R-CALF USA 21st Annual Convention speakers on YouTube
Covid convention does not disappoint boasting powerhouse lineup displaying unfaltering and fervent loyalty in attendance
DEADWOOD, S.D. — R-CALF USA hosted its 21st Annual Convention in Deadwood, S.D., on Aug. 19-21, 2020. The convention proclaims success boasting approximately 400 attendees from over 24 states and remaining powerfully steady in the light of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Several hundred additional guests viewed the convention through online streaming, sending its message throughout cattle county as never before.
The organization’s leadership expressed encouragement in producer awareness and engagement noting that there were many first-time attendees. The attendance of the convention pays tribute to the organization’s efforts to support cattlemen in the face of an artificially suppressed cattle market; which, the organization alleges is a result of manipulation in the marketplace by the industry’s “Big 4” beef packers (Tyson Foods, Inc., JBS S.A., Cargill, Inc., and National Beef Packing Company, LLC). The convention comes on the tail of the market malady spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, beef became scarce on store shelves as packers cut production causing a monumental disruption in the beef supply chain. Cattle prices plummeted while beef prices; and packer margins, experienced all-time highs supporting the organization’s allegations.
First-time attendees, Brad and Lori Kraft from Billings, Mont., offhandedly noted that “we were exhausted, and it wasn’t from gambling! We planned on touring Deadwood, but we just didn’t leave the convention.” According to the Krafts, “The quality of the convention was simply that good.” Brad asserts that in this industry “you are buried in your work, but you have to make the time to attend a convention like this. This is your livelihood — Take Care of It!” Lori continued their exuberance noting that “R-CALF USA has an amazing board, and it seems that their influence is growing. It’s good to have R-CALF USA doing this work in our industry!”
According to Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA CEO, the “turnout and participation demonstrated awareness that if we are to shape the cattle industry in the way that we want — the time is now!” When speaking of the organization’s vision, with forthright bold assurance, Bullard notes that “Never in our lifetimes have we been witness to such an acute focus on the weaknesses of our industry. This is the starting point for achieving meaningful change!”
The following speakers addressed the convention, and their presentations can be viewed on YouTube as per the links below.
“The Dangers of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef” — Tracy Hunt, rancher and attorney from Wyoming, kicked off the convention with an in-depth and provoking presentation on the true motive behind the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Hunt’s presentation walked listeners through “the smoke-filled room” — the identity and mission of the GRSB — which, according to Hunt, is a platform to facilitate collusion against beef producers and consumers. Hunt explained that the end game of the GRSB is full vertical integration of the beef industry (as has occurred in the chicken and pork industries). Radio frequency identification (RFID) traceability is the cloaked guise under which this will occur. Hunt goes on to explain that “they” only need two things to start running your ranch: 1) Market concentration and collusion; and 2) Mandatory, full chain, RFID traceability. According to Hunt, mandatory RFID will result in premises registration, recorded cattle movements, unnecessary social and environmental regulations, and third-party compliance verification. Over time, as producers accept these changes as normal, market access will be linked to a compliance certificate. Suddenly the reality becomes clear — “No Compliance Certificate” will equate to “No Market Access.” Further, feedlots will be unable to buy your product because they will be unable to sell it to the packers.
Most interesting may be the forces that are behind the GRSB. GRSB membership is primarily comprised of three segments: 1) “Big Beef” or the beef cartel (the packers consisting of Cargill, Tyson, JBS and Marfrig; who combined control 85% of the fed cattle killed in the U.S.); 2) “Radical Environmentalism” (primarily the World Wildlife Fund – WWF); and 3) “Global Government” (United Nations).
In his presentation, Hunt highlights Jason Clay with the WWF. Among other claims, Clay asserts that “Agriculture has the largest (negative) impact on the world than any other human activity.” He closes interjecting that “Agriculture is the largest threat.” Clay asserts that agriculture’s infractions include deforestation, water usage, production of greenhouse gasses, pollution, and chemical usage. Clay says that, “One of our strategies has always been to take choices away from consumers. Basically, our point is that consumers shouldn’t have a choice about sustainability. We make that happen by getting companies to collude around sustainability” and by getting “companies to only buy sustainable raw materials.” “We need to rehabilitate degraded and underperforming land and take pressure off of natural habitat. You start measuring what matters and you start requiring a third-party verification of that measurement. Once we start measuring stuff, we start managing it.”
