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Beef’s stake in the election

00:00AM Sep 08, 2008

Steve Cornett

The political conventions are over and if you know anymore about where which candidate would lead the cattle industry, you've seen something I haven't.

Here's some of what we do know:

Obama—who would probably, we should note, have the wind of a Democratic congress at his back—would like to reinstate the estate tax. That's the one landowners call the "death tax.

McCain—who would probably have to wrestle anything he wants away from that same Democratic congress, or at least meet them half way, wants to extend the current tax rules.
Obama is an avid supporter of ethanol. He opposes the idea of lifting the import tariff on imported ethanol—a tariff Brazil is getting ready to challenge as protectionist.

McCain is not a supporter of ethanol at all. He believes it is a boondoggle and he claims to be against boondoggles.

Obama supported the farm bill with objections to the size of payments to rich guys. McCain voted to support the Bush veto, calling the program "bloated.” He thinks it is a boondoggle, and we've already discussed his position on that.

We don't know how either of them would approach the Creekstone case, wherein USDA has refused to allow private testing for BSE.

Both have complained about increasing food prices hurting "the people” but neither has said anything about what they think they might do about it. Surely--surely--we can assume they won't repeat the Nixon price freeze mistake.

Obama has said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA and McCain says he is pro-trade.

Neither of the guys has much to say about beef issues on their Web sites. Obama's list of "issues” includes:

Civil Rights, defense, disabilities, economy, education, energy and environment, ethics, faith, family, fiscal, foreign policy, healthcare, homeland security, immigration, Iraq, poverty, rural, service, seniors and Social Security, technology, urban policy, veterans and women.

There are many promises under most of those categories, but "The Problem” he lists under Rural issues seems not too hard to define:  

  • Family farmers are being squeezed: Farm consolidation has made it harder for mid-size family farmers to get fair prices for their products and compete on the open market.
  • CAFOs pollute the environment: Between 1992 and 2004, there were more than 450 manure spills from CAFOs in Iowa, killing millions of fish and jeopardizing public health.
  • Rural communities are often left behind: Rural communities often struggle to attract capital because of lack of infrastructure and remote distances.
  • There is less access to quality doctors, and schools have trouble recruiting teachers.

The McCain site does have a category called "Agricultural Policies,”but it has little specific to beef. He does reiterate and then re-reiterate his support for free trade.

We should note here that Country of Origin will be up and running (or not running) before inauguration. So that's off the table, I suppose. The word among the wizened is that the JBS merger will be done by then as well. So if Obama and his National Farmer's Union advisors want to make good on their anti-corporate rhetoric, they'd be facing a done deal on that.
So, near as I can tell, if you just want to vote your bumper sticker—the one that says "BEEF,” you have a pretty clear choice. If you are among those who think big packers and beef imports are the industry's biggest problem, Obama may be your man

On the other hand, if you're in one of the higher tax brackets or have a sizable piece of the pie  you'd like to pass to the kids, or if you are among those who see more promise than threat to your industry from Global trade—or, for that matter, if you fret about what Mr. Obama means when he chooses to include CAFO's on such a short list of "problems”—maybe you should consider McCain.
Or you could, I suppose, just vote what you think is best for the whole country.  But that would make you a silly goose, wouldn't it?

What do you think?

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Steve Cornet is editor emeritus at Beef Today. You can reach him via e-mail at