Agribusiness Freedom Foundation  
Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow April 2005 arrow R-CALF's Bullard Misses the Points
Main Menu
About AFF
Latest Op/Ed Release
Sentinel e-Newsletter
Newsletter Signup
Staff Bios
Make A Contribution
Contact Us
R-CALF's Bullard Misses the Points PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Monday, 04 April 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #12

Buzzwords Don't Paper Over Gaps in Facts & Reality

In a guest opinion column in the March 28, 2005 issue of Western Livestock Journal, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard illustrated R-CALF's continuing lack of understanding of the beef industry beyond the ranch gate. And in typical liberal activist group (LAG) style, he hammered their buzzwords over and over, lest us less intelligent folks not get his points.

In a 12-paragraph letter, he used the buzzwords "independent," as in cattleman or business six times, "multi-national packer" four times and "relax," "lower," or "set well below," as in import standards, five times. The idea - as perfected by Washington, D.C. activist-groups - is that if you repeat a buzzword often enough - whether true or not - it will become part of the "conventional wisdom" and enter the lexicon of the media. Bullard evidently continues to use techniques picked up from R-CALF's LAG associates.

As for "independent," R-CALF evidently drums a rancher out of the organization if he/she becomes successful enough to buy another ranching operation. If a cattle feeder becomes successful enough to buy another feedyard, then one must assume he jumps from the already iffy status of a cattle feeder to a definite bad guy. We're not sure whether leasing another ranch or feedyard counts against you or not.

"Multi-national corporation" is a long-time LAG epithet applied to any company that is not strictly a "mom and pop" company. R-CALF just adapted it to packers, making a term for them that is a double negative, "multi-national" and "packer." R-CALF has never suitably explained how the vast U.S. retail and foodservice industry would manage to efficiently assemble the over 20 billion pounds of beef it buys annually from the biggest four packers now. R- CALF wants to replace the four majors with hundreds of small packers - a mind boggling efficiency obstacle for the industry we have today. R-CALF railed in its suit against the USDA about the environmental impact of those semi-trucks hauling cattle in from Canada. Wonder how the EPA would like handling the environmental headaches of 200-300 new packing plants?

As for lowering standards, R-CALF has referenced the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) as the authority on animal health issues. That's fine, as far as it goes. Trouble is, the OIE does not set standards, as R-CALF has claimed. Further, the OIE does not recommend countries ban meat imported - with SRMs removed - from countries with low or high BSE risk, contrary to R-CALF's implication.

In addition, there are no standards recognized for importing meat from minimal- or low-risk BSE countries. The U.S. is trying to set standards as precedent for trade, based on nearly 20 years of science. R-CALF wants trade only with countries who have never had a BSE case. They have not explained how many years they want the rest of the world to sit around and wait until it's okay to trust science and begin trading. Or how they would justify keeping imports out if ever a BSE case was discovered in the U.S. or export again ever.

I also cannot confirm the import figures Bullard quotes in his column. Bullard claims 5 billion pounds of imported beef into the U.S. in 2002, the year he uses. My charts from USDA/ERS and from U.S. Commerce Dept. both show 3.2 billion pounds, a 35- percent lower figure and less than 12 percent of total production. More importantly, for the year, he doesn't mention at all the net beef imports - imports minus exports - was roughly 750 million pounds or just 2.8 percent of the total beef supply.

Of course, for the last two years, that net figure has risen because of the closure of export markets. And no group's work has done more to keep that net figure worse longer than R-CALF. Bullard has stated the U.S. has been doing just fine without exports, so Japan's concern with the U.S. policy toward Canadian cattle and international perception of beef safety must not worry him.

Just as importantly, Bullard said that the U.S. competitive edge in maintaining market share is that it, "holds itself to the highest health and safety standards." I disagree. Consumers buy beef primarily because of the high quality, taste and convenience. Safety and wholesomeness is assumed, a given, the price of admission.

To operate in the belief that consumers' primary buying motivation is not the high quality and convenience of the product is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of marketing - domestically or internationally. Consumers buy quality and benefits. How many consumers buy the model of television they do because they believe it won't shock them when they plug it in? How many select the recliner they do because they think they're less likely to fall off it?

Safety and wholesomeness is a critical, built-in assumption the U.S. must safeguard. That is the reason for the careful methodical evaluation of science and process that has gone on. But beyond the importance of the actual safety is the consumer perception of safety. And R-CALF has been attempting to damage that perception, not protect it, all for the sake of a turf war strategy.

Bullard is correct in his assessment of the United States beef industry as the most successful in the world. But it never got so big and successful by:

  • Continually attacking and denigrating other essential players in that successful beef chain;
  • Publicly assaulting the credibility of U.S. consumers' guarantor of beef safety, the USDA or
  • Attempting to force international trade policy to be conducted on the basis of protectionism and prejudice rather than verified science and policies fostering economic growth.

Email your comments to the author


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