Hunt closes the circle as he explains the United Nations is the “Global Government” component of GRSB. The UN organization that governs these issues is the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, which is a member of the GRSB. Hunt notes that while the UN pretends to be an advocate of the livestock industry, several years ago they published a document called “Livestock’s Long Shadow — Environmental Issues and Opinions.” Hunt continues, the document “explains how folks like you — and how eating meat is ruining the planet.” He points out the contradictory nature of the UN’s messages. While the GRSB purports that they are attempting to sell more beef in a responsible way, the UN, which is clearly driving the GRSB’s objectives, is clear on its position related to beef as it has not recanted or retracted any part of “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” Furthermore, the UN has recently rolled out “Act Now,” which is its new climate action campaign that advocates eating less meat in exchange for more plant-based meals.
FMD AND BRAZIL
“Foot-and-Mouth Disease Fact-Finding Trip to Brazil” – R-CALF USA Region VII Director (Minn., Iowa, Wis.) Eric Nelson of Moville, Iowa, traveled to the heart of Brazilian cattle country to learn about the risk presented by imported Brazilian beef products; specifically, in regard to foot-and-mouth disease. Nelson left Brazil with two profound conclusions.
Brazil’s agricultural economy is booming. Brazil currently has approximately 232 million cattle in comparison to the 103 million in the United States. He asserts that “Brazil will never import beef from anyone,” but they are fierce competitors in the export market.
According to Nelson, FMD is one of the most serious livestock diseases and presents itself in a highly contagious viral form. Vaccine can protect against the disease but does not necessarily prevent it. Nelson explains that “Brazil is a rugged country with few roads, unrecognizable borders and poor law enforcement infrastructure.” Bribery is a problematic commonality in the country. According to Nelson, “There is no way they (the Brazilians) will sequester FMD.”
“Halting Government Overreach – R-CALF USA’s Mandatory RFID Lawsuit” — Harriet Hageman, senior litigation counsel, New Civil Liberties Alliance, described as compelling and dynamic, says this of the proponents of mandatory RFID: “Our enemies are in this for the long haul; they play for the long game.”
Hageman, whose father ranched in Fort Laramie, Wyo., and whose great-grandfather ranched in Texas in 1879, understands the plight of the American rancher. She has been a practicing attorney for over 31 years; and, for the past 20 years, has dedicated her life to going into battle with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Corps of Engineers and a variety of other state agencies. A few years ago she decided to dedicate her career to the public policy arena. She expresses pride as she explains that she fights for people who may not have been able to afford her in her private practice years.
Hageman explains to producers the broad ramification of mandatory RFID. “Radical environmentalism is now being visited upon you. That is what RFID is about.” Hageman holds nothing back, “it is one of the more dangerous things I’ve seen. It exposes an entire industry to complete and total control by the USDA; and, by the people making decisions — trans-national corporations, including packing plants.”
Hageman explains the evolution of the mandatory RFID timeline beginning with the widely disputed 2011 Notice of Rule Making, the 2013 Rule Making, and the 2019 Fact Sheet. She explains how the two-page Fact Sheet was a backdoor approach as it was quietly posted on the USDA website. According to Hageman, the Fact Sheet was illegal and subsequently challenged by R-CALF USA when they hired Hageman’s firm in October of 2019. The Fact Sheet was then immediately withdrawn from the USDA website. The USDA promptly filed a motion to dismiss the suit filed by R-CALF USA. The case was dismissed in federal court in Cheyenne, Wyo.; however, Hageman notes that there was “some good verbiage in the ruling” that will require the issue to go back to the rule-making process.
“Panel — How Producers Can Help to Educate Consumers” — A diverse and unique panel gathered to field questions from the R-CALF USA convention audience. The conversation was focused on “How Producers Can Educate Consumers.”
Unable to travel to South Dakota, Steve Drake joined the panel electronically explaining his current “work of passion.” Drake runs a consulting business that targets political and business initiatives alike. When Drake offhandedly learned of the plight of the American cattle producer, he rose to action by initiating a “Kickstart Campaign” that eventually became a documentary explaining the trials of the cattle ranching industry.
Liz Marty May is a rancher from southwest South Dakota. The May family owns and operates a four-generation ranch; and May brings unique perspective as the family also owns the grocery store in Kyle, S.D. May has also served in the state legislature for six years, making her perspectives wide, deep and thorough.
