In this file:
· Commentary: Identity Theft: How #FairCattleMarkets Was Hijacked
· NCBA Exposes Relationship of OCM and HSUS
· In Nebraska, cattle ranchers rally against big agribusiness
Commentary: Identity Theft: How #FairCattleMarkets Was Hijacked
Kate Miller And Kim Hardan, Opinion, Drovers
October 3, 2019
Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Kate Miller and Kim Hardan, and do not necessarily represent the views of Drovers or Farm Journal. Miller, is a third-generation rancher, a tenured meat sales professional and has a background in trade development. Hardan grew up on a livestock operation in Washington and completed an Animal Science degree at Texas A&M University. For the last ten years, she has been a successful protein salesman in food service in the Texas market.
The Organization for Competitive Markets hosted a rally and meeting to ‘Stop the Stealin’! in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. This event created a social media firestorm, with enthusiastic producers from multiple states heading to the event. The immensely popular #FairCattleMarkets campaign by the Western Ag Reporter was originally started to draw the industry together and create momentum towards initiating simple changes to improve the marketplace for all cattlemen.
According to a source from within the Western Ag Journal, they were not a sponsor of the rally in Omaha and no members of their staff attended as participants. So how did their hard-won brand equity and grassroots campaign become the centerpiece slogan for a fringe association rally?
Following the announcement of the itinerary for the Omaha gathering, some troubling patterns emerged. If this is meant to be a rally for independent producers and feedlots in the heart of Trump- supporting farm country, perhaps we should better understand a few of the sponsoring and participating voices.
Who is the Organization for Competitive Markets?
The Organization for Competitive Markets was founded in 1998 to address the growing inequities between family farmers and agribusiness in the food sector, according to their website. OCM has been involved in a multi-year battle to reform the Beef Checkoff program. According to their own website, OCM began accepting pro bono legal services provided for by the Humane Society of the United States. Searching through HSUS 990 disclosures revealed the involvement of the Humane Society predates the legal services, as HSUS awarded OCM $20,750 in 2012 for a conference sponsorship.
The Humane Society of the United States has long been a front-running voice in ending meat consumption and agribusiness in the United States. Their own website lists Eating Humanely as one of their top fights, inspiring people to consume less meat by promoting a meatless diet as a healthier, more sustainable, less expensive and more humane dietary choice.
OCM’s co-founder and board member, Mike Callicrate, has deep ties with the organization. He is a member of the Humane Society of the United States Agriculture Advisory Board, the Humane Society of Colorado Agriculture Advisory Board and on his personal website he list HSUS in his Alliances with Food and Water Watch, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and my personal favorite: Fix Food--- a group that wrote a scathing dissent on the Dodge Ram Super Bowl Commercial, fear mongers about ‘super bugs’ caused by antibiotic use in agriculture and is apparently anti GMO’s.
The Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets is Joe Maxwell, the former Vice President of Outreach and Engagement for the Humane Society of the United States and the self-pro-claimed defeater of Oklahoma’s Right to Farm Bill.
Angela Huffman, OCM’s Communications and Research Director, was the Market Development Coordinator for Rural Development and Outreach for the Humane Society of the United States.
Callicrate, OCM and SRAP vs Missouri Family Farmer
With the heavy-hitting line up of HSUS advocates at the helm, what does the Organization for Competitive Markets stand for? Their ‘About Us’ Section details a noble endeavor: “OCM was founded on the premise that independent farmers and ranchers must ultimately survive and prosper by receiving fair and adequate compensation for their products through the marketplace.”
But mounting evidence shows allegiance with organizations, aside from HSUS, who have fingerprints on putting those very independent ranchers out of business. As evidenced by the case of Valley Oaks Steak Company.
Valley Oaks Steak Company, a third generation family owned beef operation in Missouri, was forced to immediately close their facility after announcing plans to expand. The feedlot operation had filed a proposal to move from 999 head to 6,999 operational capacity, and then was viciously attacked from special interest groups—including having cattle shot. Valley Oaks was an organization that sought to do things the right way, as a local family owned venture they were attempting to reinvest their local dollars back into their community to add jobs and a local market choice for Kansas City area residents.
Valley Oaks sold Angus bulls to local ranchers and purchased calves back as part of a buy-back program. The cattle were fed and processed in Lone Jack, Missouri, and sold online, in retail outlets and marketed as a farm-to-table option for Kansas City restaurants.
Yet after the expansion petition was filed a local chapter of the SRAP organization was formed: the Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Agriculture. According to a press release, Terry Spence, the Executive Director of SRAP and Missouri native, was credited with the decision to involve Powell Gardens for additional funding and to garner public support to fight the expansion.
SRAP and LJNRA are outspoken in its fight against Concentrated Animal Feeding Units or CAFO’s, the distinctive and prejudicial title is applied without discrimination to all feedlot operations—as they remove animals from their ‘natural habitat’ into a concentrated confinement area. SRAP has deep ties with leading anti-agriculture associations such as the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States, as many of their board members and staff have been awarded achievement awards for their services from these organizations.
But how is the failure of a third-generation family ranching operation’s intent to expand into a regional packer connected to the Organization for Competitive Markets? In theory this operation would be an ideal representation of a family-owned feeding and packing company that could have provided Missouri and Kansas cattlemen an opportunity to market cattle outside the alleged monopoly conditions that OCM claims exist.
The mounting list of evidence ...
Family Farm Action ...
Wrapping This Up ...
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NCBA Exposes Relationship of OCM and HSUS
Ethan Lane, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs
via Tri-State Livestock News - October 3, 2019
WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2017) – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs, Ethan Lane, today released the following statement in response to a Nebraska rally demanding government intervention to alleviate price disparities impacting cattle markets:
“Yesterday, an HSUS-funded organization called the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) held a rally in Omaha, Nebraska entitled the “Rally to Stop the Stealin’ (sic)”. According to OCM, this event was intended to place pressure on the Trump Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to “fix” our cattle markets in response to the price disparity producers are currently having to endure.
“First and foremost, I think it’s important to make clear – once again – that these producers have every right to be angry. Down markets are horrible, and can leave a wake of financial and operational hardships that can persist for years after the boards in Chicago have moved on. Our stance remains consistent: NCBA is committed to the USDA’s investigation into the events surrounding the Holcomb plant fire and stand ready to respond to the results of that investigation to ensure that our members – 95 percent of which are boot-on-the-ground producers – have a fair market in which to thrive. Unfortunately, this continues to be the focus of much of HSUS and OCM’s misinformation and deception campaign. What’s worse, they’ve found willing allies in the leadership of both the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and R-CALF.
“It’s no secret that our industry is divided at the moment. I’ll be the first to stand up and say that a healthy debate about the future of our industry is appropriate as we see tremendous advances in technology, production practices, conservation, quality, and markets. However, these discussions need to be amongst those who love, work, and make their living in this industry. Regardless of our positions, we must stand together against the onslaught of detractors and dividers that do not care about our internal struggles. These outside forces want to end animal agriculture – full stop. Chief among them HSUS, and anyone who watched yesterday’s rally witnessed that point illustrated in high definition.
“These people have told us who they are. In 2012, OCM President Fred Stokes told a crowd that “…every cowboy out there owes a debt of gratitude to the Humane Society of the United States.” Further, on their website, OCM argues passionately on behalf of HSUS’s work to end our industry. Finally, OCM’s executive director is a well know and unapologetic HSUS operative, as outlined by Protect the Harvest several years ago...
In Nebraska, cattle ranchers rally against big agribusiness
Charlie Mitchell, New Food Economy
Oct 3, 2019
On Wednesday, 500 ranchers, cowboys, and feedlot owners from around the country filled the ballroom of the Ramada Inn in Omaha, Nebraska, for a “Rally To Stop the Stealin’”—an event that amounted to a fiery protest against corporate consolidation in agriculture. Hosted by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), a nonprofit group that lobbies for antitrust reform, and sponsored by nearly two dozen other farm advocacy groups, the rally had two linked goals: To publicize the groups’ view that agribusiness monopolies have brought U.S. ranchers to the verge of extinction, and to beg President Donald Trump to intervene.
