions they're heading can't be too secret. We assume they don't want to tip their strategies in hijacking the 2007 Farm Bill, to use a word they favor. What their political strategy will be, and what congressmen and senators will be involved, may be the cards they want to keep close to the vest. But we've all seen which legislators vote for more restrictions on free enterprise and more government control over the food-production chain. The recent Death Tax votes reminded us again.

They might also not want people to know how much money they receive from left-leaning social activist foundations who do not like mainstream American agriculture.

We'll talk more about OCM's philosophies, tactics and allies in future issues. For now, to tease some of the thought processes revealed at their recent annual meeting, we would pose some questions for you to noodle. Is "food different?" Is food a privilege or a right? Should economics determine farm policy or should social policy drive farm policy?

In any event, the people who routinely charge that collusion, conspiracy and manipulation are the heart of what is "wrong" with mainstream American agriculture certainly don't hold the open membership meetings like the organizations they make fun of do.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 01 September 2006 )
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