When the Debate is Over

Fighting For Freedom - Just Not Yours!

Remember that kid on the playground, not the bully, but his smaller, weaker spokesman; that big-mouth side-kick that did most of the talking? Well some of these little rascals grow up, but never shut up. Some get paid for their lip bumping; others just talk because they love to hear the sound of their voice. Either way, they talk and talk and talk because they’re afraid to walk the walk.

Steve Dittmer is one of those talkers. He has attended many summer conferences of the Organization for Competitive Markets over the last 15 years to record what’s said and done. Later he can almost always be counted on to misrepresent and deride the proceedings. Despite his distorted reporting, we’ve never failed to welcome Mr. Dittmer to our meetings. I remember one year he came in disguise, with dyed hair and sunglasses; when I greeted him, he didn’t even know his own name! Regardless, we continue hoping that someday he might come to understand why OCM fights so hard for honest, open and competitive markets.

Since Mr. Dittmer is a better talker than listener or sleuth, maybe we can once again help him out by giving him a picture of what’s been happening while he’s been yammering: 

  • since Mr. Dittmer was at CALF News, per capita beef consumption has declined by nearly a third while chicken has more than doubled;
  • the U.S. has lost nearly half of its cattlemen, over 90% of its hog farmers, and over 85% of its dairy farmers;
  • beef cattle numbers are the lowest since 1951, a train wreck for the entire cattle and meat industry from the ranch to the feeding sector to retail; 
  • the biggest companies in all three major meat categories are now foreign owned and fighting for increased foreign access to our U.S. markets to displace even more domestic production; 
  • the U.S., once proclaiming to be the grocery store to the world, now is a net food importer on a value basis; and 
  • poultry and hog producers are mostly serfs on their own farms under the control of corporate lords while cattlemen are well on their way to suffering the same fate.

OCM stands against abusive market power and for family farmers and ranchers. We support fair, open and competitive markets, prosperous rural communities, good food, and humane treatment of livestock and the people who care for them.
 
Mr. Dittmer and his AgribusinessFreedom.org stands for the “freedom” of big ag biz bullies to continue their unrestrained plundering and pillaging of our farms and ranches at the expense of every working American farmer and rancher.
 
The honest debate about what kind of agriculture and food system best serves people, animals and the planet is long over. Are OCM and our like-minded friends really that serious a threat to the domination of Mr. Dittmer’s corporate thugs that he must misrepresent us, our beliefs and our goals?

I hope so.

– Mike Callicrate

 

OCM-HSUS Partnership Spews Vitriol, Innuendo at Cattlemen’s Checkoff
OCM Provides Platform for HSUS

Colorado Springs, CO Feb. 12, 2014

Don’t forget our industry blog, Freemarketcarnivore. Our blog posts are not sent to you direct like the newsletter. But you can sign up on the blog to get an e-mail message sent to you when something new is posted.

For years, we’ve said that the beef industry’s time and money would be better spent fighting our activist adversaries outside the industry than fighting turf wars within the industry. Well, the turf wars have not gone away. The fringes have not convinced the majority of their positions — the underlying, basic arguments haven’t changed in over 100 years — so in frustration, some of the more desperate fringes have turned to allying with industry adversaries to survive and keep their message alive.

We’re not sure how far ahead the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), for example, has thought in their teaming up with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). After all, HSUS’ goal is to eliminate animal agriculture. Why would a group of livestock producers ally with a group dedicated to their elimination?

This could be called the alligator strategy. Because HSUS professes to believe “family” farmers treat their animals better than so-called mainstream misnamed “factory” or “industrial” farms, OCM figures that by the time HSUS has helped them destroy industry agriculture, then what? HSUS will have changed their mind about animal agriculture? That OCM will have grown so popular and so big by then that they won’t need a partnership with HSUS? Some other outcome? Whatever their short-term rationalization, they hope the alligator will eat “industrial” agriculture — big packers, big grain companies, big seed companies, fast food chains, big grocery chains, etc. — before it eats very small family farmers.

And, of course, their definition of “factory” or “industrial” or “big” farmers or ranchers begins at the end of their farm lane. Anyone who has more cows or sows than they do is the adversary, someone who needs to be put out of business. OCM President Mike Callicrate defines a family farm as one in which the owner takes care of all the animals himself. He didn’t clarify if the owner is allowed to have help from a son, or brother or father or wife or daughter. Interestingly enough, we doubt Callicrate drives the feed truck twice a day in St. Francis, Ks. and still manages to be in Colorado Springs and Denver to run his meat processing and retail stores. Does he qualify as a family farmer under his own definition?

