Checkoff, Lawsuits Highlight “Code Of The West”
Issues and obstacles facing the cattle industry were just a few of the highlights from last month’s “Code of the West” convention hosted by R-CALF USA in Deadwood, South Dakota. The 23rd Annual National Convention saw consumers and industry representatives come together to address a host of issues. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said the past 12 months have been challenging for producers nationwide, between drought, supply-chain issues, decreased revenue and increased costs, along with the increase of foreign beef imports. He added another chief topics of discussion the beef Checkoff Program, which he said is antiquated and no longer meeting the needs of today's cattle producers.
“We need to begin promoting U.S.A. beef so that we're supporting the very cattle producers who are forced to pay into the system. We've had two checkoff lawsuits. In fact, we have one lawsuit that's still pending, alleging that the checkoff has continued to violate the constitution and now the corrective action that was taken to correct this decades long violation of the Constitution is itself unlawful.”
In April of 2019, R-CALF filed a class action lawsuit against the “big four” beef packing companies [JBS, Tyson, National Beef, and Cargill], which process over 80% of U.S. beef production. R-CALF alleged that between January 1st, 2015 to April 19th, 2019, these Big Four intentionally lowered the price of cattle they bought from American ranchers to increase their own profits. Bullard stated that along with increasing tariffs on international beef imports, there needs to be a greater degree of competition between local ranchers and larger beef packing companies.
“To do that we need mandatory country of origin labeling, for beef. So we are promoting Senate Bill 2716, that will accomplish that and that's the first step in trade reform. The other step is to begin to re-strengthen all of our food safety standards that have been weakened, because we were following the global initiative of the World Trade Organization.”
Other speakers at last month’s convention include FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux and Senior Advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets Andy Green, Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) expert Tracy Hunt, and Republican candidate for Congress in Wyoming Harriet Hageman. During this event, Harriet Hageman claimed that administrative agencies were using guidance documents, fact sheets, or answers to frequently asked questions to change Congressional statutes.
Bullard says nearly 400 cattle producers attended the Convention, which ran August 18th-19th.
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