Apr 05, 2010
By Steve Cornett
Steve Fogelsong, president this year of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and I were talking about the latest intramural checkoff squabble when he said, a bit gruffly I must admit, “There are a hundred more important things I’d rather we were talking about than this infighting.”
I demurred, of course. I said that in my line of work I have to write about what I think is most interesting. And then I said, but I know what you mean. It’s like the general media at the moment is obsessed with nastiness in politics so much that they can’t talk about anything else. Which, of course, foments more nastiness.
But, I suggested, nastiness is interesting and that’s what we write about. Interesting stuff.
And then Steve told me about Sen. Mike Johanns, former governor of Nebraska and former secretary of agriculture, YouTube video and Japan. It is more interesting than the turf war.
But first, let’s deal quickly with the latest dust-up over the checkoff dollar. You can read the letter that started it at by following this link. The groups that signed the missive are worried that NCBA’s new structure would increase the association’s control of checkoff funds.
Read NCBA’s rebuttal by clicking here. Make up your own mind if you’re interested. For my money, it seems to me that the Federation of State Beef Councils is a voluntary organization. State councils can join or not join. I suspect if they think NCBA is too controlling, they’ll drop out. The thing was set up, intentionally, to respect what you might call “states’ rights.
But that is just an opinion and as my daughter loves to tell me after I express mine, “everybody has one, don’t they?”
Now on to the Johanns YouTube thing. It strikes me as timely for a couple of reasons. For one, our friends and fellow AgWeb bloggers at R-Calf, last week unveiled their latest scare campaign about BSE.
I don’t think everything R-Calf does is necessarily goofy and self-defeating. You don’t have to be goofy to obsess on industry consolidation. You don’t have to be goofy to be protectionist. But if you care about the beef market, trying to fan flame out of the smoking ruins of the BSE debacle is goofy.
If you want to hear the point argued well, go to YouTube and look at the video of Johanns talk about putting some pressure on Japan over that country’s reluctance to fully open the market to American beef.
He compares Japan’s treatment of U.S. beef with a hypothetical case of the U.S. using Toyota’s problems to justify banning the import of Japanese auto parts until their government—their GOVERNMENT, mind you—can guarantee there will be no more defects.
The only asymmetry I can find in the analogy is that Japanese auto parts have actually been responsible for hurting people, while BSE from the U.S. has never hurt anybody. And isn’t likely to.
It’s such a strong point that I hope our current secretary of agriculture will provide the link to his meet-mates on his upcoming trade trip to Japan. The point applies as well to others, including Korea and China.
We’ve got some trading “partners” who don’t partner very well. A marriage counselor would suggest we be open in our communication. If Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will wag his finger hard enough to convey a mien of seriousness, we might see some movement in Asia.
Steve Cornett is editor emeritus at Beef Today. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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