By: J. Dudley Butler
BREAKWATER CATTLE COMPANY
499 Breakwater Drive
Benton, MS 39039
August 4, 2014
United States President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Protecting Taxpayer Dollars
Dear Mr. President
I know we can agree that there are seven continents, and North America is one of them. North America includes 41 separate countries and territories. I also know there are embedded within USDA certain National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) sympathizers that want to promote the term “North American Beef.” They want the term to mean beef from the United States, Canada and Mexico. However, there is no such thing as “North American Beef” and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) know it.
In order to properly use the term “North American Beef” it must include the beef produced from the cattle in the 41 separate countries and territories including Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Do we really want to throw the reputation of our U.S. origin beef into such an uncertain melting pot? Is the theoretical quest for world trade without borders so valuable that we will give up our sovereignty and our way of life that men and women continue to fight and die to protect?
For OIG and AMS to adopt the position that the term “North American Beef” was used as a reference to, and not a promotion of “North American Beef” would be laughable if it was not so pathetic. The response generated by AMS and OIG for the signature of the Under Secretary in the April 28, 2014 letter(attached hereto) is obviously meant as some type of diversion. It is a means of covering up the sheer incompetence of these agencies as well as a continued attempt by them to conceal from the public the blatant mismanagement of beef checkoff funds.
Remember, these involuntary payments made by the cattlemen and cattlewomen of the United States have been declared a tax by the Unites States Supreme Court.
The additional skewed response generated by AMS and OIG for the signature of the Under Secretary in the July 7, 2014 letter (attached hereto) provides further evidence of their continued cover-up of wrongdoing, by refusing to adequately address proven and acknowledged misappropriations of beef checkoff funds (tax dollars) by the NCBA. For USDA staff to present these type letters generated by AMS and OIG to an Under Secretary for his signature does a disservice to him and your administration.
When someone misappropriates tax dollars they should be prosecuted, not given a free pass. Our tax dollars must be protected, not allowed to be high jacked and squandered by the NCBA to promote the meat industries global interests, which are mostly contrary to U.S. cattle producers.
There must be significant changes made to every facet of the checkoff management and operating structure as well as the criteria for awarding contracts funded with checkoff dollars. This must be done to ensure diversity, accountability and credibility as well as limit the amount of money that any particular organization can receive. These changes must be made to ensure that these tax dollars are protected and are not in the hands of a few but truly are awarded in a way that ensures that the interests of the thousands of cattlemen and cattlewoman that pay the checkoff fees are served and protected. For Examples:
(1) No more than four (4) members on the twenty (20) member checkoff operating committee should be members, affiliates or associated in any way to any particular organization.
(2) The Beef Checkoff Federation should not be affiliated with NCBA in any way.
We also know there are certain sympathizers within USDA that agree with the meatpackers’ position of declaring Country of Origin Labeling laws (COOL) invalid and unenforceable. However, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has recently laid this question to rest. Their recent en banc decision was in favor of COOL. It was a 9 to 2 vote. Your administration should vigorously support COOL no matter what the WTO and its self-appointed arbitrators decide in the future. Our nation’s sovereignty is at stake. U. S. citizens have a right to know where their food comes from.
COOL does not cause certain meatpackers to sometimes discount the prices they pay for cattle of Canadian and Mexican origin. They do this because they have the concentrated market power to do so and the USDA and the Department of Justice stand idly by and just let it happen.
When I worked for USDA/GIPSA I wanted to bring an action against these meatpackers pursuant to section 202(b) of the Packers and Stockyards. However, I was emphatically ordered to not do so by a member of Secretary Vilsack’s staff. Canadian and Mexican cattle producers should not be suing the USDA, they should be suing these meatpackers for violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. There is no legitimate excuse for certain meatpackers to discount Canadian and Mexican cattle from $40.00 to $60.00 per head. The real cost of the COOL requirements is less than half a cent per pound of the meat produced.
These meatpackers just use COOL as an excuse to exert their power and the WTO panel so far has not opened their eyes to find the real culprits. The WTO panel would rather turn a blind eye and deny U. S. producers the right to have the beef from their cattle honestly labeled. Does the term “honesty is the best policy” mean anything anymore?
NCBA’s opposition to the COOL law is another glaring example of its actions that are contrary to U.S. producers’ interests and its blatant misuse of beef checkoff generated tax dollars.
Mr. President, I love my country as I am sure you do. I love my family and our way of life in rural America. I want the beef produced from our cattle to be labeled “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the USA.” When I served you as the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration I swore to uphold the laws of the United States and I did just that. Why won’t others in your Administration do the same? You should and must demand they do so.
Mr. President, you made public certain promises to U. S. producers when you were running for office. You now have eighteen months left in your term to fulfill these promises. I would consider it an honor to be able to meet with you and express my thoughts and concerns as well as the concerns of thousands of independent U. S. farmers and ranchers. Your expeditious response to this matter is appreciated.
J. Dudley Butler
BREAKWATER CATTLE COMPANY
499 Breakwater Drive
Benton, MS 39039
Originally Published: Competitive Markets