| TSLN.com

Pastor in the Pasture: Sunsets and Sunrises

It’s the end of the day and the sun is setting. All of the chores have been done, ensuring good care for livestock, both great and small. Horses in their stalls pick through hay in mangers that are stuffed to the brim. There’s those steers on feed down in the water lot going between feed trough and hay ring. Even the chickens have been shut up and roosting in their coop for protection against predators.

It’s been one of those rough days and you’re more than glad to see it over. There was that heifer that didn’t make it during calving today even though you tried everything to save her from her predicament. The feed truck broke down and looks like it’s going to need a new starter. On top of all of this the sheriff’s department called and reported some of your yearlings out on the county road. After getting all of them back in and the fence patched you were ready to call it a day.

You finally get to the house, pull your boots off and there’s a message on the answering machine. It was the banker and he wants to meet with you. You’ve been a little behind on some payments and have been working extra hard to catch up on them. Things sure seem dismal and you’re discouraged.

Some days it just seems hopeless.

I know that’s what Jesus’ disciples were feeling after they had witnessed the Crucifixion. They were feeling hopeless, no doubt. The nails had been driven into hands and feet. They saw it happen, heard the ring of steel striking steel, and watched the pain He endured. They saw Him die, taken down and carried away to the tomb where He was laid and the entrance sealed by a huge stone.

The sun finally set on that painful and sorrow filled day. The disciples were feeling hopeless. They were grief stricken and mourning the death of the One that had chosen them, taught them, performed miracles in front of them, and loved them in the midst of their sin. However, now they were hopeless without Him.

Our nation and world have been hit hard with uncertainty and fear about a pandemic in our midst. Along with the concerns about the pandemic have come economic hardships, job losses, and keeping distance between ourselves and others. It feels like we’re trapped with a huge stone blocking our way out. It has brought about hopelessness in some.

Oh, but the sunrise is coming!

“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” (Matthew 28:1-6 NASB)

The disciples would all soon know that the Son had risen! They would witness and see the risen Lord Jesus. They would speak with Him, walk with Him, eat with Him, and touch Him. They would know and see that there was hope; great hope!

We have the same hope that the disciples had with the resurrected Jesus among them. As we face trials and hardships in life and on the ranch we also may have fears and uncertainty of disease and calamities. However, we have certainty and hope that is in Christ Jesus. The stone has been rolled away. This stone that is before us now in the form of a pandemic will be rolled away too.

As you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ this Easter, find great hope in Him and as you read scriptures like these:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB)

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4 NASB)

Happy Easter!

I’ll see y’all out in the pasture!

David Ganje: The Cheese Plant

South Dakota’s agriculture industry has a $32.5 billion economic impact each year for the state. In addition to generating 33 percent of the state’s economic activity, dairy and cheese plants are called value-added industries in the state’s economy. Economic development based on agri-industry makes good sense. The offical goal of the SD Department of Agriculture is to promote, protect and preserve agriculture in the state. The state’s policy tells us that “agriculture remains the common thread linking the citizens, businesses and communities of our state.” This link is a weak thread indeed if agriculture production results in the contamination of state waters. Such a consequence defeats the state’s laudable goal of promoting, protecting and preserving agriculture.

In a free market system, the preferred economic system under any political theory, it is the natural goal of farmers and the related agri-industry to produce enough to satisfy the demands of consumers. And agriculture should be profitable for producers as well as agri-industry. Equally significant, agri-industry should manage known environmental issues and protect the natural resources of the state. The state as the trustee of public waters is required to assure that is the case. My definition of sustainable agriculture is meeting society’s food needs without compromising the environment and without compromising the ability of future generations of producers to successfully use the land. Does the state Dept. of Ag or the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources have a policy or program advocating sustainable production? What does sustainable dairy production look like? What are the environmental responsibilities of agri-industry? My home town of Aberdeen started the first cooperative creamery organized in the U S. This long-established cooperative was sold in the 60s to a North Dakota creamery. I toured the creamery as an innocent wide-eyed kid. I was curious and impressed by the complicated way cheese was produced.