Of course, part of that fight against other ranchers and farmers is eliminating any group that represents anyone bigger than them. Target #1 is NCBA, the group that consists of, and is run by, more hardcore professional family cattle ranchers and farmers than any other group. OCM is peppered with ranchers who used to belong to NCBA but got frustrated because they could not convince committees and boards to embrace their populist, anti-free market views.

Desperate to find some way to take NCBA down and unable to win on their arguments, OCM keeps trying to find some way to attack NCBA funding. OCM refuses to believe NCBA could possibly find more than a few dozen folks who agree with them — after all, no OCM members do — so they can’t believe NCBA could possibly fund two offices, policy projects and a staff through dues-paying members. So they continue to nurse their theory that NCBA is incapable and dishonest enough to use check off funds — which cannot be used for policy and lobbying activities — for policy and lobbying activities.

Trust us, the cattlemen who run NCBA can certainly fund and run their outfit on the roughly $6 million a year they get from dues, meetings and sponsorships. And we know how much they take in because we see their full and detailed financial reports printed out and available at their open board and committee meetings. Which is totally different than OCM’s financial details, which are not available at open meetings. The last time we saw one of their reports by accident, they were getting funding from eastern liberal foundations. HSUS is famous for the impressions their television spots create that they run rescue shelters, with no mention of extensive lobbying activities and many lawyers filing lawsuits and running political campaigns.

Despite the Inspector General’s report that found NCBA in compliance, despite numerous audits that verify NCBA’s proper handling of funds, OCM has not only continued to make unfounded accusations but enlisted an enemy of all agricultural check offs to help them — HSUS. OCM’s lawsuit against the NCBA and the check off foundered when they could not find a law firm that would take the case — at least, not for free.

Now, HSUS is very directly — and misleadingly — attacking the checkoff.

Next time: HSUS CEO Pacelle attacks checkoff and NCBA.

 

Bamboozlers

If you are like me, you deeply resent it when you get bamboozled. Alan Guebert’s excellent and on point column below in today’s Lincoln Journal Star below details the work of one of our nation’s highest paid bamboozlers, Richard Berman. Berman is a big business special interest hired public relations hit man whose specialty is the development and deployment of public relation campaigns designed to destroy political or economic opponents. The use of malicious misinformation is bamboozling at its deceitful, deceptive, double dealing worst.

Berman is hired by big agribusiness interests (meatpackers mostly) to concoct public perception poison, and then put it in his hog trough for the use by their political allies to use to feed their members as they help him spread his public perception poison. The primary source of disinformation used to attack and malign the efforts of HSUS-a mainstream animal welfare organization-not an animal rights organization used by the Farm Bureau, the pork industry, and NCBA and their affiliates is Berman the Bamboozler.

Orchestrated public perception and political diversions are a mainstay tactic used by those organizations to over their own duplicity and role in the corporate takeover of traditional owner-operator livestock production. Berman is often used by the meatpackers to divert time and attention away from the structural issues facing modern agriculture. The meatpackers do not want livestock producers working together to fix non-competitive livestock markets that continue to steal value and put livestock producers out of business. The meatpackers hire Berman and his peers[Steve Dittmer] to put livestock producers on destructive and non-productive wild goose chases orchestrated by the likes of Berman the Bamboozler. Their goal is to divide, and then conquer family farmers and ranchers.

I attached the fact sheet NeFU put together about the work of Berman and some of his fronts. As citizens, we must raise our awareness of these kinds of deceitful public relations operations to prevent our good intentions from being used against ourselves. It is more true today than ever before that you cannot be both ignorant, and free.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

John K. Hansen, President
Nebraska Farmers Union
Web: http://www.nebraskafarmersunion.org

The Con Job: Center for Consumer Freedom

Masquerading as a legitimate non-profit organization, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is a front group for corporations trying to thwart unions and animal welfare, environmental, and other public interest reforms.

Far from being a consumer protection organization, CCF takes in corporate cash and, in exchange, provides anonymity to well-financed businesses, allowing them to fund attacks against legitimate advocacy groups while taking tax breaks through their “donations” to phony non-profits.

