The U.S. Senate Ag Committee stuck its flag in solid socialistic rock recently by including an amendment to the Livestock Title of the 2007 farm bill that would allow government to tell cattlemen and other livestock producers how to market their product. The measure will now be debated in the full Senate.

The Livestock Title resurrects the notion of banning packer ownership of cattle more than 14 days prior to harvest. Specifically, the measure would make it illegal for packers, "to own or feed livestock directly, through a subsidiary, or through an arrangement that gives the packer operational, managerial or supervisory control over the livestock, or over the farming operation that produces the livestock."

Representatives of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) say the larger impact this could have on the cattle industry is that "it could ban all marketing alliances that we currently participate in.

"Since most of these alliances are partnered with a packer at some point in the process, this could be interpreted as being covered by the ban. The alliances that we participate in, as cattle producers, are led by us and are at the demand of the consumer. We should be rewarded for creating a product that our consumers want, not hindered by it," NCBA says.

In other words, if this legislation is enacted, all bets are off on any arrangement that enables producers to participate in value-added market opportunities that include packer participation, such as branded-beef programs.

One thing often ignored in the emotional rhetoric supporting mandatory-but-equal mediocrity is that folks enjoying higher prices and richer returns via value-based marketing arrangements also often assume more risk than those comfortable with the commodity route. This Senate amendment -- like every other attempt to legislate markets through the years -- seeks to mandate the level of marketing risk producers can assume, yet increases financial risk by limiting marketing latitude. It's a hallmark to illogic.

You still have time to contact your state's U.S. Senate representatives to voice your opposition. One easy option is an electronic approach at: