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Do our consumers really know....

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Anonymous

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In Helena one day during the hearing of HB 406, MT Gov. Schweitzers' bill, I thought I would give my input for what it's worth. Some women testifying FOR it (I guess they are called proponents) said they knew where all their clothes, etc came from because the seam tag said "Made in China" or "Made in Taiwan". Folks, we know they were MADE in these countries, but does anyone know where the FABRIC came from or better, from what country did the components of the fabric come from? If a "woolen like" product was purchased by an American Citizen and the tag said 100% wool, made inTaiwan, where did the wool come from? If we are going to implement COOL then we need to do it RIGHT and I don't think half the people for it (COOL) exactly know the whole picture. Just a thought, I would like some input on this. Also if this is an indication of US going overseas to put together a product cheaper than in the good ole' US of A, I guess we can blame the Unions. A thought-provoking, finger-pointing idea, I just want to know what you all think. I respect your ideas as long as they don't include name-calling, bad language, etc.
Thank you :|
 
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Anonymous

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The Facts Behind Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling

Don’t consumers have a right to know where their beef comes from? This rhetorical question was the standard argument used repeatedly by proponents of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (“M”COOL). That argument sounds good on the surface and garnered much of the current support for “M”COOL but this issue goes much deeper than consumers having the right to know where their beef comes from. The concept is easy to support but implementation, enforcement, and cost/benefit questions remain mostly unanswered.

Ironically, the same proponents of “M”COOL who insisted on consumers knowing which beef was from cattle that were exclusively “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.” are also telling USDA not to burden them with traceback on their cattle to verify the claims on the label. Talk about wanting your cake and eating it, too. I wonder how many consumer groups are aware of this effort to water down the enforcement aspects of this labeling law? It’s also ironic that those who claim to be in the cattle industry and not the beef industry are telling those in the beef industry how to market beef.

Foreign Beef Small Percentage

Let’s forget the standard arguments for a moment and focus strictly on the facts of this legislation. The first important fact to consider is that only an estimated 5% of our current beef consumption in the U.S. would be labeled as “foreign beef” under this law. The balance would be either labeled as “Product of U.S.” or “U.S. Beef” or it would be exempt from labeling. Nobody knows what the future of trade holds but this is the situation with normal trade with Canada and Mexico.

Recent figures from USDA show that 20% of our domestic beef consumption is imported beef and live cattle. Of this 20%, 75% of these imports end up in “food service” where they would be exempt as written in the “M”COOL law.

A large percentage of our beef imports are lean trimmings from Australia and New Zealand that we blend with our surplus 50/50 trim to add value to it. Over 90% of these trimmings find their way to the food service (hotels, restraunts, and institutions) industry. Food service establishments such as McDonalds, Taco John’s, Pizza Hut, and many others, which constitute around 50% of our total beef consumption, will be exempt from this law. The entire poultry industry is also exempt from “M”COOL as it’s been proposed.

The “food service exemption” is a primary reason that “M”COOL got as far as it did. Logistically, it would be quite a challenge to label every McDonalds hamburger, label the meat on every Domino’s pizza, label the meat in every Taco John’s taco, and label every Ball Park hot dog even if the consumer was asking for it. They obviously are not.

What does this “food service exemption” mean in regard to “M”COOL? It means that currently, only 5% of our total beef consumption in the U.S. would be labeled as “foreign beef” under this law because of this exemption. (That is, providing that the remaining 5% is not also channeled toward food service). For that reason, under the current import situation, most consumers will not have the opportunity to make a choice between foreign and domestic beef even if this law was enforceable.

Of the small percentage of beef that might currently be labeled as “foreign beef’, most would be from Canada and Mexico. Canada currently has a source verification system that helped them to trace their recent BSE situation. They have a consumer safety edge from that standpoint. In contrast, Mandatory ID was specifically forbidden from our Country of Origin Labeling law.