CCF was started with a payment from tobacco companies to attack anti-smoking organizations. With support from the food and alcohol industries and Big Ag, CCF and its affiliates have mounted campaigns against unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Humane Society of the United States, and other respected and credible organizations.

For the sake of protecting corporations’ bottom lines, CCF has fought against legislation that would reduce the use of plastic shopping bags, and fought New York City’s efforts to combat childhood obesity, saying that Mayor Bloomberg might as well “cut to the chase and outlaw fun while he’s at it.”

In an attempt to thwart even the most modest reforms, CCF hirelings sling mud on behalf of big businesses that profit from the mistreatment of people and animals.

Richard Berman, Corporate Henchman

CCF is one of several shadowy non-profit organizations founded by or associated with millionaire lobbyist, lawyer and spin doctor, Richard Berman. According to CCF’s 2008 tax filing, 92 percent of all revenue taken in by CCF went straight into the pockets of Berman and his for-profit PR firm, which appears to be nothing less than a personal enrichment scheme.

Berman’s corporate shell game with sham non-profits, his underhanded tactics against charities and public interest organizations, and his refusal to disclose the identity of his corporate paymasters, have been exposed in investigations by major news media, including CBS’ 60 Minutes, which headlined its investigation on Berman as “Meet Dr. Evil.”

Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics described Berman’s mode of operation as “Orwellian speak down, turning black into white.”

Attacking Environmental, Health and Animal Advocates and Unions

Berman’s history shows that he will attack any group for the right price. The New York Times reports that Berman built a career working on labor issues and campaigned against minimum-wage increase.

Under the misleadingly named group Center for Union Facts, Berman led a vicious campaign against labor unions with TV commercials and full-page ads in large papers such as USA Today.
“We haven’t seen anything like this, anything that’s as high profile, as seemingly well-funded, as systematic, in a long time,” said Paul Clark, a professor of labor studies and industrial relations at Penn State University, of the attack on union leaders.

A spokeswoman for the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations called Berman’s campaign, “outrageous and unfounded.”

Berman moved on to attack health organizations that worked to address obesity; organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving that worked to prevent drunken driving fatalities; and animal protection organizations that work for humane treatment of farm animals.

Feeding misleading information to the media and public figures who repeat it is what Berman does best, but people can protect themselves from playing into the hands of this corporate conman by recognizing his phony nonprofit organizations that are quoted in advertisements and articles.

Misleading Groups Affiliated with Rick Berman

– Center for Consumer Freedom
– Center for Union Facts
– American Beverage Institute
– Humane Society for Shelter Pets
– HumaneWatch

What others are saying:

“My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molester. An exploiter. A scoundrel. … He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke. He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, and teachers. His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America. …” – David Berman, son of CCF founder Rick Berman.

“[Berman] obviously has made a very monetarily successful career out of bashing, smearing and attacking environmentalists. … He’s perfected the art of the personal attack and the personal smear.” – John Stauber, head of Center for Media and Democracy

“I call him Dr. Evil because the policies he’s shilling for are evil. They make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” – Richard Bensiger, former director of organizing for the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations

“Maybe the group should change its Web site from ConsumerFreedom.com to FatforProfit.com.” – Editorial, USA Today, May 4, 2005.

“[Berman and CCF] make a lot of noise, but nobody in academia takes their arguments seriously.” – Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

“The companies that are working with [CCF] want their critics debunked and trashed…They can secretly participate in that by funding Berman.” – Michael Jacobson, Ph. D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“Tax experts have raised questions… about the Center for Consumer Freedom’s status as a charity.”—Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 11, 2010

“Berman is the best, and apparently most hated, example of a third party hired by companies to be their public face as they take on unpopular battles.” – USA Today reporter H. Darr Beiser

USA Today, July 31, 2006. H. Darr Beiser “Got a nasty fight? Here’s your man.”
Pittsburg Post-Gazette, June 8, 2006. Anya Sostek “TV ad targeting unions raises profile of campaign against labor leaders”
Pittsburg Post-Gazette, June 8, 2006. Anya Sostek “TV ad targeting unions raises profile of campaign against labor leaders”
USA Today, July 31, 2006. H. Darr Beiser “Got a nasty fight? Here’s your man.”
USA Today, July 31, 2006. H. Darr Beiser “Got a nasty fight? Here’s your man.”
New York Times, June 12, 2005. Melanie Warner “Striking Back at the Food Police.”
USA Today, July 31, 2006. H. Darr Beiser “Got a nasty fight? Here’s your man.”

