It's plumb tough to gauge the prospects of a president-elect who apparently has little experience other than mounting and winning political campaigns. If Barack Obama truly believes some of his campaign rhetoric, though, it's fixing to be a hard ride for folks in the cattle business.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden support immediate implementation of the Country of Origin Labeling law, which will require meat products to indicate their country of origin.*
Even if you believe in the intent behind the law, without an ID system it means nothing. In the meantime, plenty of cattle producers, especially those closest to Canada and Mexico, get left holding the bag with cattle discounted by packers trying to comply with the law.
Obama co-sponsored and is a strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a bipartisan effort to assure workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.*
According to information posted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the EFCA, among other things, would reform the nation's basic labor laws by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation (no more secret vote).
Folks and Beef Northwest Feeders and Country Natural Beef (CNB) already have been forced to drink at that trough. They and their customers were coerced to allow feedlot employees to unionize. Beef Northwest and CNB were happy to oblige, if the workers had fair opportunity to choose it for themselves, rather than have it forced on them (see http://beefmagazine.com/cowcalfweekly/1031-cnb-feedlot-workers-union-issue/).
Obama is a strong supporter of Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-IA) legislation that protects independent producers by banning the ownership of livestock by meat packers, and he will fight for passage of the law as president.*
Never mind that such a law would undermine value-based alliances, which offer producers who do more the opportunity to receive more in return. Anyone who truly believes it's appropriate for the government to limit packer competitiveness and innovation in procuring cattle will surely welcome government telling them how to buy their production inputs and how to market their output.
…To support the continued growth of sustainable alternative agriculture, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will increase funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to help farmers afford the costs of compliance with national organic certification standards. They will also reform USDA's Risk Management Agency crop insurance rates so they do not penalize organic farmers.*
The facts show organic agriculture is a lousy choice for sustainability, let alone for feeding a hungry world. Alex Avery, director of research and education for the Center for Global Food Issues Hudson Institute, pointed out at the recent BEEF Quality Summit that just returning to 1960 levels of agriculture production would require an additional 15-20 million square miles of farmland to produce today's production. Even with available technology, agriculturists are struggling to figure out how to keep up with increasing global demand.
Obama and Joe Biden recognize local and regional food systems are better for our environment and support family-scale producers. They will emphasize the need for Americans to Buy Fresh and Buy Local, and implement USDA policies that promote local and regional food systems.*
Comforting populism aside, ours is a global marketplace. Especially for cattle producers, logic suggests any hope for industry growth rests on international beef demand and access to those markets.
Obama was the only Democratic presidential candidate to co-sponsor and actively campaign to establish the nation's first federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which is now law…. He and Joe Biden believe it is imperative that Congress adopt the Senate-passed proposal to increase the RFS to 36 billion gals. by 2022. They will seek to surpass these targets and establish a requirement to produce at least 60 billion gals. of biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, by 2030.*
Tying the price of food directly to the price of energy has certainly worked out swimmingly so far. In large part due to the cataclysmic rise in commodity input costs, there is currently nothing left to share among industry segments. According to Mike Miller of Cattle-Fax, where about $350/head marketed existed to divvy up among production segments just a couple of years ago, breaking even is considered an economic victory today.
All of this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
If there was ever a time to become politically active, to speak up for what you believe, this would appear to be the time.
*From Real Leadership for Rural America, Obama campaign.