In this file:
· In Nebraska, cattle ranchers rally against big agribusiness
· OCM Pressuring Administration And Congress To Fix Markets And Replace Ag Secretary
· NCBA Exposes Relationship of OCM and HSUS
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...
more, including links, tweets
OCM Pressuring Administration And Congress To Fix Markets And Replace Ag Secretary
Radio 570 WNAX (SD)
Oct 4, 2019
A group of around 400 farmers and ranchers rallied in Omaha this week to voice concern about the low prices paid to cattle producers while packers enjoy higher prices. Organization for Competitive Markets Executive Director Joe Maxwell says the rally goers and his group don’t feel the Ag Secretary is backing policies to help them. He says their next step is to rally support at the states and outline their concerns to the President and Congress.
He says the Ag Secretary needs to go because he’s failing America’s farmers and ranchers.
Maxwell says it’s time for the Ag Secretary to be replaced. He also says the President doesn’t likely understand what’s happening with either the Ag Secretary or the economic stress cattle producers are under.
Maxwell says it’s imperative that Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling be reinstated...
more, including audio [1:23 min.]
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...