Last month the state DENR issued a large cheese processing facility in Lake Norden several citations for water discharge violations. Consider whether the state has the chops to oversee environmental issues affecting agri-business. In a 2006 professional article by two academics, the authors state, “The dairy industry is generally considered to be the largest source of food processing wastewater in many countries.” South Dakota has 8 dairy producing plants. The largest is a recently expanded facility in Lake Norden. The Lake Norden company operates a total of 39 dairy processing plants. The company is obviously no one-trick-pony. Let us accept the proposition that both the state and the processing plant understood the environmental issues and relevant risks associated with a cheese processing plant. How then was the required state approval of the facility handled before issuance of the permit, and what occurred in the operation of the plant after the permit was granted? Did the state consider my recommendation to do a cost-benefit analysis before issuing a permit regarding the effects of plant wastewater on the watershed and downstream users of the Big Sioux water system?

The Argus Leader previously described parties worried about possible water pollution arising from the Lake Norden facility as “environmental buffs.” The reporter penning that label was comfortably ignorant in the history of surface water pollution on the U S. Since passage of a 1972 law signed by President Nixon it has been illegal to discharge pollutants into the nation’s waters without a special discharge permit. In SD a wastewater discharge permit must be issued and approved by the state DENR. The issue is not new; the problem is not new.

Officials from the plant, the state and area water-management agencies were disappointed with the recent pollution violations. A state official stated, “The data is showing they’ve had some violations and it was worse than I expected.” Advanced knowledge of a problem allows for advanced preparation; knowing about potential problems makes it possible to prepare for them. Wastewater discharge law has been established for some time now. Clean water laws are not new. 1972 is a long time ago.

More than a year before the recent pollution citations issued against the processing plant, I wrote an opinion piece discussing anticipated, but not yet granted, permit issues. In the piece I reported that the DENR determined the plant’s waste water would cause a degradation in the state’s waters. Yet the same regulators concluded that a plant expansion will not violate any existing water quality standards. Did the state think that a nitrate discharge could not be a problem – regardless of the quantity discharged? In my prior column written before the permit was issued, I pointed out that the proposed permit would not put limitations on the actual concentration of nitrogen found in treated water to be discharged into the watershed. After public comments, the DENR put nitrate limits on the wastewater discharge from the plant. But for public comments there would have been no nitrate standards in the issued permit.

The cheese plant’s reported discharge amounts which caused the violations were arguably ‘minimal’ because of surface water dilution based on current high water volumes in the Big Sioux. Water is essential to the cheese industry because the cheese making process is water intensive, and the completed cheese making process is wastewater intensive. Just the same the state’s surface waters are equally as essential to the well-being of the state. Surface waters in South Dakota recharge aquifers. Many communities use aquifers as a source of drinking water.

On the problem of the recent cheese plant violations a state official opined that dealing with both the environment and economic development is a “balancing act.” South Dakota is exhibiting an inability to manage economic development along with its stewardship and trustee responsibilities over the state’s public waters.

David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law. F

Opinion: Non-logic and the NCBA

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is currently making a media and lobbying push to have the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) – better known as NAFTA-II – ratified by Congress. In their press info NCBA states: “USMCA maintains science-based trade standards while rejecting failed policies of the past, like mandatory country-of-origin labeling.” This statement reveals two of NCBA’s fixations because along with opposing COOL, the NCBA is obsessed with more exports while denying any negative effects of beef and cattle imports.

Apparently in the NCBA world view only through more exports can cattle producers prosper. They manipulate trade statistics to make it look as though we export more beef than we import by conveniently not accounting for the nearly two million head of live cattle imported from Canada and Mexico. The NCBA then claims that exports increase beef’s value by $313.39 per head. I don’t know how they made up that number, because I am certainly not making $313.39 per head on cattle sales. What is clear, however, is that imported cattle are strategically used by the beef packing cartel to manipulate the market, yet NCBA totally ignores the fact that the market for cattle is neither transparent nor competitive.

Many of us had high hopes that re-negotiating NAFTA would result in a better trade agreement, but that does not seem to be the case. Corporations still have every incentive to outsource their manufacturing and they can still hide their profits in off-shore tax havens. Food safety standards are still not equivalent. The workers still have no rights. Environmental pollution is still happening. The World Trade Organization (WTO) can still overrule domestic laws, and COOL is still not allowed. The upshot from the point of view of cattle producers, is that beef and cattle imports still undermine our domestic market.