Mike Galloway is a former radio and TV host who was not born into the life of cattle production. Mike and his wife Erin left their careers on sabbatical in order to assist extended family when an unexpected illness required their assistance. With the help of a book called “Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies,” the Galloways were cast into the throes of beef production. With roots in the communication/tech industry, the couple began producing YouTube videos that eventually resulted in their channel called “Our Wyoming Life.” The show currently has 180,000 subscribers.
Brett Kenzy is a long time R-CALF USA member; and serves as the R-CALF USA Region III Director. Kenzy, along with his family, ranches in south central South Dakota on a four-generation operation.
The panel discussion is driven by questions presented by the audience bringing a diverse and lively interaction.
“The Fed Cattle Cartel — R-CALF USA’s Antitrust Lawsuit Update” — Patrick McGahan, senior associate with Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law, LLP, represents R-CALF USA as prosecuting attorney in the fed cattle cartel litigation. The firm resides in Connecticut, New York, San Diego, Amsterdam and London focusing on antitrust litigation.
Previously, McGahan identified the allegations contained in the complaint against the “Big 4” beef packers as:
“Defendants worked together to depress fed cattle prices from 2015 onwards
Collusion encompassed five key elements
Periodic slaughter reductions
Reduction in cash cattle purchases during periods of slaughter restraint
Coordination of defendant’s cash cattle procurement
Importation of foreign cattle at a loss
Shuttering slaughter capacity
Depression of fed cattle prices impacted cattle futures/options.”
McGahan continued by offering the following updates:
Antitrust Litigation Update — The case filed by R-CALF USA against the “Big 4” is currently awaiting a judge’s ruling on a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants (packers). Following a ruling in R-CALF USA’s favor, the process will move toward fact discovery and eventually trial, which could be up to two years away. McGahan prepares producers explaining that “these things take time,” and that “regulators move very deliberately.”
Government Investigations — According to McGahan, the industry has received unprecedented attention. McGahan provided updates on several governmental investigations associated with the cattle market:
The USDA issued its Preliminary Report in mid-2020. The Preliminary Report is essentially a factual description of price movement. The second portion of the report will detail whether or not the USDA believes that there were violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division is proceeding in an antitrust probe. Most recently, Cargill, Marfrig, JBS and Tyson have received subpoenas related to the investigation. Just as the beef investigation takes shape, indictments have been issued in the broiler chicken industry for price fixing and conspiracy. McGahan explains that Tyson has stepped forward as an “immunity applicant,” essentially admitting to involvement in anti-competitive conduct in exchange for immunity and relief of related criminal fines. Part of that agreement, however, is that they must be forthcoming with information that may be pertinent to other relevant cases, such as the beef investigation.
“Balancing U.S. Trade and Protecting Sovereignty to Create Jobs, Growth and Prosperity” — Michael Stumo, Chief Executive Officer, Coalition for a Prosperous America presented an informative and educational discussion regarding the position of the United States in national trade. Stumo’s key assertion is that trade is a competition. “We are in a global competition for goods, jobs, and industry.” He offhandedly notes that while the majority of the world is acutely aware of this reality, the United States seems to hold a posture of ‘partnering’ as opposed to competing. He adds, “We are not free traders because it results in cheap consumption, no jobs and little income.”
Stumo addresses issues key to the CPA: trade enforcement to fix trade cheating; tariffs to grow industry sectors; exchange rates to fix the trade deficit; industry strategy to grow manufacturing and agricultural supply chains; “Buy American” labeling and government procurement; and tax strategy.
He asserts that the key to our national trade woes is rooted in the overvalued dollar and explains why upstream products (cattle) have very little or no relation to downstream consumer prices (beef).
“The History of the Checkoff” – David Wright, OCM director, is a fourth-generation cow/calf producer who ranches in Holt County, Nebraska. Wright speaks as an expert on the Beef Checkoff after serving eight years on the Nebraska Beef Council, and six years on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
In his slide-show presentation, he leads listeners through the eventuality of the current Beef Checkoff system. According to Wright, industry discord resulted in the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. Wright winds through time until January 1996 when the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was formed upon the merging of the National Live Stock and Meat Board with National Cattlemen’s Association. The Beef Industry Council essentially became the Federation of State Beef Councils.
