Billings, Mont. In what can only be described as pure, unadulterated drama, a meatpackers' lobbying group, Informa Economics Inc. (formerly Sparks Companies) and its meatpacker-aligned lobbyist clients the National Meat Association (NMA), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the National Turkey Federation have scheduled a news conference for Nov. 10, 2010, to unveil a "study' that will attack the proposed competition rule (GIPSA rule) issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
The multinational meatpackers and their allied lobby groups repeatedly have tapped Informa in an effort to protect their special interests each time Congress or USDA proposes meaningful reforms to benefit consumers and livestock producers.
"If this were a legitimate, unbiased study, these meatpacker lobbyists would widely distribute it as quickly as possible to give the industry and decision-makers time to carefully review the information and provide thoughtful feedback," said R-CALF USA Marketing Committee Chair Dennis Thornsberry. "Instead, these lobbyists are trying to replicate a "shock-and-awe' impact on the public by hinting they have a study, pretending there is something mysterious about the study, and keeping it secret until they can muster sufficient drama at this news conference they scheduled during the annual convention of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) in Kansas City, Mo.
According to NAFB, the news conference is not part of NAFB's event, as the organizations mentioned above are hosting the news conference themselves.
"NMA, NCBA and their fellow lobby teams are exploiting NAFB's annual meeting just as they've been exploiting U.S. consumers and U.S. livestock producers," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "These groups repeatedly have refused to publicly debate the merits of the proposed GIPSA rule where their propagandized message could be subject to public discourse. Instead, their entire strategy has been to cast unsubstantiated dispersions against the GIPSA rule and then to run and hide before anyone can question them."
Thornsberry said it is difficult for busy consumers and livestock producers to ignore the well-orchestrated hype these corporate lobbyists are generating against the GIPSA rule.
"These groups have deep pockets and hire special consultants to help them package their self-serving message the best "statistics' money can buy and the lobbyists' group leader NCBA in my opinion, subsidizes its operations with government-mandated Beef Checkoff dollars. So, in essence, these groups use producers' dollars to defeat critical measures that would finally begin to address the ongoing market power abuses by the dominant meatpackers."
Bullard said the public should brace itself for yet another "the sky-is-falling' study and added that Informa Economics is the same meatpacker consulting firm that once tried to scare livestock producers and the public into opposing country-of-origin labeling (COOL) by concocting a study that states, "Costs for the cattle and beef industry are enormous, with per head costs estimated to total in the $50 per head range."
Bullard said this baseless claim was made in 2003 by Sparks Companies, and history has now proven that it was nothing more than meatpacker propaganda.
"Sparks also is the firm that tried to scare livestock producers into opposing USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service's (FSIS') proposed rule to eliminate spinal cord material from cattle carcasses and to significantly reduce the amount of bone and bone marrow in any product labeled by the packers as "meat." Sparks reported that livestock producers likely would be hurt by this food safety initiative intended to protect consumers against adulterated products by stating, "Lower prices for livestock producers likely will result, as meat processors, searching for offsets in an effort to maintain margins, would be unable to pass much of the cost on to consumers." (Emphasis in the original.)
Recently, the American Meat Institute (AMI), another meatpacker lobbying group, released a study that attacks the GIPSA rule by claiming consumer meat prices would increase about 3.3 percent and 104,000 U.S. jobs would be lost if the GIPSA rule were implemented.
"But that study is a deception," Bullard said. "It does not assess the impact of the rule, but instead assesses what AMI views to be the impact if the meatpackers conspired to retaliate against the GIPSA rule by refusing to comply with the rule's provisions that would increase transparency, openness and fairness in the meatpackers' livestock procurement practices. AMI's study is nothing but a political threat against every American, and if the meatpackers actually follow through with their threat, the U.S. Department of Justice (Justice) likely would step in quickly to prevent the packers from unlawfully conspiring to harm consumers and workers."
"We suspect the new study, likely to be released during the meatpacker lobbies' Nov. 10 extravaganza, will similarly be rooted in a false and deceptive foundation because the rule does not cause or create any of the harms the groups have so alarmingly attributed to the rule," added Thornsberry.
Thornsberry said the GIPSA rule as it applies to the cattle industry necessarily requires the meatpackers to comply with the nearly 90-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act by: 1) clarifying that an unlawful act is unlawful, period (regardless of whether it is targeted at the entire industry or a single individual; 2) requiring packers to document their cattle procurement transactions so any anticompetitive conduct can be quickly identified and corrected; 3) preventing packers from prejudicing or disadvantaging livestock producers; 4) requiring packers to disclose samples of the myriad of different contracts they use to procure livestock; and, 5) prohibiting inherently anticompetitive practices such as packers selling cattle to other packers and multiple packers sharing a single cattle buyer.
"We're not expecting anything even close to the truth when these pro-meatpacker groups unveil their self-serving study, and based on the history of the consulting firm they've used and the hype they're trying to generate, we'd better be prepared for a spectacular deception," concluded Bullard.
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