As for our Canadian neighbors, why do they remain dead set against US consumers knowing that they are eating Canadian beef? I understand that they think that they are protecting their interests, but COOL is the least of their problems. Their real issue, which unfortunately affects us too, is that Canadian cattle funnel into a captive supply system that results in lower prices for both them and us. If our Canadian colleagues would wake up, they would realize to what degree that they are being used. What they should do is petition their government to insist that the US enforces the Packers and Stockyards Act. Real market competition would cure a lot of problems on both sides of the border.

I recently had a conversation with Congressman Greg Gianforte and asked him if he would support a bill to restore COOL. He said no, because the cattle industry is not in agreement over this issue. I guess in his estimation, ninety percent of consumers and a majority of cattle producers can be ignored because a handful of NCBA lobbyists say so. Mr. Gianforte is running to be our next governor. If he comes to your town, a good question would be to ask him if he supports COOL. If enough people ask, maybe he will have a change of heart.

Senator Tester is totally in favor of COOL. In fact, his support for COOL was key both when it was first passed in the Montana legislature in 2005 and later in Congress in 2008. If you see him tell him thanks. As for Senator Daines, I don’t know his position. He is running to defend his seat, so it would be a good time to get him on record.

This is a good question to ask all of the men and women running for various national or state offices. The same advice for those of you who might be reading this in another state. Ask your candidates if it makes sense that all imported manufactured items and foods carry a mandatory country of origin label except for pork and beef. And if that doesn’t make sense to them, remind them that NAFTA-II is not an improvement and COOL must be restored.

Guest Opinion: Genocide against white farmers, S. Africa

South Africa has long had a serious problem with crime. The murder rate is 36 per 100,000, meaning 57 people are murdered each day, placing South Africa’s homicide rate just behind that of countries now at war. Of the ten worst precincts for murder, seven are in the province of Western Cape. Nyanga has the highest murder rate in South Africa, helping make Cape Town the second most murderous city in the world and the crime capital of South Africa. The situation there is so bad that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has deployed troops to assist the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Cape Flats area, a gang-dominated suburb of Cape Town.

According to a recent survey, SAPS is considered to be the most corrupt institution in South Africa. Four police commissioners in a row were removed on suspicion of corruption or being unfit for office; senior appointments within the justice system are perceived as resulting from factional disputes within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), or as attempts by the ruling elite to avoid facing criminal charges.

For their part, with a strength of just under 200,000 officers for nearly 58,000,000 people, SAPS is considered understaffed by more than 60,000 officers. As of late June, 26 South African police officers had been killed in 2019. Analysis from 2018 suggests that more than 80 South African police are killed each year. Tellingly, in the Cape Flats area, the criminals are beginning to fight back against the combined strength of the SAPS and SANDF.

This provides context to view the Farm Attack phenomenon. The definition of a “Farm Attack” can vary but generally three criteria – 1) political incitement, 2) gratuitous torture (even of the elderly and children, and after victims have stopped resisting), and 3) public praise of the crimes – set the Farm Attacks apart from “social fabric” crimes.

In 2012, Ria Russouw was living with her husband on a farm at De Deur south of Johannesburg; she told her story via email:

We had an electric fence with an alarm system all around the house to keep criminals out but one night a few of them dug a hole underneath the fence and overpowered us as we unlocked the door in the morning.

There were two of them and they tied us up and started beating my husband demanding money and firearms. They found the key of the gun safe, took his collection of weapons and then tortured him again because the R200.00 that they found in the house was not enough.

They jumped on his back as he was made to lie down and they threatened to burn me with an electric iron if we do not tell them where the rest of the money was.

Realising that there was no more money to be found they left. I was able to get myself untied and radioed the neighbourhood watch who helped us.

My husband was taken to a government hospital where he stayed a week without any treatment in spite of me sitting there the whole week waiting for a doctor to see him.

After a week I was told that he was better and was being discharged; he could not walk and me and my daughter had to carry him to the car.

He passed away the next day and after more than a year we got the post-mortem report which stated that he died of lung cancer.

The police never investigated the matter although the so-called detective told me that he knew where the perps lived.

In a particularly notorious 2017 Farm Attack, a husband and wife were tortured with a blowtorch and knives then left for dead, the woman with a plastic bag stuffed down her throat.

The Farm Attacks have their root in the Cold War era as Soviet-backed communist insurgents were attempting to “liberate” southern Africa from pro-Western governments; within South Africa, the Farm Attacks were specifically part of an ANC attempt to terrorize white farmers off the land, as the ANC’s military wing sought to make South Africa ungovernable.