According to Wright, the Federation of State Beef Councils is essentially the “pay to play” monetary arm of the NCBA. State Beef Councils must pay to have seats on the federation. For instance, Wright’s state of Nebraska, had seven seats during his tenure. The first three seats cost the Nebraska Beef Council $35,000 each; the next three seats cost $500,000 each; and the last seat was free since the state had paid over $1 million for representation.
As State Beef Councils receive checkoff dollars; they forward a determined percentage to the CBB, which is a board appointed by the secretary of agriculture based on state cattle numbers. The CBB oversees the national Beef Checkoff Program. They appoint 10 members to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee as does the federation. In turn, the committee awards contracts, which is essentially an allocation of checkoff dollars. According to Wright, the federation essentially operates as the “checkbook” for the NCBA. In circuitous fashion, the committee awards contracts back to the federation for NCBA utilization. Wright’s presentation candidly points out that “70% of the NCBA budget is checkoff dollars; in 2008 that equated to $37 million.
This must-see presentation clarifies the conflict of interest associated with checkoff dollars, and the flagrant misuse of cattlemen’s dollars.
MANUFACTURING AND BEEF
“The Impact of Globalization on U.S. Manufacturing and What Can Be Done” — Zach Mottl, chief alignment officer and owner, Atlas Tool Works, drew parallels between the manufacturing sector and the beef industry as he told his company’s tale of globalization. Mottl cautions consumers about utilizing cost as the only driver of purchase decisions. In candid fashion, he asserts that if cost is the only determination, companies like Boeing will soon be victim to China’s low pricing strategies. Because the Communist Party subsidizes industry, the necessity of profitability does not exist.
In closing, Mottl makes several key assertions. Mottl believes that the tariffs implemented by the current administration have been highly effective, especially in the steel and aluminum sectors, and in reducing our dependence on China. Since 2017, the manufacturing sector has added 510,000 jobs. Mottl believes that, “Dollar overvaluation remains our most serious problem on trade and the trade deficit; and, that restricting foreign capital inflows could realign the U.S. dollar to a competitive level.” He asserts that, “Dollar realignment, industrial strategy, and more aggressive action against China could boost U.S. manufacturing.”
Mottl believes that the plight of the beef industry aligns very congruently with that of U.S. manufacturing.
“The Unconstitutional Checkoff — R-CALF USA’s Checkoff Lawsuit Update” — David Muraskin, food project senior attorney at Public Justice provided an update regarding R-CALF USA’s beef checkoff lawsuit.
Muraskin initiated the conversation with an assertion that the Beef Checkoff is essentially “a transfer of wealth from individual producers to major corporations.” He continues, “The checkoff is being used not to promote the advancement of beef; or particularly, American beef, but being used to endow companies who have no commitment to the American rancher to advertise their products as they see fit.” Muraskin references a scenario in which the Montana Beef Council was paying for Wendy’s advertisements; essentially taking money from producers to pay for advertising for companies with major marketing budgets.
Muraskin condenses the technicalities explaining that the core of the lawsuit lies upon the differences between freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and “government speech.” The lawsuit asserts that the checkoff is essentially a violation of First Amendment rights through forced association and the fact that producers are essentially being forced to pay for ‘private speech.’ The argument is contrasted with an assertion that the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Beef Promotion Operating Committee are being controlled so extensively by the government, that their message is essentially “government speech;” and, therefore exempt from First Amendment protections.
Muraskin maintains that the Beef Checkoff is a corrupt program as the funding is not properly utilized, thus violating First Amendment rights; and, that the program does not benefit those paying the imposed checkoff as it should.
“Panel — How Livestock Markets Are Fighting to Preserve Their Industry” — R-CALF USA welcomes a panel of sale barn operators who field a fierce and fiery “question/answer” conversation about their fight for the cattle industry. Each of the panelists are avid R-CALF USA supporters. In candid and straight-shooting fashion, one panelist notes that “our business ceases to exist without the rancher.”
The power and passion packed panel is comprised of Steve Stratford from Pratt Livestock (Kan.), Jon Schaben from Dunlap Livestock Auction (Iowa), and Bryan Hanson from Ft. Pierre Livestock (S.D.).
