A Steak in Ag

By: 
LAUREL MASTERSON

R-CALF USA may be defined as a non-profit producer organization, but our work benefits anyone who eats meat and lives in an economy that includes agriculture. We’re more than a producer organization; we’re your organization.
R-CALF USA filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May, alleging the agency’s Beef Check-Off tax, which collected more than $80 million in FY 2015, is being unconstitutionally used to promote international beef, to the detriment of U.S. beef products and producers. While our members must pay a $1-per-head tax to the Checkoff program, funds from that tax are used to convince consumers that beef from our members’ cattle – raised domestically and in compliance with the United States’ standards concerning safety, treatment and quality – is no different than beef produced under far less stringent procedures abroad.
In the first court hearing, which was on Oct. 25, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana considered the USDA’s motion to dismiss the case, as well as R-CALF USA’s motions for summary judgment and a temporary restraining order. The judge said he would issue his decision shortly. At the time of publication, nothing has been issued.
The U.S. cattle industry generated more than $78 billion in cash receipts in 2015, making it by far the largest segment of American agriculture. R-CALF USA believes the industry’s size and importance to America’s economy warranted a visit by the presidential candidates during our annual convention. So we invited them.
Candidate Donald J. Trump sent a surrogate speaker, former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen. Candidate Hillary Clinton sent the group a letter that was read during the convention.
McEwen said he wanted to know more about why Congress capitulated to the World Trade Organization to repeal country of origin labeling for beef and pork. He said Trump would designate agricultural interests as national security interests, which could block future acquisitions of domestic food processing companies by foreign interests. McEwen also said Trump would work to renegotiate prior trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA and oppose the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Clinton’s letter indicated that she, too, would oppose trade deals like the TPP.
In the wake of falling cattle prices, which have fallen farther and faster than in any time in history, livestock auction yards in central and eastern South Dakota and North Dakota will host a series of meetings to address the depressed market.
“Producers want to know what can be done to fix our broken markets and these meetings are intended to give producers information they need to begin doing just that,” commented event organizer and R-CALF USA co-founder Herman Schumacher.
For additional information on any of the topics mentioned, please visit www.r-calfusa.com.

Laurel Masterson is the Organizational Activities Director with R-CALF USA.

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