Canada and the United States have been trading genetics for years making Canada’s beef quality every bit as good as our northern cattle. Their carcass data confirms this. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the facts. In regard to Mexican beef, considering the percentage of our population that is Hispanic, it’s doubtful that they would shy away from the sliver of beef that is labeled as being born in Mexico and fed in the United States.


Enforcement an Issue

Next, let’s look at the enforcement aspects of this law. As mentioned previously, the same proponents of this law that said “consumers should have the right to know where their beef comes from”, are also telling USDA that they do not want to be burdened with traceback to prove origination. This has been one of the most deceitful tactics used by the proponents of this law. Without proper enforcement and an adequate traceback system, the food safety value that this law supposedly provides is questionable.

“M”COOL proponents only wanted imported animals to be tracked and the balance to be “presumed” as U.S. origin. The problem with that idea is that the law clearly states that “any person engaged in the business of supplying a covered commodity to a retailer shall provide information to the retailer indicating the country of origin of the covered commodity”. Nowhere does the law suggest that only imported animals would be tracked.

There are also trade laws to consider regarding the marking of imported animals. Proponents of this law keep throwing out the “presumption of US origin” argument as an alternative to traceback of domestic cattle when USDA has stated clearly that “presumption of US origin” is not an option due to the constraints of both laws.

Some have contended, based on their interpretation of the law, that only retailers would need to provide information and that live cattle are not a covered commodity therefore should not fall under the guidelines of proving origination. Consider that these same proponents of “M”COOL insisted on proving which beef was from cattle that were exclusively “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.”.

The intent of this law was quite clear when it was written. It becomes obvious that neither a retailer nor a processor can determine the origin of the beef without also determining the origin of the cattle the beef came from. After all, beef is not “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.”, live cattle are. There’s no way around the initial intent of this law despite the best efforts of those who are against a traceback system to verify the claims of the label.

The USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has also stated that processors are within their legal rights to require information from producers to verify the origin of the cattle and understandably so as there is no other way to substantiate the origin claims of the label without verification as this law is written.

What we ended up with is a law that must prove which cattle were “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.” without adequate enforcement to substantiate the claims of the label because Mandatory ID was prohibited. Where’s the logic in that? You tell me! Proponents have viewed additional efforts to water down the enforcement aspects of this law as a positive step. This law is flawed and deceptive by not offering consumers what it had originally implied.


Affidavits are Inadequate

Some have suggested that if “Presumption of U.S. Origin” is not an option, then producers should be allowed to use signed affidavits to verify the origination of their cattle. It’s highly unlikely that consumers would ever allow labeling claims to be verified solely based on a signed affidavit without some sort of traceback system.

Even if consumers would be willing to accept labeling claims based solely on a signature, this still requires a change in the law as it is currently worded. From history, we know that a signature is only as good as its enforcement. The LMA’s checkoff petition drive revealed this when it was proven that 33% of these signatures were fraudulent.

If producers could positively identify their livestock based solely on a signature, we wouldn’t need brand inspection anywhere. Those of us who live in brand inspection areas know that signed affidavits, without a brand to verify the affidavit, wouldn’t be effective from an enforcement standpoint.

It’s interesting to note that those who have liability concerns with traceback do not have liability concerns about signed affidavits. If they are equal in their ability to verify a label from an enforcement standpoint, one has to ask why the preference for one over the other? Either “signed affidavits” are verifiable proof to back the claims of a label or they’re not! I think the answer is obvious!

Just as interesting is the fact that those who claim that packers are trying to hide foreign beef behind the USDA inspection stamp are now trusting packers enough to correctly label imported beef with only a signature as verifiable proof. There is no consistency in the arguments of the proponents of this law.

Branding could be used as a means of source verification but not all states or areas have brand inspection and there is duplications of brands between states. Either way, this only tracks the cattle, not the estimated 300 packages of beef that these cattle may become.

