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AFF Sentinel V20 #54 - Priorities

Is the Government Here to Help Agriculture?

Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 11/21/23

USDA is a bit confusing to someone who has followed American agriculture for many decades.

As we’ve mentioned before, log onto USDA’s website and one discovers that, of the four main priorities listed for the department, agriculture is fourth.

That’s right, the Agriculture Department’s priorities are, in order,

1) Advancing racial justice, equity and opportunity.

2) Addressing climate change

3) Tackling food and nutrition insecurity

4) More, better and new market opportunities

Now we understand that the overwhelming majority of Farm Bill spending is human feeding programs of various stripes, which is what number #3 is about. But you’d think agriculture would at least be listed as the number two priority.

Nope, this is the “woke” USDA under a far-left president and his administration. The folks who produce, process, market and deliver our food to American and hundreds of other countries are dead last on the priority list.

Now, given that the federal government doesn’t always improve situations when they get involved, in some instances, that could be a good thing

There are some good things. The creation of risk mitigation through crop insurance, then livestock grazing insurance -- given that farmers and ranchers can do nothing to affect the weather that absolutely determines the fate of crops and livestock, and, therefore, the food supply -- makes common sense for agriculture and for citizen/taxpayers.

Putting up millions of dollars to create or support small meat processors is a chancy effort to create more markets for cattlemen that while well-intended, is a long shot to really helping the overall food supply. It might create an outlet for smaller producers in certain geographic areas far away from a major processing plant. But it does put the federal government in the position of financing competition for the private sector major meatpackers that supply over 80 percent of the beef for the U.S. and overseas customers.

We didn’t like the idea of the federal government pouring taxpayer money into the computer chip manufacturing business either. We’re afraid such programs for livestock processing could be like the federal governments success rate for climate change companies, i.e. Solyndra and the magic EV bus company that took our money and then bit the dust.

You can't repeal the laws of economics. It's hard to overcome a $250-300/ hd. disadvantage.

With USDA’s interest in getting involved in the cattle marketing system, we have definitely preferred the feds stay in the information business and stay out of dictating how the system should be “fixed.” Inject politics into the cattle markets and trouble lurks.

If the government had more control over cattle marketing the last couple years, with general inflation and food inflation in particular, having an obvious public relations and re-election influence on the political outlook, does anyone think the administration would not have used any such power to keep meat prices lower? Would cattlemen have had the fed prices, feeder cattle prices or packers the boxed beef prices we’ve seen if the government could do something to ease consumer complaints about food prices?

The (relatively) free market punishes sometimes and rewards others, but at least it is mostly the market -- consumers --  not politicians, making the determination.

So, the government creating a hunting season and the financing for state attorneys general to go kick up some competition violations was not a comforting thought.  The anti-trust group and anti-free market economist they chose to work with, were certainly disturbing to anyone with a free market bent.

Now, USDA has announced it is creating a whole new staff position: Chief Competition Officer. Mind you, this is not a political appointment subject to the party in power but a staff position, assumedly selected by the Secretary of Agriculture, who is a political appointment.

In fact, that new position is but one part of a “package of rules and orders” from President Biden seeking to “increase competition in the livestock industry.”

The new executive order also mandates that “all red meat purchased by USDA must be `born, raised and slaughtered’ in the United States.” Given that this is a leftist administration, it’s not too astonishing that a partial mCOOL rule be accomplished in this back door fashion. We’re not international trade lawyers, so we don’t know how the WTO and international trade rules might view such a mandate. But there is definitely a good chance the price of lean ground beef school lunch and DOD items will go up.

The rules package is part of the administration’s “competition and farmer fairness agenda,” as well as “many other steps,” including “enhancing our labeling regulations.”

Fairness for farmers is important but we wonder if they are cognizant of consumer fairness, in the form of the best prices for the best quality and safest product.

And “labeling regulations” holds a host of threats to the marketing system. There are some things that could be improved to achieve their “transparency” goals but we’re not sure they will come to the fore for consumers in the current political environment.

Fast Fact - How much money has been pumped into the U.S. economy by the federal government since the March 2020 Covid outbreak? Steve Moore totes it up at $7.4 Trillion. And yes, those dollars were authorized by our Congress.

Did that have anything to do with inflation?

Contact info for House members:

Click below for Senator contact info:

Edi. Note: Picture below courtesy beef Check off).


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