After the war ended, the ANC’s leader, Nelson Mandela, was elected President of South Africa; the Farm Attacks continued, but Mandela tried to end them, prioritizing rural security. After Mandela left office, the ANC reversed course, deprioritizing the Farm Attacks and disbanding the Commando System, a critical rural security militia organization that served as auxiliary police.

The current President Cyril Ramaphosa, from the ruling ANC, has denied large-scale killings of white farmers but civil rights organization AfriForum conducted an analysis of SAPS statistics, confirming that Farm Attacks are on the rise, contrary to recent media claims.

Concerned South Africans are trying to bring international attention to this matter; in May, one South African emailed the staff of South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham:

“There is a white genocide going on… and we all have been living in fear and anticipation. Elderly are being raped, tortured and murdered… for something as petty as a phone. Our farmers are being slaughtered. We are denied jobs because of our skin colour.

[T]his is still “apartheid” just turned towards the white minority.”

The murder rate of white South African farmers is three times that of SAPS officers, and five times the South African average. Furthermore, research by Cristopher Gumbi suggests government or SAPS complicity.

To satisfy the UN criteria for genocide, violence does not need to target all members of an ethnic or other group; killing, causing serious bodily harm to, and making life unbearable for an identifiable subgroup is sufficient. What is happening to South Africa’s white farmers meets these criteria.

Guest Opinion by Chuck Kiker: It’s Time the Cattle Industry Takes Their Checkoff Back

I never thought I’d see the day that an amendment concerning the Beef Checkoff would make its way to the floor that didn’t originate from the Senate Agriculture Committee. But that’s just what happened when the Booker/Lee amendment was introduced during the floor debate during the run-up to the vote on the 2018 Farm Bill thanks to lobbying efforts of the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM.)

Though the amendment was ultimately defeated, the vote was far too close for comfort and posed grave danger to all twenty-two federal checkoffs, from beef to Christmas trees. While I can’t speak with any authority on the other checkoff programs, what I can discuss is the value of the Beef Checkoff, having served on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board for 2 six-year terms from 2004 to 2017. I was very fortunate on the CBB, eight of the years I served on the Joint Operating committee that decided how the CBB money was allocated.

During my time with CBB, I heard what really bothers most producers about the Beef Checkoff: how the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) controls it. Before we can even begin to defend the Beef Checkoff from the growing onslaught of attacks from outsiders—we have to get our internal house in order first. And we better do it quickly.

The Beef Checkoff, which assesses a mandatory one dollar each time cattle are sold or the equivalent value in the case of imported beef or beef products, was established under the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. In 1986 the now Federation of State Beef Councils was the Beef Industry Council and was part of the National Livestock and Meat Board. The National Livestock and Meat Board included the Beef Industry Council, the Pork Council and the Lamb Council. The National Livestock and Meat Board carried out Checkoff program activities and was not involved in policy activities. The National Cattlemen’s Association (NCA), by contrast, was strictly a policy organization when the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 was voted on and implemented.

In 1995 with a new rally call of “One industry, One Voice,” the leadership of NCA promoted a merger of four groups; NCA, United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Beef Industry Council, and the CBB. In reality this merger wasn’t about having one voice and was instead about bolstering NCA’s diminishing funding sources. This notion was contentious, and despite the majority of producers not having a say in the decision—the merger was approved by a narrow margin.

After the dust settled following the vote USMEF decided to opt out of the merger and remain a stand-alone organization. USDA ruled the CBB could not legally be part of the merger because the Beef Promotion Act and Order would not allow it. So, when all was said and done, NCA merged with the Beef Industry Council to form the NCBA and the National Livestock and Meat Board was dissolved. The Pork and Lamb Councils went their separate ways.

Thereafter, NCBA was composed of a policy side and Federation side. Though a “firewall” was set up to ensure that the rules under the Beef Promotion Act and Order would be adhered to, in reality, the Beef Checkoff became the foundation upon which NCBA operated. The CBB had an annual budget of around fifty million dollars, not including the Federation budget, which was generally between ten and twenty million dollars a year.

