Bullard: Would You Like More ESG on Your RFID?

Raise your hand if you don’t think there’s someone out there that has a long-term strategy for gaining control over U.S. cattle ranches. Just guessing, but I’ll bet few hands were raised. So, let’s consider the possibility that someone out there wants to gain control over the cattle industry so they can tell ranchers how to ranch.

To begin, a friend of mine said it would be easy to control how ranchers ranch because you’d really only need two things: First, you’d need a proper mix of market concentration and collusion. And then you’d need mandatory, full-chain radio frequency identification, or RFID traceability. And RFID traceability would include secret sauces like third-party verifications, animal movement reporting and denial of market access unless you do as you’re told.

Now this is the stuff conspiracies are made of. Could it really happen that someone could actually put together the elements necessary to control how ranchers ranch? In an industry comprised of so many independent, critically thinking cattlemen?  

Well, we know if this happened it would be evil. And we know evilness can form in incremental steps, and until all the steps are brought together, evilness itself can be difficult to identify.   

So, let’s analyze what has fallen incrementally from the sky in recent years and determine if these elements are now being used to control how ranchers ranch.

First, we had market concentration in the cattle industry in which the four largest packers control 85% of the fed cattle market. Clearly, if these behemoths colluded to deny market access to anyone who didn’t meet whatever standard they collectively imposed, then those producers would be relegated to selling their cattle to the 15% of the market that is not controlled by the largest packers.

About the same time the cattle market became concentrated, the Beef Checkoff Program began funding Beef Quality Assurance, or BQA, programs to first tell ranchers how to give vaccinations, and later to tell them how to handle and transport cattle.

Next from the sky fell the notion that every cow needs to be eartagged with a radio frequency identification, or RFID, eartag. But this proposal was marketed as a benefit to cattle producers to help protect their herds from disease outbreaks and, of course, to make beef from their cattle eligible for export.

Next, fell the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, or GRSB, and its U.S. division, the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which publicly states it wants to put independent U.S. cattle producers on a path of continuous improvement. Well, how can that be bad? The GRSB simply wants to tell you how to ranch better because, obviously, the GRSB believes there’s lots of room for improvement in the way ranches are operated today.    

And then from the sky fell the definition of continuous improvement. It’s now widely known as ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social and Governance standards that have been adopted by world banks, other lenders, and the government to determine eligibility for financing. So, in order for beef packers to receive favorable financing, they will need to demonstrate continuous improvements along the supply chain and those improvements can be measured in terms of whether the supply chain meets arbitrary environmental, social and governance standards.

So now, over the course of two decades, there’s this pile of all these new elements that have fallen seemingly incrementally and independently from the sky. But they are all connected in a grand plan to tell ranchers how to ranch. 

You now have a lead GRSB that wants to control how ranchers ranch around the globe and in the U.S.; and its members include the largest packers that act as gatekeepers to the market. As gatekeepers, they can impose conditions that ranchers must meet to gain access to market, such as requiring BQA certification as a condition of market entry, which, of course, is going on right now. World banks are also members of the GRSB and they have adopted ESG requirements as has the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Together they want ranchers and the packers to report on how they’re achieving the continuous improvements demanded by the GRSB. 

And then, of course, eartag manufacturers are GRSB members and their RFID eartags tie this all together. Once all the cattle are RFID tagged, full enforcement of BQA and ESG requirements can begin.   

And there it is, incremental evilness has fallen upon our industry to give the global elites at the GRSB the ability to tell U.S. ranchers how to ranch. 

So, what should we do? Well, that’s easy. How about we stand up for our Liberty and Freedom…by just saying no? Or, would you like more ESG on your RFID?

Commentary by Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA 

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