Proponents of “M”COOL continually attempt to equate “M”COOL to the school lunch program when the requirements for origin of the two are not the same. In the COOL law, to be designated as U.S. origin requires meat products to be from cattle, hogs, and sheep that are born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States. In contrast, USDA's commodity procurement program requires meat products to come from U.S. produced livestock which excludes only imported meat and meat from livestock imported for direct slaughter.


The Inevitable “Blame Game”

The USDA is the agency that is in charge of implementation and enforcement of this law. Many want to blame USDA for not being able to implement this law as proponents had intended but when you read the law, it becomes obvious that this law would be very difficult to enforce as it is written. If the law allowed it, tracking imported cattle to the packing plant is not the problem. The problem is when you try tracking an estimated 300 packages of beef from an imported carcass that end up being shipped to various destinations with packages of beef of mixed origin without a mandatory ID system.

The wording on the label has to be substantiated with adequate enforcement. One solution to this, providing that the law as written is changed, might be for processors to schedule cattle that were not “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.”, only on certain days. This would create slaughter scheduling problems of scheduling enough foreign cattle to maintain plant flow. Another potential solution is DNA testing to match the package with the cattle that the beef came from but at this point DNA testing is cost prohibitive.

Certainly with modern technology these carcasses and the beef products that they become can be traced but the first question that must be asked is, will this tracing mechanism be enforceable to assure consumers of the validity of the label? The second question that must be asked is will the expenses of differentiating 5% of the beef be worth the costs of labeling all the beef and the costs of implementation and enforcement? Those questions have not been answered adequately for beef producers.


Consumer Loyalty to US Products Questionable

NCBA supports voluntary Country of Origin labeling. The justification being to allow any potential consumer demand for U. S. BEEF, to drive the market needs rather than another government mandate. I know of two source verified “US BEEF” products currently in production neither of which are realizing any noticeable premium above commodity beef prices. There has not been any evidence provided to suggest that consumers are willing to pay enough more for 95% of the U.S. labeled commodity beef to offset the costs of labeling all beef.

Proponents of “M”COOL have used a study from CSU as proof of consumer’s willingness to pay more for U.S. BEEF. CSU later responded to this misinterpretation of their study by suggesting that Country of Origin was not a priority with most consumers when compared to other issues such as price, flavor, tenderness, etc . Consumer purchases of New Zealand lamb and Argentina Grass Fed Beef are two examples of how consumers are not always as loyal to U.S. products as we would hope. All the foreign products that surround our daily lives including our clothes is also proof that we are not always as loyal to domestic products as we would like to believe. In comparing what consumers say and what consumers do, one finds out that “talk is cheap”!

It’s interesting to note that those who claim that the packers and retailers do not pass on the benefits of the beef checkoff are suggesting that packers would pass on the benefits of “M”COOL. Can’t have it both ways.


Costs to implement “M”COOL

The last issue of contention is what will the “M” COOL implementation costs be? Numerous cost estimations have been presented but all are just educated guesses. Suspiciously absent from these cost estimates is one from those who are pushing hardest for this law. Costs will no doubt raise and lower according to the accountability that is required in verifying the label. If the enforcement aspects of this law are reduced to signed affidavits, of course the costs will lower but so will the consumer confidence in the validity of the label.

What we know for sure is that there will be costs and those costs are always passed down the line to the producer. To think that the processors and retailers will absorb these extra costs without passing them on to the producers in the form of lower cattle prices is foolish.


Finding solutions

So what is the solution to making this flawed law work? One suggestion is for “M”COOL proponents to step up to the plate, change the law, and allow for source verification to substantiate the claims on the label which would give consumers and producers food safety value. This would allow traceback for disease and food safety reasons, it would allow us to remain competitive with our export markets, and it would still allow differentiation of the 5% of our current U.S. beef consumption that might be labeled as imported. This is the common ground between the polarized sides of this issue. This would benefit consumers but the benefits to producers is certainly questionable.

If an enforceable traceback system is not an option, the second suggestion is to get rid of this flawed law and let the free enterprise system do what it does best and keep further government regulation out of our industry.