The efficiencies that developed because of the merger were predominately efficiencies that benefited NCBA as a policy organization. But the leadership justified this by saying that NCBA represented the entire beef industry, from the cow-calf producer to the packer; and updated the old rally call of, “one voice, one vision!” The different segments started jockeying for position within this new all-encompassing organization. Sadly, the more money you raised as an organization or a major “stakeholder” (corporation) for NCBA, the more voice you had as a member.

The cow-calf sector involvement at the national level had been weakening for years due to really low cattle prices and fewer full time cattlemen. The older generation was retiring and the younger generation had to get jobs to raise their families. Raising cattle became secondary and producers weren’t joining and engaging in any cattle organizations like they had in the past.

The feedlot sector was a little more enthusiastic about membership and participation at the national level. They built a per head dues structure where a percentage of the dues collected were designated for NCBA. The three major feeding states were represented by Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA), Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), and Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association (NCA). With the number of seats these three organizations had from the money they generated for NCBA, they could pretty much control any vote in any committee at NCBA.

The packer sector was a little more nonchalant about their monetary support of NCBA. In the 2000’s, I had a reliable source on staff with NCBA tell me the three largest packers were paying in around a million dollars each and the fourth largest packer was contributing a little less than a million.

As the lobbying machine grew, so did the need for more funding, and NCBA set up sponsorship programs that generated even more money from allied industry organizations. Under this structure, NCBA’s lobbying efforts were essentially “for sale” with whoever paid the most money having their issues addressed the most fervently. The lowly cow-calf producer’s voice was diluted to a mere whisper.

Meanwhile, NCBA has around an 80 million dollar budget, over 170 employees, and a lot of influence in Washington D.C. So how is NCBA so dependent on the Beef Checkoff? Over seventy percent of everything NCBA does is Checkoff which means over seventy percent of NCBA’s overhead is paid with Checkoff dollars. All of NCBA’s administrative staff’s salaries; the CEO, CFO and others, are subsidized by Checkoff dollars.

I could write a book on the abuses and unethical things done to ensure NCBA maintained that level of funding of Checkoff resources. Authorization requests (ARs) presented by NCBA were developed around NCBA policy. The Operating Committee would routinely debate a fifty thousand-dollar AR from an outside contractor while easily—and without any discussion—approve the million-dollar NCBA ARs. Trying to question an NCBA implementation AR was like head butting a wall. The ten members of the Operating Committee from the Federation side are well vetted for loyalty to NCBA long before they get to the Operating Committee, leaving only four NCBA biased votes needed on the CBB side to fund any AR.

All said, the Beef Checkoff has carried the heavy burden of NCBA policy since 1996. NCBA has become a detriment to the Checkoff and it’s time to free this program so that it’s no longer attacked as a result of anti-NCBA sentiment. The arrogance and greed of NCBA has blocked all efforts to make changes to the Checkoff that would result in a more effective program for all stakeholders. We need Congressional members with a little integrity along with USDA to stand up for all the cattle producers who didn’t get to vote in 1996.

First, the Federation of State Beef Councils needs to be a stand-alone organization working hand in hand with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. All funds from the Federation and the CBB need to be allocated by the Beef Promotion Operating Committee. Second, the five percent cap on the CBB administrative expenses needs to be removed so that it can employ the experts needed to develop and administer projects that benefit all cattlemen and women. Further, like other checkoffs, the CBB should be able to contract directly with venders and implement Authorization Requests without NCBA’s undue influence.

I believe in the Beef Checkoff and I believe with the right changes it can rival other successful Checkoff programs. Several years ago, the Pork industry made these kinds of changes and today has a 91 percent approval rating and a $25 to $1 return on investment. The approval rating of the Beef Checkoff is around 70 percent and has a return on investment of $11.2 to $1. Without these changes, I fear our Checkoff will not be strong enough to defend ourselves against attacks from the outside—and will continue to minimize the voices of our own producer stakeholders. In short, it’s time the cattle industry takes their Checkoff back.

Letter to the editor: The Montana Farm Bureau Should Apologize For Opposing Country of Origin Labeling.

Instead of apologizing to Montana’s beef consumers and cattle ranchers, the Montana Farm Bureau (MFB) in an article/press release (“State Mandated Placarding Is Not COOL”) chose instead to double down on the half-truths and innuendos used to kill Montana Country of Origin Labeling (Mt-COOL).

Senator Al Olszewski of Kalispell introduced SB 206 to reinstate COOL in Montana and advanced a bill based on a 2005 Mt-COOL law. The 2005 law had a sunset clause for when a National COOL was implemented which happened in 2008. At that time the Montana law was retired.