Participants joined together to call for six demands from Trump and his agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue—measures they say would immediately improve market conditions and benefit ranchers, without requiring action from Congress. These demands, organized under two of the president’s sub-themes, “Buy American” and “Drain the Swamp of Corporate Monopoly Power,” included the restoration of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws, and the closure of a loophole that allows foreign meat to be labeled “Product of U.S.A.” Other demands included stronger enforcement of producer protection safeguards, as well as reinstating the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), a now-shuttered government agency responsible for antitrust enforcement in the meatpacking industry.
To hear participants tell it, U.S. cattle ranching is in a state of national emergency. Four beef packers control over 80 percent of the domestic beef market. That power, some critics say, allows them to engage in predatory and unfair pricing practices that have driven down the number of independent cattle ranchers at a rate of 17,000 per year—a loss of about 40 percent since the 1980s. Today, just over 700,000 remain, though they make an average of 90 percent of their income off the farm. But even in this context, 2019 has been an especially rough year.
In August, a major Tyson Foods plant in Holcomb, Kansas caught fire, limiting the region’s slaughter capacity, and leaving many ranchers desperate to sell their animals. The incident capped off several years of declining prices and producer losses, and resulting financial woes have provoked a new, somewhat more existential fear: According to Secretary Perdue, the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] is currently investigating whether the Holcomb fire betrayed any “evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices.” Then, shortly before the rally began, Perdue, the event’s ostensible savior, became the subject of its ire. On Monday, speaking at a Wisconsin dairy, he suggested that farmers should “get bigger” or “go out,” a remark some of those present construed as a lack of support for family farmers. By the time the “Rally to Stop the Stealin’” started, some groups in attendance were already calling for his firing.
While the ballroom was packed and the rally’s attendance surpassed the expectations of the organizers, the crowd—many dressed in cowboy hats, plaid, and denim—was placid. Attendees watched while leaders of the organizations spoke at length, recounting the intricacies of the alleged market manipulation, abuse of “checkoff program” dollars, and denouncement of Secretary Perdue’s dismissive comments from the previous days, with much mention of an insensitive joke he made about farmers late this summer.
The secretary was addressed directly by OCM board member David Wright. “You need to get out of bed with the folks you are supposed to regulate—the packers—and get back on the side you’re supposed to support,” he said, “or your boss should say those famous words: ‘You’re fired.’” Even that pointed remark failed to illicit a loud response from those gathered. Several speakers tried to rouse the crowd, noting the muted atmosphere of an event convened to “raise hell.” One suggested:
“If you wanna say, ‘yeah,’ or ‘hell yeah . . .’ We’re at a rally, aren’t we?”
Organizers trained farmers to use the hashtag #FairCattleMarkets in an effort to flood the president’s Twitter feed, hoping to communicate with him directly via his platform of choice. Despite anger at Perdue’s comments and the administration in general, the ranchers and feeders present seemed to hold firm on their loyalty to President Trump. “We’re not here to cuss Trump, are we?” asked Corbitt Wall, a cattle market analyst and internet personality. “I’m not or I wouldn’t have showed up.” Wall credited the president for the fact that beef exports have recently risen. “He’s trying to get something done. He can’t do it all,” Wall said. “We’re looking for government intervention here. How sad is that?”
During Wall’s talk, which lasted about 45 minutes, his loyalty to the president came into even sharper relief during a brief digression that included insensitive comments bordering on racist and transphobic. Those few short minutes grabbed more attention than any speech the entire afternoon. Wall likened the logo of Beyond Meat, the alternative protein company, to “a steer head dressed in drag,” and suggested that the people of China need to eat more U.S. beef to grow above shoulder height and “win at the Olympics at something that’s not ping-pong.”
He also insulted a prominent U.S. congresswoman...
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