Agribusiness Freedom Foundation  
Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow November 2004 arrow Freedom & the LAG Players and Motivations: Part I
Main Menu
About AFF
Latest Op/Ed Release
Sentinel e-Newsletter
Newsletter Signup
Staff Bios
Make A Contribution
Contact Us
Freedom & the LAG Players and Motivations: Part I PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Vol. 1 Issue 1

Perhaps a good way to consider what's going on in the beef industry involves the word "freedom" in Agribusiness Freedom Foundation (AFF).  Think of it this way: The AFF believes that if a cattleman wants to sell his calves at the local auction market the first Tuesday every November, he should have that freedom, that option.

If he wants to sell them on a video auction in August for November delivery, he should have that option.  If he wants to contract them with the 2,000-head farmer feeder 20 miles away, or the 50,000-head feedyard 150 miles away, he should have those options.  If he wants to run his calves through an alliance where he as a rancher pools ownership of his calves with a stocker-operator, a feedyard, a packer and a retailer, he should have that option.  If he wants to retain ownership of those calves through the feedyard and sell them only live to the packer, he should have that option.  If he wants to sell his retained ownership cattle on contract on a live basis or on the grid on grade and yield to a packer, he should have those options.  If he wants to damn the torpedoes and join with other ranchers or feeders and build a packing plant, he should have that option.  If he wants to start a restaurant or meat market, he should have those options.  That's what freedom, a free market system, is all about.

It has to be obvious to many cattlemen by now that there are people out there who don't want cattlemen to have these options.  Nor do they want packers and retailers to have some of their options.  Rather than a free American agricultural system, they want a new system with their rules and restrictions.  They want people to stay in their pigeonholes and not get involved in other sectors.  They and the government would decide things like:

  • Who would be allowed to own cattle and when
  • How many packers we need in this country
  • How big is too big for a packer
  • How big is too big for a feedyard
  • How big is too big for a retail chain, or should chains be allowed at all
  • How much to restrict beef imports to protect the domestic market price
  • How much export volume and which markets to give up, since restricting imports would cut the number of export trading partners we would have.

Banned would be:

  • Alliances of ranchers, feeders, breed associations, packers and retailers
  • Branded beef
  • Packer/feeder contracts and grids

A group in the drastic minority like R-CALF that wants to see the above kinds of things come to pass has to find some way to get leverage.    One way is to ally with political bedfellows, who incidentally have other wish lists.  These groups make R-CALF's desires look tame.  But if that is what it takes to get their changes achieved, then R-CALF has indicated their willingness to go along to get to their goals.  R-CALF demonstrated that earlier this year, appearing in a joint news conference with long-time industry adversarial activist groups, forming a coalition of Liberal Activist Groups (LAG).  Some of these activist groups envision American agriculture like this:

  • Only "sustainable" agriculture would be permitted.  This means selling only fresh food locally, not out of state and not internationally, using organic methods -- no herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, feed additives or genetically modified plants or animals allowed.
  • USDA and other government agencies would be run by those with no agricultural experience to "bias" their decisions.  Representatives from consumer activist groups, environmental groups, faith-based groups and unions would run USDA.  People who had worked for NCBA or food corporations would be considered unfit for service.
  • Packing companies and retailers would become union shops.
  • Foreign trade would be discouraged, since they see it taking away jobs, especially union jobs, in this country.  The U.S. should just provide increased government aid to poor countries to help their economies, rather than trade with them.  They feel trade with us damages farmers in poor countries.
  • Corporate trading companies should be broken up and government trading agencies created to sell America's agricultural products.  The large food, agricultural, drug and ag chemical companies would be broken up in favor of small non-corporate companies, government marketing agencies and local food coops.
  • Large feedyards - defined as more than 1,000 head - are termed "factory farms" and would be banned as too damaging to the environment and too inhumane for animals.

The above may sound extreme but all of these positions can be documented.  And these are just the beginning.  In the coming weeks, the AFF will explain the players, the alliances and their motivations to change American agriculture so you can decide what makes sense to you.
Next time: the prominent players 

Email your comments to the author


Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
< Previous
designed by