Fight for your way of life

December 28, 2008 06:00 PM

Steve Cornett

A couple of things crossed my inbox recently reminding me that cowboys may not be as outnumbered as they feel. But we better start acting like a team, and one with everybody willing to play.

One thing was a note about an upcoming meeting in Phoenix. The other was a note from Joe Meyer of Williamsburg, Ind. Mr. Meyer serves as a director of the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the national United Soybean Board. He reminds me that USB has an ongoing animal agriculture initiative and that ongoing success of animal rightists is among their priorities.

The USB was expected to collect something like $140 million in 2008—more than twice what the beef checkoff generates—for use in promoting soybean use. Soybeans have lots of uses, but the biggest one is for livestock feed, and Mr. Meyer is among those who realize that anything that's bad for cows is bad for beans.

He wonders "where is the corn industry?” in the effort. Now that he mentions it, so do I.

It turns out they do pay some attention. Among their policies is this:

"Support the US livestock/poultry industry:

a) Responsible competitive environmentally-sound livestock/poultry production expansion.
b) Place a priority on educating government and the general public on the importance of the livestock/poultry industry.
c) Work with commodity organizations and other affiliated interests to establish and maintain programs and policies, which lead to the strengthening of the livestock poultry industry as our number one corn market.” 

Judging by my mail the last few years—which sometimes comes from corn farmers upset with the cattle industry's approach to ethanol subsidies—not all corn producers are all swoozy with enthusiasm about helping the cattle industry.
I suppose you can't blame them, but they should realize the importance of the animal rights movement threat facing the livestock industries. It threatens to severely impact cattle, poultry and hog production, and if that were to happen there will be whole Alaskas full of unneeded farmland in the U.S. states.

"If cattle eating corn is bad for the world,” says Mr. Meyer, "then pigs and chickens will be the next target. If corn is also bad for ethanol then what is left?

"Where (are) Monsanto and Pioneer in our defense; where is John Deere, Case, Agco, Caterpillar? Where are our rural political leaders? What kind of rural America will we have if corn and soybeans are only consumed directly by humans? How many farms will we need? What states will be forced to shut down their entire agricultural industry?”

He raises good questions. But what he doesn't ask is, where are the cattle producers? Why aren't more of them involved with National Cattlemen's Beef Association or their state association? Those are the folks fighting the rear guard action to protect animal agriculture, and they are out manned, out funded and losing one skirmish after another.

If you're looking for a New Year's Resolution, how about joining a cattle organization and enlisting in the effort to protect your way of life?
One way to start would be to head to Phoenix for a January 28 NCBA Joint Welfare meeting, which will draw a wide range of participants—"stakeholders”, as they might be called—to form a council aimed specifically at fighting back.

The goals, as listed, include:

  1. Develop an understanding of the progress the animal rights movement has made and lessons learned from prior campaigns.
  2. Identify similar efforts, so all efforts can be unified.
  3. Form a council to tell food animal production's positive story and point out the negative side of the animal rights movement.

The idea is to come out of that confab with a unified effort to do a public relations job for livestock producers.

The cattle industry has plenty things to worry about. But the momentum obvious in the animal rights movement may be the worst. It's not a problem that will be conquered without widespread effort.

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

This column is part of the Beef Today Cattle Drive e-newsletter, which is delivered to subscribers biweekly and includes beef industry analysis, market information as well as the latest beef headline news. Click here to subscribe.


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