The panel provides a bird’s eye view of our multifaceted industry. In an hour-long conversation, the panel addresses a mere three questions; but, the answers and conversation divert into a wide variety of topics. The conversation likens the cattle market to a football game; but, a game in which the playbook has been purchased — along with the referees. With passion and concern, the panelists discuss the viability of young ranchers taking on interest-loaded debt while operating within constraints of the current market and associated margins. Throughout the conversation, buzz words such as market discovery, collusion, antitrust, retaliation, farmer feeders, baby boomers, off the farm income, demand, competition, algorithms, traders, Chicago Mercantile Exchange expanded limits, monopoly, NCBA and RFID are addressed by three polished gentlemen who are undoubtedly well acquainted with dirty boots.
“Panel – Young Ranchers” — A panel of four young R-CALF USA member ranchers gathered to field questions relevant to their generation. The panel was comprised of Jaiden Moreland (Texas), Nicole Pfrang (Kan.), Marisol Tarango (Fla.), and George Wishon (Wash.). Moreland and Tarango served as R-CALF USA’s 2020 interns and Wishon serves as R-CALF USA’s director for Region 1.
The panel discussed issues such as the bias of the packing industry’s narrative on college campuses, the impact of social media on the agricultural industry, how generational status plays a role on youth’s ideology, and how to engage youth in today’s agricultural issues.
“USDA’s Proposed Rule Under the Packers and Stockyards Act” — Rohit Chopra, United States Federal Trade Commissioner, initiated his discussion with a quote that he had read in a report. The report described how a small set of companies had “attained such a dominant position that they controlled, at will, the market in which they buy their supplies; in which they sell their products; and, hold the fortunes of their competitors in their hands.” The quote was issued over 100 years ago in 1918 by the Commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission. Chopra was quick to liken this 1918 reality to the plight of today’s cattle ranchers.
Chopra offers three areas in which he believes that federal agencies “are flunking.” He believes these failures are: 1) Fixing the government approach to protecting the Made in America brand; 2) Giving American farmers and ranchers the right to repair their own equipment; and, 3) Ensuring that we halt abusive anti-competitive practices and vertical integration.
Chopra explains that the Packers and Stockyards Act was initiated to prohibit unfair, unjustly discriminating, and deceptive practices. In March, he presented a formal submission to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue; and, to the USDA. He also testified in a recent congressional hearing against the proposed USDA rules. He believes fervently that the proposed rules run counter to the objectives of the Packers and Stockyards Act, in spirit and letter.
“Keynote Address — Made In America More Than a Label” — Kurt Uhlir, Made in America Movement Chairman for R-CALF USA was honored to welcome Kurt Uhlir with the Made in America Movement; and, is exceptionally excited in their efforts to work together in pursuit of Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling for beef.
According to the organization’s website, “It’s simple, we have a real opportunity to come together and make tangible the phrase, “Made in America.” We are serious about the importance of buying American made products; a philosophy in which 80% of U.S. consumers agree.” They also identify the problem, “Retailers make significantly more profit on imported products that utilize slave type labor, in countries with little-to-no taxes, or environmental regulations. In turn, these retailers remove American made products from their shelves, forcing consumers to buy foreign-made products.”
Uhlir explains how technology has become much more astute in their understanding of the American consumer. As search engines like Google are able to track search content, clicks, hover time and internet maneuvering, Uhlir says that, “They are able to discern facts about consumer interest that was previously left to mere guess.” He further asserts, “The data shows us that we have an opportunity to reach, educate and activate a large portion of the American population.”
Uhlir explains that it is his job to teach brands how to reach millions of consumers; and, he asserts that consumers care about M-COOL. His research reveals that, “Almost 100% of consumers believe that USDA means made in the USA.” He says the consumers are disconnected because they are busy, distracted, and don’t know what questions to ask. Furthering this disconnect, they are increasingly told misinformation by the media; and, believe that our food supply is and will always be safe.
Uhlir emphasizes that “ranchers must actively steward our food supply and future.” He believes that consumer thinking must be changed; and, explains to producers how to cultivate value in consumer perception. Producers must learn 1) skills in modern marketing, 2) how to drive their message through engaging in social media, and 3) how to reach politicians. The key to success is partnering with other organizations, gathering others to join the fight for M-COOL and intentionally raising children to carry the torch. In closing, Uhlir strongly asserts that, “The future depends on our actions today!”
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