No doubt about it; we got trounced on the GIPSA Rule! We’ve been trounced repeatedly over the past dozen years or so in most all of our market reform efforts. On Capitol Hill and in the regulatory agencies, we have routinely been unsuccessful. In the courts, we would win with the jury but ultimately get reversed at the appellate level. The big agribusiness interests have prevailed. We know that our cause is righteous, but we keep losing!
I recently became acquainted with a successful New York attorney who is interested in these issues. He doesn’t have a background in this sort of thing but believes our antitrust laws should be enforced and that retaining independent family agriculture is a good idea. At his request, I sent him a great deal of material regarding such matters as the proposed GIPSA Rule, the reversal of the several jury decisions based on the “competitive injury” ruling, the NCBA/Beef Checkoff scandal and the hijacking of the good name of real farmers and ranchers and then tapping into commodity promotion funds by the U. S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. After several days of reading and contemplation, my new friend concluded “you guys just got out-resourced”.
He has a point. The NCBA, who has consistently sided with the big packers and has opposed every effort to bring about fair play in the marketplace, receives about $50 million each year in our Beef Checkoff funds. This represents some 80% of NCBA’s total revenue. They were a lead opponent of the proposed GIPSA Rule and Country of Origin Labeling. The NPPC, National Corn Growers Association and the several other so called commodity promotion organizations are generally in opposition to all market reform efforts. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the “Food Industry” spent $40 million in lobbying last year. You can bet that these folks were not on our side.
So we are indeed badly out-resourced. So what do we do? Do we consider the effort futile and give up; or do we come together to develop some resources and fight on?
OCM has chosen to fight on. We are bringing together a new confederation of folks to develop the wherewithal for successfully confronting those who would abolish the family farm, lay waste to rural America and imperil our national food security. The first of what is expected to be several planning sessions was held in Omaha on March 4th.
Included are some individuals and organizations not normally involved in these issues. However, they understand the necessity of food security and believe in the virtues of family agriculture. While there is disagreement on a number of other issues, there is complete unity on the proposed joint efforts. Our intent is to rally around those things we fervently agree on and put aside for another day any disagreements.
I am confident that we will endure some scorn and criticism for our association with some of these folks. Such is often the price for doing what one believes is right. We in OCM had this conversation a few years back. Our resulting policy is:
“OCM may accept contributions and membership payments from any person or organization other than an organization identified on a US State Department list of organizations with interest inimical to the United States, or a person who is a member of such an organization, or has avowed interests contrary to the Constitution of the United States and the concept of free markets expressed above. Further, OCM shall accept funds which are contributed or paid to it (a) with no demands or expectations, written or unwritten, and no strings attached to how they will be used by OCM, or (b) are donated for a dedicated, defined purpose approved by the OCM Board before the funds are accepted. Such a purpose shall be consistent with OCM’s organizational policy and principles, but may be devoted to work in a single area of market activity.”
So, we are willing to work with those who we might disagree with on some issues, but who are willing to support our effort without asking us to deviate from our mission. We believe we are on the right side of a desperate struggle. This country won WWII by allying with the Russians and it is clear here that there must be alliances if we are to have a chance. It is not always necessary to be best friends with the guy you’re in a foxhole with. We believe there are prospects for success only if we are willing to put aside our prejudices and aggregate our strengths and resources.
Prices for farm commodities are presently at or near record highs. Most farmers and ranchers are making a profit. But, be assured that these prices will not endure, input costs will remain high and red ink will return. We should not be lulled into apathy. Now is the time to invest in unrigging the marketplace so that in the future, the one who does it right has a chance at survival!
As featured in our March Monthly Newsletter