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R-Calf and High Stakes Poker

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Manitoba - At the end of the road
Cattle Editorial: High Stakes Poker... the R-CALF Way

A few months ago, if you had been asked to guess who had made statements like the following to the media, which group would you have guessed was the source?

U.S. beef is not safe and continually puts consumers at risk.
Canadian beef is not safe to eat.
The USDA is not doing its job and is putting consumer's families at risk.
The USDA Inspected stamp is false "advertising" and is misleading.
Would you have guessed:

a) Ralph Nader's Public Citizen?

b) Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America?

c) PETA?

d) Consumer's Union?

e) A rancher's group?

Six months ago, would you have believed any rancher's group would be making the statements R- CALF has been making? Yet the answer to the above question is e), a rancher's group - R-CALF.

If you thought the over-the-top moves and statements of recent weeks couldn't go much further, you were wrong.

R-CALF has actually issued and called on its members to distribute - I'm not making this up - a "Safety Alert Fact Sheet" to consumers, grocery store managers, butchers, public health officials and elected officials across the U.S. They've already sent it to elected officials and health departments. Why? To make sure consumers believe that Canadian beef can give them BSE. R-CALF's belief is that if they can get consumers panicked about Canadian beef, they can generate pressure on USDA to rescind the Canadian Final Rule due to go into effect March 7. Then, when panicked consumers find out Canadian boxed beef has been entering the country for months, they can protect themselves by not eating any beef in the U.S. at all until mandatory COOL is implemented, according to R-CALF's wishes.

What it boils down to is this: R-CALF is engaged in a high stakes poker game. The stakes are not just R-CALF's $800,000 a year legal affairs budget. They are gambling your money - if you are at all involved anywhere in the beef chain - that they can scare consumers enough to help them achieve their political goals of cutting off beef imports. To them, risking consumer confidence in beef, indeed, risking the future of the whole industry, is a bet they are willing to make, Texas hold'em style, with all their money - and all yours.

They're not only betting everything, they are trying to fill an inside straight. Because they are gambling that if they destroy consumer confidence, if they create a "mad cow" scare and stop the beef market cold, that it will be temporary and they can re-start it later on whenever they want to do so. Such thinking is not only inconceivably, but unbelievably reckless. It is demonstrative of the naiveté of these people who apparently know so little of consumer habits, beef demand and the struggle of the last 30 years to turn this industry around at the consumer level. They evidently imagine that there are magical control valves somewhere to turn demand and consumer confidence in beef safety off and on.

This from the same people who keeping calling for USDA not to announce inconclusive test results on cows because of the depressing effect it has on the market for a few days.

Probably the luckiest thing about this whole debacle is R-CALF's association with Nader's Public Citizen and Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America and Consumer's Union. It's also demonstrating some nasty side effects, although nothing trumps their horribly misguided risk of consumer confidence and misrepresentation of scientific facts for relatively insignificant political goals.

The good thing is that by allying itself with the aforementioned groups, far from achieving the credibility R-CALF wanted, they have branded themselves as one of those groups who scream loudly about danger, imminent risk and threatened consumers. These groups' pronouncements are often, though not always, taken with a large handful of salt by consumers, businesses and sometimes even the gullible, activist, major media outlets. If all the life-threatening crises these alarmists groups claim to have uncovered were real, the entire U.S. population would have to die several times over each year to fulfill their dire predictions.

On the other hand, this kind of shrill tactic means they are taking more leaves out of the consumer activist's notebook given them by PC and CFA, etc. And while grocery store managers will quickly run them out of their stores, union activists may not. These activist groups have union connections and support. Disgruntled inspectors have tried to raise questions about inspection before. Several grocery store chains are negotiating with unions on contracts now. The last thing we need is to be pawns is some union's play for more publicity.

But if they knew the first thing about dealing with real grocery chains, they'd know meat managers hand out nothing that hasn't been cleared with headquarters; nobody stands around handing out "Safety Alert" leaflets in their departments, and grocery chains do not work at damaging the market for the foods they sell. Any CattleWoman who has worked promotions in the meat department can tell you that. As a good friend of mine would opine, "Amateurs, amateurs, amateurs ..."

Only vegetarian, half-hearted organic food marketers like Whole Foods would entertain such a notion. Their CEO has admitted he wished he didn't have to sell meat at all. And their meat department, after all the carrying on about only buying local produce from local producers, hands out brochures on New Zealand grass-fed beef. But I digress.

The bottom line is that if R-CALF fails in its quest to block Canadian cattle imports, they have stated unequivocally that U.S. consumers should avoid eating beef purchased at U.S. grocery stores unless they wish to risk getting "mad cow" disease. If the USDA goes ahead with implementing the Final Rule on March 7 - as they most likely will - any consumer ignorant of the facts who reads R-CALF's Safety Alert sheet, with its inaccurate information and ridiculous scare tactics, would avoid beef totally.

If R-CALF's lawsuit is successful and the border reopening is delayed, another genie's bottle is uncorked. Any number of R-CALF's misleading, exaggerated and inaccurate conjectures in its legal filing could be quoted in the court's ruling, giving more credence and broad media coverage to such scare statements in the general media. And just as many people feel courts should not be making laws; legal briefs throwing everything attorneys can think of against the wall is not the proper and accurate way to establish scientific fact.

And if the curiosity of consumers is aroused and they read R-CALF's other ridiculous statements about beef's supposed continual "health risks to U.S. consumers," disaster could result.

Frankly, I cannot believe there are 12,000 R-CALF members out there who approve of such reckless brinkmanship with their livelihood. If they are concerned about this high stakes poker game with their life on the line, we suggest they get control of their leadership and its attorneys. This is not about turf. This is about survival of an industry.

No one I'm aware of in America is doing more to try to wreck the beef industry than R-CALF is right now. And the local rural communities they claim to be trying to save better be looking at their sheep and wheat hole cards very carefully. They could be the only cards worth anything in the American West if R- CALF gets its way and all beef cards end up in the discard pile.

The Agribusiness Freedom Foundation promotes free market principles throughout the agricultural food chain. The AFF believes it is possible to value the traditions and heritage of the past while embracing the future and the changes it brings. The AFF is a communications and educational initiative striving to preserve the freedom of the agricultural food chain to operate and innovate in order to continue the success of American agriculture.

The AFF - freedom watchdog for American agriculture.
Kato I am in contact with R CALF regularly,and I have never heard about these "Safety Alert Fact Sheets" you refered to where did you get this information?...............good luck

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