• If you are having problems logging in please use the Contact Us in the lower right hand corner of the forum page for assistance.

USDA and R-CALF face off

Help Support Ranchers.net:


Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
Reaction score
Southern Manitoba
Two cattle organization presidents offer outlook to Montana ranchers

Jun 10, 2005 (Independent Record - Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News via COMTEX) -- A standing room only crowd of several hundred ranchers from across Montana packed a conference room at the Red Lion Colonial Hotel Thursday to hear the presidents of two national cattle organizations outline their different views on the future of the industry.

Sharing a stage for the first time, Jim McAdams, president of National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Leo McDonnell, president of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, offered differing opinions on several key issues confronting the industry to members of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, in town for their mid-year meeting.

Both men admitted that they have more similarities than differences and the same goal -- the long-term viability of the ranching industry and lifestyle -- but offered different routes to get there. R-CALF, an upstart group founded in the '90s and dedicated to trade and marketing issues, won an injunction in court this spring halting the planned re-opening of the U.S. border to Canadian cattle, after a handful of cases of mad cow disease were reported there, including two in January.

The border was to open in March prior to the injunction being granted by a Federal judge in Billings. McDonnell, who runs the Midland Bull Test, one of the country's largest bull testing and sale businesses near Columbus, said the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture was necessary to help protect U.S. exports to other countries.

"Any country has a right to refuse product from countries that have low import standards," he said.

The NCBA supports the opening of the border as long as a list of conditions is met, and McAdams, a Texas rancher, said he questions the science R-CALF uses in doubting the safety of Canadian cattle and the U.S. herd.

"It's difficult to go to Korea and Japan and say, 'We have the safest herd in the world, and we know it,' when they come here and see that within our own industry we're questioning it," he said. The groups have differing ideas on the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement as well, with McDonnell cautioning that it could flood the U.S. market with beef that's shipped from South America via the CAFTA countries, and McAdams noting that the deal would remove tariffs and open up new markets for U.S. beef.

McAdams was asked why NCBA opposes mandatory country of origin labeling, which supporters say would add value to U.S. beef but foes claim would be potentially crippling to meatpackers and grocers. "We've wrestled with it for a long time," he said, calling the current proposal an unworkable law. "The unintended consequences and government interference would outweigh any benefits we would get." McDonnell said he was disappointed to see the labeling bill come so close to passage before being derailed by "a handful of committee chairs.

"I'm a great believer in country of origin labeling," he said. "It allows us to differentiate our product from imported product in case there's a problem with the imported product." McDonnell was asked why R-CALF holds cooperative talks with consumer organizations, like the Consumers Union or Consumers Federation, that don't necessarily support the consumption of red meat. "What other consumer groups are out there for us to work with?" he said.

"Whether you like it or not, our industry needs to be mature enough to sit down with these folks and get some of our issues on the table." McAdams, though, said a line should be drawn. "When these groups have an intent to do our industry harm, we're going to fight them hard," he said. "Their statements about the safety of U.S. beef are meant to do us harm."

After the discussion, Bill Donald, a Melville rancher and president of the MSGA, said there's more agreement than the groups are given credit for.

"One thing that came out of it is that in spite of the divisive rhetoric, there's a lot of common ground, and they're probably together on a lot of the issues facing a lot of ranchers," he said.

Latest posts