The following is an op-ed submitted to Ohio newspapers for the Thanksgiving holiday.
by Warren Taylor and Joe Logan
As American families prepare their Thanksgiving turkeys, they should thank local livestock farmers producing beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and dairy products. Unfortunately, politicians, lobbyists and trade negotiators in DC are working against those farmers. Shockingly, in our great country, which celebrates independent farmers and ranchers, America’s largest pork processor is Shuanghui International Holdings, a Chinese corporation. Our second largest beef company, JBS USA is a Brazilian corporation. These trans-national corporate giants show the extent of consolidation, and how globalization has played out.
These huge businesses find it profitable to shop global markets for low cost meat cuts that end up for sale in American supermarkets. Their profits soar higher as they avoid labeling the meat’s source. Customers trust American farmers and regulators to provide safe, healthy food products. Not necessarily so for Chinese or Brazilian meat.
Naturally, these meat packers oppose requirements to label the sources of meats. Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) is that law. Although passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2002, foreign and trans-national food corporations have prevented implementation, and now look to repeal COOL.
It’s disappointing that they have found powerful allies in the Beef and Pork promotion organizations authorized by Congress and mostly funded by American farmers and ranchers. The National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) are adamant opponents of COOL. The very livestock promotion organizations who should speak for American farmers and ranchers are working against their interests and the interests of 90% of American consumers seeking honest information about how and where their food is produced.
Impossible? Most other industrial agriculture nations require Country Of Origin Labeling for food. The American Meat Institute, The National Grocers Association, McDonalds and others shamelessly interested in sourcing the cheapest food possible, have assaulted America’s COOL laws. After passage in the 2002 Farm Bill and surviving four Federal Court suits, COOL is facing repeated World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges.
It’s bad enough when American business interests used money and influence to get their way in Washington DC, now it is multinational corporations’ agenda lobbying against COOL, clearly against America’s farmers’ best interests.
It is easy to imagine America’s Thanksgiving turkeys coming from other nations, willing to use agricultural practices which pollute their air water and soil and keep their people in poverty, to produce the cheapest food for export. Many food exporting nations have higher levels of poverty and hunger, even while food is exported for cash serving profitable corporations. It’s worse when our American agriculture and trade policies support this injustice.
It is well-known that local money circulates in a local economy. Multipliers of 7 to 15 times are generally applied to an agriculture operation within its local community. This includes farm equipment, fertilizer, feed, diesel fuel, insurance, and buildings, the labor and it’s housing, food, insurance, automobiles, schools, teachers and high school sports teams. The money circulates again and again.
This is in stark contrast to food from foreign nations brought in and sold at a low price. That money profits the nations producing the food, the corporations processing and selling, the businesses providing seagoing container ships, and middlemen selling into American markets. Few benefits are enjoyed by American citizens.
Adding insult to injury, American beef and pork producers are required to pay promotion organizations authorized by Congress and overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture. Those funds, $42 million annually from beef farmers and $85 million annually from pork producers, are being used to lobby against COOL in Washington DC and at the WTO.
Several national, state and regional beef producer groups, including the Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) have had enough. They are petitioning their Congressional Representatives to stand up and support Country Of Origin Labeling, COOL, for hard-working livestock farmers and consumers.
Livestock agriculture farmers around Ohio will make themselves heard all the way to Washington. Just after an election – and just before Thanksgiving – is a great time to bring the American people these issues as they thank God and America’s farmers for food bounty.
COOL is the way an American citizen tells whether they are supporting American farmers, or foreign farmers. COOL is the way an American shopper knows their meat originated here and was grown and processed under U.S. regulations safeguarding the health and safety of consumers.
American citizens have a right to know. We must keep COOL in place. COOL supports American farmers rather than foreign corporations and will assure our grandchildren vibrant rural communities and high quality fresh American meat, poultry, and dairy products. Please join us in supporting COOL.
Warren Taylor is co-owner and founder of Snowville Creamery a dairy in Southern Ohio selling dairy products in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Snowville’s products originate from eleven pasture-grazed dairy herds in Ohio and are sold by grocers including Kroger, Whole Foods and a host of independent family retailers. He is a member of the Ohio Farmers Union.
Joe Logan is president of the Ohio Farmers Union and a dairy and grain farmer from Kinsman, Ohio. Logan has enjoyed a long second career in agricultural and environmental public policy. He has served both OFU and the Ohio Environmental Council working on legislative issues regarding agriculture and water quality. He has just been appointed to a national advisory committee to U.S. EPA Director Gina McCarthy – the Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Committee.