Rancher introduces MCOOL petition
An online petition asking for a presidential executive order to implement mandatory country of origin labeling for beef gained about 10,000 signatures in about 12 hours.
Petition creator Kerry Cramton said that she has always been a champion for beef labeling, but got fired up again after last August’s Kansas packing plant blaze crashed cattle prices.
“We bust our butts, we work so hard to raise these calves and keep them healthy, working through blizzards, drought. And then the Tyson packing plant fire destroyed our prices. It’s very sickening to know you poured your heart into these cattle, saving baby calves, only to have them robbed from you when you go to the sale,” she said.
“We’re at the point that if farmers and ranchers don’t make money this year, it’s over for us. We’ve got to take drastic measures.”
A mother of two young boys, Cramton wants her sons to have the opportunity to raise cattle in central Kansas like she and her husband Clint do. But without a market fix, she’s not sure that’s possible.
“If we lose agriculture, we lose everything. I want my kids to be able to do this. If it wasn’t for the corruption, we would be profitable,” she said.
While cattlemen, and ag producers make up a small percentage of the population, they are a crucial segment, she said, not only because they produce food but because of their roles in their communities.
“We might only be 1-2 percent of the population but we pour back into our economies unlike any other business. Farmers and Ranchers allow rural communities to survive, we wallow our school systems to keep going.”
The country was built on agriculture, and many states continue to show agriculture as their biggest industries, she said. But farmers and ranchers by nature do not like getting involved in politics, so lobbyists for corporate agriculture have directed policy for too long.
Because of the cattle market collapse that has put many producers and feeders, already operating on thin margins, into a negative return situation, Cramton believes the cattle industry is ready to fight for COOL. Consumers and Congressional representatives are paying more attention to the origin of the products they buy, so now is the time to push the idea, she said.
Matt Teagarden, the CEO of the Kansas Livestock Association said his organization does not support mandatory COOL, choosing instead to back voluntary COOL.
“We support a market-driven labeling that meets a consumer need,” he said, adding that “maybe now is the time” for a voluntary program to take hold.
KLA members opposed the previous mandatory COOL policy and worked to repeal it, he says, because they did not think it was effective. Even though cattle prices rose during the years it was enforced, increased cattle prices were the result of lower cattle numbers, not COOL, he believes.
A study conducted by Dr. Glynn Tonsor of Kanas State indicates that mandatory COOL did not positively impact beef demand he said.
Country of Origin Labeling was overturned in 2015 when the World Trade Organization ruled that it would allow Canada and Mexico to impose $1.1 billion in retaliatory tariffs.
Cramton’s goal is to obtain 100,000 signatures in 30 days.
Cramton unrolled her petition along with Cauy Griffin who represents Cowboys for Trump.
Griffin met with the president several months ago and says he plans to meet with him again. “How amazing would it be for him to have a petition in his hand, for COOL?” she said. “Trump is a numbers guy – he wants to know how many people are behind something. That’s our goal, to show him.”
President Trump is also likely to be willing to stand up to the WTO, said Cramton, if he has a justifiable reason.
Cramton created the petition with grassroots support, including R-CALF USA backing, and hopes members of all organizations, as well as those who don’t belong to organizations, will sign it, and also call their congressmen and senators and ask for mandatory COOL for beef.
Teagarden said his group is working to help deal with the short term market break due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have been in touch with packing plants and their state health officials to help advocate for the importance of maintaining as much processing capacity as possible, and have asked USDA to investigate market dynamics with the support of the Department of Justice, to determine if illegal behavior occurred. The group is pushing for higher payment limitations in regard to the federal aid available (current limits are $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per producer), and is working on policy to support increased levels of negotiated cash trade. Currently Kansas trends toward about 20 percent cash trade as a whole, he said.
Cramton believes mandatory COOL is one step toward moving America’s cattle industry back into a profitable mode.
“Yes, MCOOL is a starting point to move this industry forward, but we need massive reform. We need Packers & Stockyards antitrust laws enforced, we need the Prime Act to lessen regulations so cattlemen can sell their beef locally easier, we need more negotiated cash sales for true price discovery. The corruption in the beef industry runs deep and needs a major overhaul. We want to bring massive awareness to our nation and a WTO compliant COOL via President Trump executive order,” she said.
“We’re in unprecedented times where America is first right now. We’re fighting for this country,” said Cramton.
The petition can be found at
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