Out To Pasture: A Cowman's Free Campaign Advice

October 1, 2009 03:53 AM

The election is right around the corner and if anyone associated with either campaign has promised anything to the cattle industry, it was after the deadline for this column.

I guess it's not surprising. There aren't enough cowpeople to populate a feedlot fly strip, much less constitute a demographically important voting bloc.

Nonetheless, with all the issues in the cattle business, it seems they could find something to promise us. I have an idea.

Promise to allow Creekstone to use voluntary tests for BSE. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled in late August that USDA was within their rights to keep Creekstone from testing cattle.

"But,” I would thunder if I were a candidate, "being ‘within their rights' and ‘right' are two different things!” I'm not certain I'd be correct, but I'd thunder it anyway. And I would use "mad cow” liberally.

Here is why. First, a sizable chunk of cattle people—many of them in Midwest battleground states—believe Creekstone should be able to test cattle for anything they want. Many of them also think (with scant evidence, but I wouldn't thunder that) we could have regained Japanese and Korean markets sooner if universal testing had been used.

USDA's argument centers on cost and potential market chaos associated with a private company using an imperfect test on cattle too young to show any signs of the disease.

Pshaw, I say. That is a weak political argument, because it requires some understanding of how the disease works. Fat chance of that selling in a debate sound bite.

To be frank, I'm with the lefties on this. I doubt Japan would have gone for Creekstone's testing program, but it might have helped.

I don't share USDA's concern about market effects of false positives. Watching the public—and press—react to new cases in Canada makes me think the BSE scare is over. The public realizes there is some of it around and they have decided that it isn't a big threat.

Back to the free advice. If I were Barack Obama, I'd attack the Creekstone case as proof Republicans pander to "big business” at the expense of "family farmers.”

On the other hand, if I'm with McCain, I would promise to can the policy because it is a glaring example of federal rules interfering with private initiative. In fact, I might even accuse the Bush-influenced USDA of caving to big packers on the matter.

That's my free advice to the candidates. There may not be as many cattlemen as unemployed steelworkers, but does that mean we don't deserve promises of our own?

Steve Cornett, Editor Emeritus writes from Canyon, Texas scornett@farmjournal.com

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