Either consumers have a right to know where their beef comes from by making this law enforceable or they don’t. Either producers who want to differentiate foreign products are willing to stand behind this desire by proving it, or they’re not. If this law is not enforceable, it offers nothing of value to the consumers and burdens producers with additional expense and yet another governmental intervention into our lives.

I support consumers knowing where their beef comes from, both foreign and domestic beef, if that is what they desire but I will not support interfering with the consumer’s ability to verify the claims on a food label nor USDA’s ability to enforce it. Our customers deserve better than that!
 

Mike

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SH - you placed your thoughts on the screen very eloquently. Commendation is in order.
 
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Anonymous

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Mike said:
SH - you placed your thoughts on the screen very eloquently. Commendation is in order.

mike he had it published and got an atta boy from one guy in SD, so now he had to get it on this new site too. you will see plenty of cut and pastes out of it in the months to come.
 
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Anonymous

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Anonymous said:
Mike said:
SH - you placed your thoughts on the screen very eloquently. Commendation is in order.

mike he had it published and got an atta boy from one guy in SD, so now he had to get it on this new site too. you will see plenty of cut and pastes out of it in the months to come.

Good to see that there are some others in SD with common sense.

Good job SH!
 
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Anonymous

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The “food service exemption” is a primary reason that “M”COOL got as far as it did. Logistically, it would be quite a challenge to label every McDonalds hamburger, label the meat on every Domino’s pizza, label the meat in every Taco John’s taco, and label every Ball Park hot dog even if the consumer was asking for it.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Cowardly alias: "mike he had it published and got an atta boy from one guy in SD, so now he had to get it on this new site too."

Oh how the blamers hate the truth.

To the contrary I had many producers tell me they had never heard the facts regarding this law and thanked me for it. In contrast, nobody has been able to provide facts to the contrary.

Producers certainly won't get the truth on Country of Origin Labeling from the R-CULT pied pipers or their followers.

Did anyone see this cowardly alias "guest" contradict anything in the article?

You know, I didn't either!

The preceding article remains unchallenged for factual merit.

Supporters of Country of Origin Labeling, as it's written, find the truth disturbing because it reveals their hypocrisy and total ignorance regarding this law. Proponents of Country of Origin labeling still pretend that this law is something that it isn't to save face.

When you have a law that exempts 75% of the imported beef and prohibits the means to enforce it and you still have proponents parroting the same wore out lines about consumers having a right to know where their beef comes from, what greater proof do you need that this law was not based on common sense?


~SH~
 
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Anonymous

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They knew where all their clothes, etc came from because the seam tag said "Made in China" or "Made in Taiwan". Folks, we know they were MADE in these countries, but does anyone know where the FABRIC came from or better, from what country did the components of the fabric come from? If a "woolen like" product was purchased by an American Citizen and the tag said 100% wool, made inTaiwan, where did the wool come from?
Our Company www.scoringsystem.info/agri/ can do tracebacks of any product from any PIDC source forward or back to prove sources of ID and verification.
 

Murgen

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Hey Staff, we all know by now that scoring system is a good ID system, but I don't try to sell my products on this forum and I don't think anybody else should either, unless it's cattle, and that should be kept to a minimum. We don't want this to become a free ad site, do we? Maybe you could talk to the boss and sponsor a banner or something, it would save you the typing.
 
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Anonymous

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Murgen,We will keep it to a mimnium and besides we are cattle raisers too.Most people are missinformed on the subject and one of the STAFF here was embelorious for stating the above.We do step in though when the illinformed starts a reply that is incorrect or stated wrong.We have wrote the book on traceback and traceup for todays technology code writing in databases.
 
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Anonymous

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Scoring Systems: "We do step in though when the illinformed starts a reply that is incorrect or stated wrong."

What reply was incorrect or stated wrong and who is "illinformed"?

Everytime someone mentions the difficulty in tracing beef products that are made of beef from different origins, you come running to sell your product.

You should be correcting the "illinformed" that believe the "M"COOL law could be enforced without a traceback system.