The point of the 2005 Mt-COOL bill was to put Montana clearly on the record of supporting Country of Origin Labeling for beef. The strategy worked. Unfortunately, this process has to be repeated because Congress in 2015 precipitously rescinded National COOL with no debate and no public input. We should note that Congress only rescinded labeling for beef and pork. Labeling requirements continue for lamb, seafood, poultry, tomatoes, grapes, underwear, electronics, cars. In short everything except for beef and pork. Subsequent to that Congressional decision, cattle prices collapsed costing Montana’s economy a billion dollars a year.

The governments of Canada and Mexico filed a trade challenge to the label requirements for beef and pork and the World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal declared the US-COOL law for beef and pork trade illegal. MFB alleges that the US had exhausted all of its appeals but that was not true, the legal wrangling was not over by a long-shot. Even if it was, the WTO tribunal that ruled against US-COOL was blatantly biased. The entire WTO trade adjudication process is undemocratic and unaccountable. This country should never have entered into trade agreements that allows unaccountable international panels to overrule how we American citizens democratically decide to conduct our own affairs.

The WTO ruling was simply not rational. If the fact that the United States required labeling of beef is somehow trade illegal, then what about all of the other label requirements, or what about the country of origin labeling requirements that other countries impose on beef imported from the USA? If beef labeling is not allowable then no labeling should be allowed. Obviously, this is not the case, so we can only conclude that the WTO Tribunal and the 2015 Congress that rescinded COOL did so specifically to financially benefit the beef packing cartel.

The MFB further stated that they had to oppose Senator Olszewski’s Mt-COOL bill because of the excessive burden it would have put on Montana retailers. In the article MFB said they were particularly concerned about small retailers who would be unable to get country of origin information from their beef suppliers.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that retailers like Albertsons and Walmart have the market power to require any kind of information from any of its suppliers, or that Sysco, which supplies most small groceries with much of their produce, also has that kind of market power. The point of Mt-COOL is that if the retailers are never required to ask their suppliers about the origin of their beef, they will never get that information, and consumers of beef will never know.

In the SB-206 hearing, Senator Frank Smith of Popular observed that small retailers in his district are in favor of labeling, in fact they would like the opportunity to feature more Montana produced beef. A lot of imported beef is currently fraudulently labeled “product of USA” making it difficult for Montana natural and grass-fed beef producers to distinguish their beef in the retail market at a price high enough to compensate them for their efforts.

MFB also said that they opposed a clause in the draft bill that allowed for penalties for fraudulent labeling of beef by retailers. This clause was a holdover from the 2005 Mt-COOL law. However, the penalties were specifically only for intentional fraud, not mistakes or for receiving incorrect information from suppliers. Nonetheless, Sen Olszewski indicated that he was willing to support an amendment to strike this clause. The MFB failed to offer this amendment.

MFB’s article goes on to brag that they supported SJ 16, a resolution which calls for “… Congress to pursue effective WTO-compliant COOL rules for beef and pork.” What the article does not acknowledge is that this resolution calls for voluntary COOL which is already the law of the land. Beef and pork packers can voluntarily supply consumers with country of origin information any time they so desire. That they do not means that they do not support born, raised, and processed in the USA beef. Instead the only labeling currently seen in meat cases is the fraudulent “Product of USA” labels on imported beef.

It should be noted that the MFB was not alone in its disingenuous campaign to kill Mt-COOL. The Montana Stockgrowers Association also lobbied hard to kill Mt-COOL.

The organizations that were working for Montana’s consumers and ranchers are the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, the Montana Farmers Union, and Northern Plains Resource Council. Members of those organizations should be proud of their organizations efforts to give beef consumers the labeling information they demand and Montana cattle producers the transparent markets they deserve.

The struggle to restore COOL is not over. Farm Bureau has a long-standing policy directive in favor of COOL which they apparently forgot in their anti-COOL lobbying, but in the future, there will be efforts to pass a national COOL law. MFB is invited to become a part of that effort. If we work together it will soon be possible to have labels proudly proclaiming Born, Raised, and Processed in the USA.

Brutal South Africa farm attacks ongoing

For 25 years now, in a phenomenon known as “Farm Attacks” South Africa’s farmers have been the target of a brutal slow war.

