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R-CALF Continues Assault on Consumer Confidence and Trade PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#03
Is R-CALF too shortsighted to comprehend how its continued attacks on beef safety and consumer confidence threaten the entire beef industry? Or do they realize the danger and not care, in an emotional decision that the end justifies the means? Is their goal of blocking cattle and beef imports subject to no bounds?

Regardless, the effects are the same: a multi-year legal, political and media campaign to convince everyone that beef-eating may not be safe - regardless of a scientifically-based system designed to protect consumers and the U.S. beef herd.

While R-CALF's initial efforts to block the importation of cattle under 30 months of age were successful - and in doing so cost the entire beef production chain many hundreds of millions of dollars - it could have been worse. While impacts on cattle and beef sales, packing plants and profits for ranchers and feeders ranged from significant to terminal, R-CALF's efforts to trigger a false panic among consumers failed. Consumers mostly ignored the shrill hype. Average citizens are more globally aware than R-CALF. They apparently absorb science better than the alarmist activists and R-CALF. Consumers have remained confident in USDA and American cattlemen - so far.

Long-term, R-CALF failed to manufacture a consumer-driven panic to convince politicians and the courts that Canadian beef was unsafe - and, by extension, American beef, since our beef is inspected, processed and safeguarded under very similar systems. Now, R-CALF has doubled down by betting perhaps its last chips on an injunction against the over-thirty-month (OTM) rule. Typically, in its latest statement, while the shrill tone is unmistakable, its rendition of facts is cloudy.

Dated Jan. 14, the release claims in the second paragraph, enumerating BSE cases, that Canada detected "eight cases since the beginning of last year ... " Funny, we didn't recall hearing about anything approaching eight cases in Canada in 2007. We thought it was three, with the third in December.

Then in the tenth paragraph, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard is quoted about Canada's "highest year so far occurring in 2006, with five cases detected, and the three cases in 2007... " That would mean cases in 2006 and 2007 total eight. Apparently, R- CALF has a hard time coordinating facts and events, as illustrated by its difficulty with the timing of "last year," this year and releasing statements.

Whatever, R-CALF has filed motions in District Court in South Dakota requesting an injunction suspending the importation of cattle under the OTM rule.

R-CALF states, "Older Canadian cattle have been streaming into the U.S. at an annualized rate of between 150,000 and 200,000 head per year." At that rate, Canadian cows might make up around three percent of the total U.S. cow slaughter, hardly the economic threat R-CALF implies. Not only is the number small, the import of those few cows from next- door Canada will mean fewer pounds of lean beef to be bought and shipped from Australia. Remember, there are not enough cull cows from the U.S. to supply the demand for ground beef from American consumers. We import lean beef from countries raising grass-fed beef to mix with our 50/50 fed trim to cover the shortfall. That enables the U.S. to concentrate on producing the most high quality, high- value, grain-fed beef possible.

An amicus brief from packer groups, supporting USDA and opposing R-CALF's motion, noted some facts from a report by John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing, an agricultural economic research firm. Nalivka noted annual U.S. cow slaughter capacity is already down to 6.1 million head, lower substantially than 1997's 8.5 million. Conversely, as a result of extended BSE restrictions, Canadian packing capacity has been updated and expanded. The brief points out that further restriction of cattle movement could add to the list of U.S. plants already closed during the border restrictions of recent years, eliminating more buyers for American cattlemen.

Ironically, the brief noted that further trade restrictions killing off more U.S. packers, could mean American cattlemen eventually having no option but sending cattle to Canada to slaughter.

For now, R-CALF - and its fellow plaintiffs including Consumer Federation of America (Carol Tucker Foreman) and Public Citizen (Ralph Nader) - is pushing for a preliminary injunction stopping the importing of OTM cattle. A hearing could soon be scheduled.

Why does R-CALF continue to align with Liberal Activist Groups (LAG) and spend millions of member dollars to undermine consumer confidence in beef?

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Last Updated ( Monday, 18 February 2008 )
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