~SH~
 
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Anonymous

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WTO has had problems along with goverments about traceback let alone the common producer.MCOOL is happening in over seventy countrys as per this day and most were laws set up by their goverments to stop illegal or counterfeit foods, meats and products being sold to their consumers with no recourse or remedy.We feel good about our products and our services and will keep telling the illinformed that technology has superceded their infromation base as technology now renews itself every 4 months.That turnover speed puts old systems out to pasture very fast.
 

Juan

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Staff......What does embelorious mean? I couldn't find it in my Collegiate Dictionary!
 

Sandhusker

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Nicely written, although the bias is evident.

Where do you get the "don't want to be burdened with traceback"? I read everything R-CALF put out on COOL and found where they didn't want "a burdensome traceback", which clearly has different meaning.

You say that only 5% of of foreign beef would be labeled under current law as we import 20% of what we consume and 75% goes under exempt food service. Surely you aren't unaware of the trend towards entering trade agreements that would allow more foreign beef on our shores? What do you think will happen to that 5% figure when Brazil and Argentina have unfettered access to our markets?

I do agree that M-ID is needed. I see no reason not to have it.
 

mrj

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First, and most important, the means to label beef as produced in the USA is currently available. There are criteria to be met to do so and many people are doing so. That there are not more individuals and businesses selling beef under their own label indicates to me that there is not the giant groundswell of consumer desire for identified beef products that some would have us believe.

Sandhusker, it seems pretty easy for you to claim not wanting "a burdensome traceback" doesn't mean R-CALF wants NO traceback.

However, if that is so, why did they not write into the law a non-burdensome traceback if they had no problem with such?

There is no way a labeling law can be effectively used to assist in achieving any real goals of improved beef safety if there is no ranch of origin included in the label.

Even more irksome than the fact that only a very small percentage of imported beef would need to be labeled under the COOL law as it now exists, is the fact that so much of imported beef would be exempt from the law.

It seems obvious that ego is in the way of resolving this problem in that those responsible for the current law do not want to admit it is flawed and needs to be changed to be of any use at all.

MRJ
 
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Anonymous

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Sandhusker: "Nicely written, although the bias is evident."

Thank you and yes, the bias is evident because my bias is truth and a disdain for deception.


Sandhusker: "Where do you get the "don't want to be burdened with traceback"? I read everything R-CALF put out on COOL and found where they didn't want "a burdensome traceback", which clearly has different meaning."

R-CALF supporters testified during the "M"COOL listening sessions to "not wanting to be burdened with traceback". The most ardent supporters of "M"COOL were the most concerned about a traceback system.

The suggested alternatives to a traceback system was "signed affidavits" and just tracking imported animals. That is clearly not wanting to be burdened with a traceback system.

The most obvious fact to support the contention that "M"COOL proponents didn't want to be burdened with traceback is that R-CALF led the charge on "M"COOL and "M"ID was prohibited from "M"COOL.

What more proof do you need than "M"COOL prohibiting "M"ID and R-CALF calling that a good law?

There is no misinterpreting that. Actions speak louder than words.

I also have statements from Leo McDonnel singing the praises of watered down enforcement.

R-CALF may not have taken an official positon on "M"ID because they want to be able to change their position but R-CALF has not been a proponent of "M"ID.


R-CALF had all kinds of heartburn over the fact that packers would be requesting origination information from producers to verify the labeling claims. That in itself speaks to their ignorance of this law. How else were the packers supposed to keep track of the origination of the beef unless they got the cattle origination information from producers?

Don't you remember "M"COOL proponents arguing that "live cattle" were not a "covered commodity" and therefore should not require traceback? That was truly the most ridiculous statement I heard during testimony. As if you could trace the beef without tracing the cattle the beef came from.

Don't you remember the desire for producers to substitue signed affidavits to a valid traceback system due to liability concerns????

Don't you remember the argument for "just marking the imported animals"???

