There were a couple of big headlines last week that deserve comment. The most important—we should hope—was the news that the major Korean retailers began offering U.S. beef again.
And, apparently, there wasn't much of a backlash in Korea.
This is not just about Korea, though that country bodes to become, once again, a huge customer. It's about getting past the era of the BSE panic. Not to argue we should ignore BSE, but we and consumers and consumerists and governments should keep it in perspective. And that perspective is that all signs indicate that the British "epidemic” was an aberration that has been corrected with available information. BSE is not a major threat to human health—not nearly as dangerous as stepladders, bathtub falls or alcohol poisoning.
That hasn't kept the panic and subsequent trade restrictions from costing the U.S. and Canadian cattle industry some big bucks. But if Korean consumers—after all the scare thrown at them earlier this year—have seen enough light to accept U.S. beef again, there is hope for a rebirth of rationality.
The Associated Press reported on only one demonstration—about 20 people outside a supermarket in Seoul—in reaction to the chains' announcement. And the sponsor of that one was the Alliance of National Farmers' Associations—so about as good an indication of consumer concerns as R-CALF's unending rants against Canadian beef.
U.S. Meat Export Federation's Phil Seng says opening the big stores—at a time when U.S. beef is about the price of Korean product—should break the "logjam” of beef being shipped to Korea.
We can wish this had happened back when the dollar was weak, but it's still good news anyway you cut it. Korea was an $800 million customer before the BSE ban.
We should hope the other big story is not nearly as important. The EPA ended public comment on its request for input in how—or whether—to use the Federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.
USDA, in arguing against using the act against agriculture, said that requiring Title V compliance like that required of big feedlots, from all operations that fell within the Act's 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold, would apply to dairies over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn.
"It is neither efficient nor practical to require permitting and reporting of GHG emissions from farms of this size,” the comment suggested, adding, "The only means of controlling such emissions would be through limiting production, which would result in decreased food supply and radical changes in human diets. "
You can read the whole paper at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-16432.htm.
That leads one to believe that this—THIS—administration doesn't like the idea. But this administration won't matter much longer. To get an idea of where beef stands with the EPA insiders—the permanents—visit http://www.epa.gov/rlep/faq.html.
They think beef cows are a big contributor of greenhouse gases. Add that to the president-elect's apparent concern about agriculture's role in energy consumption and human health, and you'll have something to worry about if you're so inclined.
Steve Cornett is editor emeritus at Beef Today. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.