Often perpetrated by well-trained, well-equipped criminals using paramilitary methods, the attacks have a reputation for brutal torture even of elderly victims and of children. Torture, including burning with household irons and welding equipment, goes on for hours after the victims have surrendered and turned over any valuables they have.

In his master’s thesis on the topic, researcher Cristopher Gumbi suggests that the attackers have no fear of law enforcement, believing themselves to be protected. For their part, the South African Police Service (SAPS) is on the defensive – they have abandoned some smaller police stations at night, preferring to pull back to more defensible locations. Themselves suffering a high rate of violent deaths and of suicide, SAPS members are often accused of corruption.

Statements by politicians of major political parties, including the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the third most powerful Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), inflame tensions and encourage attacks on South Africa’s white minority Boer farmers. In the run-up to the general elections on May 8, the situation has deteriorated; Farm Attacks are now a daily occurrence, often no more than shooting a farmer from outside the farm’s gate and speeding off.

Tired of the identity politics demonizing whites for the failures of a corrupt and incompetent ANC-led government, the attached undated photo shows blacks protesting in solidarity with persecuted white farmers against a phenomenon that South Africa’s current President has denied is even occurring.

State-mandated placarding not COOL

I firmly believe Montana farmers and ranchers care deeply about developing and growing consumer confidence and trust in the products we painstakingly raise. It’s a key goal in helping a growing urban demographic understand why we’re so passionate about our agricultural and rural lifestyles and to help them understand what goes into producing the food they eat.

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules were one way Congress and the USDA tried to make it easier for consumers to decipher where their beef and pork products came from. However, COOL is a complex and contentious issue, especially among our trading partners, and these rules were repealed in 2015.

The repeal came after not one, not two, but three World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings against the United States’ labeling rules. The U.S. exhausted all appeal options to overturn the WTO rulings; yet the international trade community continually upheld WTO’s decisions. Had the U.S. continued COOL, the WTO authorized $1 billion in Canadian and Mexican retaliatory tariffs against American beef, pork and other U.S. commodities.

Montana Farm Bureau strongly supports a national COOL rule; however, we believe the rule has to be beneficial for U.S. livestock producers, which means not jeopardizing the integrity of trade partnerships.

During the 66th Montana Legislature, Farm Bureau opposed SB 206 carried by Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell. Proponents of this bill assert it is a ‘Montana COOL’ law. We disagree. SB 206 would require retail establishments—often times small, family owned businesses crucial to the fabric of rural Montana—to be responsible for COOL by hanging signs in their stores that identified the origin of beef and pork products.

In theory, that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea; however, when you consider grocery stores are the last stop before a product enters the consumer’s hands and that retailers have no control over whether or not their distributor provides origin information, it begins to sound more burdensome. Coupled with the fact that SB 206 included fines and potential jail time for noncompliance, this didn’t strike our organization as a legitimate solution to COOL.

Effective COOL rules must start at the top of the processing chain, not the bottom. This legislation wouldn’t successfully or economically reach the end goal of providing more information to consumers, nor can we guarantee increased demand for Montana beef and pork products.

Supporters would have you believe repeal of COOL in 2015 was responsible for the demise of record high cattle prices. That’s a very narrow, somewhat disingenuous claim. Declining cattle prices in 2015 were due to a combination of influences including the environment, industry trends and the trade climate.

The reasons we saw unprecedented highs in the cattle industry in 2014 and 2015 included higher grain prices that encouraged the conversion of pasture and hay ground into farming. At roughly the same time, a huge swath of the country experienced a record drought that exacerbated rapidly declining cattle numbers. Economics are driven by supply and demand. The cattle market is no exception, with herd numbers at all-time lows demand was outpacing supply and prices rose quickly.

Export markets were the final influence. Simple economics prove that when prices are high, we ramp up production to make hay while the sun shines—or maybe steaks in this case. A decline in U.S. exports was the final blow to cattle prices.

The culmination of all these factors resulted in a ‘perfect storm’ and the conditions were ripe for a price implosion, which is exactly what happened. There is no way that one factor was solely responsible for the monumental shift in cattle prices in 2015.

Knowing the complexities associated with this topic, Montana Farm Bureau could not in good conscience support SB 206 and submit small town grocery stores and family run businesses to further red tape and regulation.

