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We Are Not Isolated PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 08 June 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #28

Part of our message here at the AFF has been to remind agriculture - in particular, the beef industry - how much control of our destiny is not in our hands. It really has been true for decades. It's just that today's communications and accelerated pace of change makes understanding outside forces more and more critical to prosperity or even survival. Taking responsibility for affecting our industry's long-term future through political, public relations and philosophical efforts is possible and necessary for agriculture. But adjusting to changing market conditions and consumer cultural and lifestyle changes often must happen even faster to satisfy short-run needs.

Recent national and international news helps to illustrate how much cattlemen in the hinterlands are affected by the same events and attitudes that affect everyone else.

Both the French and the Dutch rejected the proposed EU constitution. Besides the fear of an unknown and more remote governmental bureaucracy, there were other key factors in the French rejection. The proposed constitution guaranteed EU citizens freedom, housing, health care, etc.

My first reaction was, with all their socialist leanings, what could the French find wrong in that? Commentary now suggests that the French felt those guarantees didn't go far enough! This is the country with the 35-hour work week, unemployment that hovers around 10 to 13 percent and superior attitudes that reside in the stratosphere of national indignation.

Our local paper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, regards blogger Andrew Sullivan ( as one of the most "thought provoking" on the web and called his analysis of the French vote, "particularly valuable." Sullivan's analysis only reinforces the gulf between the socialist French and capitalist Americans.

"The reason the French voted against the constitution is primarily because they fear an open market, a global economy and a free economy," Sullivan said. "Yes, this was a protest against the results of the current policies -- economic stagnation. But it was also a vote to intensify the current policies, not reverse them. The vote makes economic reforms harder not easier; and will probably mean even worse times for the euro-area economy."

Sullivan also suggested another reason was anger with Jacques Chirac -- because his government has not been anti-Anglo-American enough.

The Gazette said voters surveyed afterward indicated they were concerned mostly about losing their government-provided benefits. Farmers were put off by the competition the further lowering of trade barriers would bring.

Of the so-called "civilized" French way of life - short workweeks, many weeks of vacation, labor laws making it difficult to fire people and the resulting high unemployment -- columnist George Will commented that in the cold, hard light of day, "civilized" looks like a euphemism for "childish."

No one knows exactly how all this is going to shake out, as the EU had no contingency plan if key countries rejected the constitution.

But from our standpoint, it would appear that the economic powerhouse of a united EU, with a population size comparable to the U.S. and a common economic and political policy, is not going to materialize any time soon. It means that bilateral -- that is country-to-country -- trade pacts will continue to be important to U.S. companies and agriculture. It means the WTO, as the existing trade regulating forum, will continue to be critical to trade. "Euro-socialism" as the Gazette referred to it, will continue but on a country-by-country basis in some arenas.

I guess it also means that while the French look down their noses at us, they don't care much for their European neighbors either. Evidently, the same French trade motto holds for everyone, "Send us your money - don't come to visit."

Recent U.S. national news is also relevant to our situation. People in the beef industry continually ask us why some of these fringe groups are doing what they are doing. The revelation of the identity of Deep Throat, believe it or not, also suggested some insight into our beef industry situation.

To find out that Deep Throat was actually a member of the government -- the Executive Branch, the FBI, the enforcer of laws, no less; was supposed to be loyal to the President; leaked to the liberal media instead of going through channels or to a grand jury; didn't like the prospect of elected officials bringing change to his organization and was peeved because he was passed over for promotion...well, it sounded like the kind of soap opera plot the beef industry finds itself in.

After all, some have suggested some of the R- CALF people are so peeved at NCBA because the majority of cattlemen in NCBA didn't agree with their ideas and approaches and some folks didn't get elected to positions they wanted. The Liberal Activist Groups (LAG) like R-CALF, OCM and WORC have certainly run to liberal activist groups outside the industry and to the general media to leak and accuse and attack consumer confidence in our industry. They have gone to arch enemies of the industry to offer them cowboy credibility and inside information.

As for loyalty, the beef LAG's loyalties are to their own sector only - and their lawyers. They will do whatever it takes to bring down the established order. Dan Rather, speaking of Mark Felt and his leaking government information to the media, spouted the same LAG motto as justification to CNN the beef industry LAG holds to: "Whatever it takes."

Make no mistake. The LAGs within the beef industry hold the exact same philosophy as the national LAGs, use the same tactics and are loyal to themselves, not the overall beef industry. Understand national and international politics and economics and you will better understand the beef industry situation.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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