Lahren beating the COOL drum |

Lahren beating the COOL drum

Kent Lahren is the third generation on the north central South Dakota ranch. Photo courtesy Lahren family

In her “Final Thoughts” segment, conservative television journalist and Tomi Lahren told her viewers, “It’s time for Final Thoughts. Now tonight, I’m not speaking to you as a political commentator, or a conservative, or that girl from Facebook. Tonight, I’m speaking to you as a Midwestern girl who grew up in a small state to a family and community of ranchers and farmers. Truth is, those folks are struggling right now.

“The American cowboy won the west, and those cattlemen have been the backbone of our country for generations. Now they are struggling to survive. For 170 years, they’ve been raising the highest-quality beef for our kitchen tables, but now, thanks to the big meat packers and the high-dollar lobbyists, their livelihood is being replaced by foreign beef coming in on ships from God-knows-where.

“This isn’t a partisan issue; I don’t care who you voted for. You should care about your heartland neighbors, and even if you don’t, you should care where your food is coming from. Here’s what’s going on. Four big meat packing companies control 83 percent of the industry, which keeps livestock prices low and sometimes forces small ranchers out of business. Between 1980 and 2008, 516,000 beef cattle operations (or about 40 percent) folded. By the end of Obama’s first term, that number would climb to over 43 percent. Those are Americans who have spent their entire lives, some for generations, raising and selling cattle. Now what are they to do? It’s all they know and all they have, and they are good at it, but they are no match for big agriculture.

From 1980 to 2010, the number of packing plants nationwide dropped 81 percent, and during that time, nearly one-third, of all feeders, the companies that purchase cattle from those ranchers, left the industry. The big four packers now act like king-makers, choosing which feeders to work with and which to let wither. Now, the bidder is usually a feeder who has a contract with major meat packers.

“Oh, and many packers now also own some of the cattle they slaughter, which means they don’t always need to buy from local ranchers. So where are they buying from? Overseas. If you want to eat foreign beef, go for it, but you should at least know what you’re eating. That’s all our American ranchers are asking for — a fair shot, a fair shot against the big meat packers, the lobbyists and their precious cheap foreign beef. So what can we do to help? Ask your elected officials and our president to bring back COOL. Know what you’re eating and who raised it. It’s as simple as that. Listen, the swamp rats and the meat packing plants won’t save the American rancher, but we, the American family, can. Tweet @realdonaldtrump using the hashtag #DemandUSABEEF, #LabelOurBeef and #COOLin100 and together the sillent majority can make a difference for our American ranching families. Those are my final thoughts; God bless and take care.”

The day after the Feb. 23, 2017, airing of Tomi’s show, NCBA put together a response.

In a video titled, “Now That’s Some Bull,” Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattle-men’s Beef Association, breaks down some of Lahren’s claims, calling much of it, “fake news.”

On COOL, Woodall said, “The cattle industry has suffered some pretty tough market situations here over the last couple of years, but it’s based upon market conditions and things like simple supply and demand. The price of cattle started going down long before COOL was even repealed. We also know that imports went down after COOL was repealed. COOL did not have an impact on that. We have to make sure we’re keeping all the market fundamentals truly in front of us whether then looking at one singular issue. We also have to keep in mind that COOL was a mandatory government-run regime that took away our freedom of choice. We have voluntary programs in place today that can give the consumer what they demand if they ask for it.”

On international trade, Woodall said, “Whether you like it or not, the WTO ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico saying that our mandatory government run program actually violated our trade agreements. Because of that, the WTO was going to allow them to retaliate against us. Since Canada and Mexico were traditionally two of the top five export markets for our products, losing a billion dollars worth of access into those countries would really harm us negatively as cattle producers because that beef we otherwise would send to them would sit here and lower the prices we would be getting and impact our bottom line in a negative way.”

Addressing accusations that NCBA doesn’t represent individual cattle producers, Woodall said, “Tomi, you just got this whole thing wrong. If you had done just a little bit of research, you would have discovered that since 1998, NCBA is an organization that has represented this industry and the men and women who work hard everyday to not only make this country great, but to produce the best beef in the world. It’s our members that put together the policy directions of this association, including being against any sort of mandatory government run program.”

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