Montana Farm Bureau worked with members of the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation committee to reroute these efforts. The result was SJ 16, a resolution asking our Congressional Delegation to pursue effective, WTO-compliant COOL rules for beef and pork.

If Montana wants to be a leader in this conversation we need to put our best foot forward. That means rolling up our sleeves and navigating the long road of complexities posed by this topic, not slapping fines and regulations on Montana’s business owners.

Letter to the Editor: Americans want to preserve wolves

Interesting definition of words in your article “livestock industry groups launch campaign supporting state management of gray wolf populations

“Responsibly manage” in Montana means kill half of a population, with the goal of driving wolf populations to a remnant, token, constantly persecuted population. Idaho is worse, where wolves are snared in wilderness areas for daring to eat their natural prey, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that it is weather, and quality of food that causes elk population shifts. In Wyoming, wolves are killed at will any time, with young or without in 85 percent of the state.

Maybe for wolf haters this is “responsibly manage,” but you aren’t fooling the vast majority of Americans that actually WANT to preserve biological integrity of wild and public lands and have healthy and appropriate predator populations.

“Exceeded recovery goals” – yes, the target goal was 150 wolves in each Rocky Mountain state, but that was never meant to be the end goal. Like when you are released from the hospital there are numbers you are supposed to attain, but you are supposed to continue to get better.

“Populations exploding” – Montana’s wolf population is LESS, as is Wyoming’s and Idaho’s. Oregon’s and Washington’s wolf populations are “the highest since the Endangered Species Act was enacted,” but in both states that’s less than a dozen more wolves. Hardly an explosion.

We’d like to see state management that acts like all citizens matter, that encourages non-lethal deterrence and aims for the health of ecosystems and biodiversity. Right now state management means “kill more wolves.” You’re not fooling us and we don’t like it.

Houston: The Real Whopper

We’re not even a third of the way through 2019, but we already have a frontrunner for a political fact-checker’s annual “Lie of the Year” award: the trendy yet incorrect political/media narrative that if we all just cut back on eating delicious real beef hamburgers, we’re going to stop or significantly slow climate change.

You’ve heard the drumbeat all year. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her so-called “Green New Deal” in January, lamenting that we probably can’t “get rid of all the farting cows” in just ten years. Vegan U.S. Sen. Cory Booker claimed that our planet “can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture.”

And then (appropriately) on April Fools Day, Burger King announced that it would start selling beefless “Impossible Whoppers” — and the big-city media fell right into line extolling the supposed Earth-saving opportunity represented by the heme and soy-based product.

On April 9, Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead praised the alleged environmental benefits of fake meat, while complaining that “Nine percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions come from agriculture, and almost one-third of that comes from cattle-based methane.”

Not to be outdone, the Washington Post on April 16 ran not one – but two long, nearly identical articles about the Impossible Whopper – combining for a “whopping” 2,158 words in that day’s print edition.

While one Post article lauded the product’s supposedly “environmentally friendly message” and “environmental appeal,” the second went a step further, claiming that eating less beef “could help reduce the many environmental impacts that raising cattle has on our vulnerable planet” and possibly even “save (planet) Earth.”

Predictably, none of these politicians or journalists included any sourced data to support their assumptions, so I’ll do that here.

Here are the facts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, direct emissions from beef cattle in the United States account for only two percent of our nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, USDA recently reported that U.S. beef cattle production is “not a significant contributor to long-term global warming.”

Compare U.S. cattle’s two percent to the transportation and electricity sectors, which account for a combined 55% of our nation’s emissions, with another 41% coming from other sources.

The truth is beef production in the United States has become much more efficient and environmentally sustainable over the past few decades. Compared to 1977, today’s American beef farmers and ranchers produce the same amount of beef with 33 percent fewer cattle. Improved efficiency and animal well-being mean a 16 percent lower carbon footprint and fewer natural resources used for every pound of beef produced.

And contrary to Sen. Booker’s vegan utopia, research shows that if every American went vegan, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would only drop 2.6%. At the same time, our national diet would provide insufficient nutrients to feed the U.S. population and result in increased use of synthetic fertilizer, as well as increased soil erosion.

If all these politicians and elite journalists want to replace delicious and nutritious American-produced beef in their diets with heme and soy, we wish them the best (along with our sympathies.) But to claim that doing so will have any significant impact on global climate is ultimately the real whopper in this debate.