These arguments had nothing to do with accepting a less burdensome traceback.

THESE POSITIONS ARE CLEARLY CALLING FOR NO TRACEBACK ON DOMESTIC ANIMALS.

Just because R-CALF is unwilling to take an official position on "M"ID does not hide their bias against a Mandatory ID.

You are one of the few that realize that "M"COOL without "M"ID would not be enforceable.

You should read the testimonials during the listening sessions. I waded through many of them.




~SH~
 

Sandhusker

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SH, "The most obvious fact to support the contention that "M"COOL proponents didn't want to be burdened with traceback is that R-CALF led the charge on "M"COOL and "M"ID was prohibited from "M"COOL. "

That, SH, is jumping to unjustified and INCORRECT conclusions. The M COOL law we ended up with is NOT what R-CALF pushed for. They have accepted it because they felt is it the best that we're going to get for now. I can cut and paste that information directly from R-CALF. Can you do the same with your "don't want to be burdened by traceback"?
 
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Anonymous

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The natural- and organic-foods market is huge -- more than $42 billion in 2003, according to The Natural Foods Merchandiser. And Chipotle Mexican Grill wants more than a burrito’s share of it.

The fastest-growing quick-service restaurant chain in the country has made a business out of the natural business. Most of its pork comes from Niman Ranch, a co-op of independent family farmers who raise natural pork. It introduced natural beef in its Denver stores this past fall. And it’s in the middle of a campaign touting its naturally raised chicken, says Dan Fogarty, Chipotle’s “Keeper of the Faith.”

This marketing has hit an emotional nerve with consumers, many of whom initially venture into Chipotle for its extra-large burritos and wind up getting a lesson in natural-food production by the time they finish their meal. In-store posters tout the family farms on which the restaurant’s pork was raised; the Web site also includes information about natural food. In fact, the Web site contains Chipotle’s Food With Integrity manifesto, which states that serving food with integrity “means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs and chickens are raised.”

This natural-foods belief system has infiltrated every segment of the food chain, from producers to restaurateurs. In the past several decades, natural-foods grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats have sprung up right next to all-American Piggly Wigglys and Publix stores. More and more consumers are demanding to know what happens to their food before it’s stocked on grocery shelves; as a result, producers are now more concerned than ever about what they feed their animals and how they’re raised.

“This is what the consumers are asking for,” says Bill Niman, founder and chairman of Niman Ranch, which follows strict animal-husbandry guidelines, including using all-natural feeds without growth hormones or antibiotics. “The dollars being spent at Chipotle or Whole Foods, this is evidence of consumer pull.”

Some have taken the concept a step further, promoting organic foods. The organic industry is smaller than the natural industry but is still winning many converts.

Rodney Martin is one of them. Martin, an organic dairy farmer in eastern Pennsylvania, grew up on a conventional dairy farm and became an organic producer by “default” when he decided to try grass-based farming. He’s continued at it because he believes in it and because he believes consumers do, too.

Martin is quick to note, however, that his view isn’t shared by everyone.

“This method of farming really does require a paradigm shift from traditional views,” he says. “This becomes quite evident as we rub shoulders with neighboring farmers and agri-businessmen. Most see this approach as unattainable; however, with the passing of time marking an increasing demand for our products and an evident business opportunity, many are more willing to take a closer look.”
 
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Anonymous

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Sandhusker: "That, SH, is jumping to unjustified and INCORRECT conclusions."

Not at all!

R-CALF has made their position on "M"ID quite clear with their actions towards prohibiting it.


Sandhusker: "The M COOL law we ended up with is NOT what R-CALF pushed for."

R-CALF SUPPORTED THE EFFORT TO PROHIBIT "M"ID FROM "M"COOL, PERIOD!!!!

That is not even debatable!

Leo McDonnel stated that the law, as it is written, is a "good law".

Leo McDonnel praised the efforts to water down the enforcement.


You will fool nobody with your implication that R-CALF wanted "M"ID but yourself.


~SH~
 

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