www.nebraskafarmersunion.org

“Berman and Company is quite objectively in the business of manufacturing misinformation.”—Salon, Sept. 29, 2011

“Berman is the best, and apparently most hated, example of a third party hired by companies to be their public face as they take on unpopular battles.” – USA Today reporter H. Darr Beiser

 

Farm and Food: Recall worse PR than anything anti-meat groups could conjure

February 14, 2014
By ALAN GUEBERT / Columnist

Early February was not a good time to be an American carnivore.

First, on Feb. 8, Rancho Feeding Co. of Petaluma, Calif., announced it was recalling 8.7 million pounds of beef carcasses and cuts. That’s virtually every pound of the company’s 2013 throughput.

The reason for the recall, explained the Tuesday Los Angeles Times, was that federal regulators “said (the) plant ‘processed diseased and unsound animals’ without a full federal inspection,” making it products “unsound, unwholesome or otherwise … unfit for human food …”

How does the meat from more than 11,500 head of cattle get recalled under that stomach-turning description and not one meat inspector from either California or the U.S. Department of Agriculture knows about it until almost every ounce has been sold and consumed?

I don’t know, and neither does USDA; its Office of Inspector General, USDA later announced, will investigate the stinking mess and get back to us.

Great; updated plans on how to build a gate now that the cows are gone — again.

News for the Meat Gang didn’t get any better Feb. 10, when a New York Times front page story carved up an unknown-outside-the-Beltway, no-person non-profit operation named the Employment Policies Institute.

EPI, reported the Times, is an “official-sounding,” mostly opaque arm of Berman and Company, an advertising and public relations firm owned by Richard B. Berman. EPI’s only function, it detailed, is “to shape hot-button political debates” “with the gloss of research.”

Few people in U.S. farming and ranching know of Berman and his preferred business model: non-profit entities like EPI “backed by corporate lobbyists and labor unions,” explained the Times, “with a potential payoff that can be in the millions of dollars for the interests” — never disclosed — “they represent.”

Although his non-profits put on the show, Berman rakes in the dough without disclosing who’s behind the “if not dishonest, at least disingenuous” (“…said John Weaver, a Republican political consultant”) non-lobbying lobbying campaigns.

For example, in his effort to fight any raise to the minimum wage, “Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm ‘bills’ the non-profit institute for services” that, in 2012, brought Berman “$1.1 million … according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of (EPI’s) total budget.”

Sweet racket and all legal, noted the Times.

Why Berman’s self-enriching, bilge-peddling non-profits matter to farmers and ranchers is simple: two of his biggest, most disreputable efforts are loved by farm groups and embraced by ag media — HumaneWatch.org, his red hot, anti-Humane Society of the United States website, and his equally hot PETAKillsAnimals.com.

Both, along with some 20 other, non-profit websites that promote unnamed political interests, hide in a Berman-built shell benignly named the Center for Consumer Freedom. (Two Berman-backed web campaigns attack such uncontroversial topics as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Almost every major news organization — and even his own son — has published or aired Berman exposes’: “Meet Dr. Evil,” 60 Minutes; a “Washington echo chamber… coveted by industry lobbyists,” New York Times; “… phony non-profit …” Bloomberg; a “company that invents front groups,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch; “…a despicable man, an exploiter, a scoundrel,” PR Watch.

Everything about him, his ethics, tactics and shady use of tax-exempt fronts stink worse than 8.7 million pounds of “unsound, unwholesome” beef that somehow made it through the American marketplace completely undetected last year.

And, yet, he’s the guy Big Ag and Big Meat repeatedly hold up and fund as a friend of American farmers and ranchers because he attacks their — and they say, your — avowed enemies, the Humane Society and PETA.

Indeed, you may view PETA and HSUS as enemies, but, rest assured, when you’re recalling millions of pounds of long-gone beef as “unfit for human food” you got far bigger problems than HSUS and PETA.

After all, neither could have dreamed up a better anti-meat campaign than the one that began in California and went undetected for a year.

The Farm and Food is published weekly throughout the U.S. and Canada. Past columns, news and events are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com. Contact Guebert at agcomm@farmandfoodfile.com.


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