Mad Rancher Disease

December 2002

To the Editor

By Stephen Anderson

Alma, Kansas


As a major US media attempt to kindle public hysteria over mad cow and hoof-and-mouth disease, more local agribusiness-controlled networks downplay or underplay this most serious threat to all of U.S. agriculture. Facts are ignored in favor of obfuscation, distortion, omission or hyperbole necessary to continue our tragic misadventure with globalized free trade.

I watched in contemplation each day as container-laden trains ply their way east and west across my farm, hauling the $40 billion of imported agricultural products from all points of the globe.

While the Queen of England carefully sanitizes her galoshes for the 6 p.m. news cameras, these containers, along with millions of others, travel to England, France, Asia, South America, and then back to the United States virtually unchecked.

These same cargo containers travel into the bowels of processing plants and farm fields worldwide, exposed to every animal disease and plant pest on the planet. Ahhh, what wonders free trade and the global food cartel hath wrought!

Today, the United States has the only supply of choice grain-fed beef in the world; free of mad cow, foot-and-mouth, anthrax, rinderpest or any other horrible contagious disease. Our check-off dollars should be advertising this fact in every upscale restaurant and capitol in the world. Consumers should be demanding country-of-origin food labeling, fat cattle should be $95 dollars cwt. and farmers and ranchers should be clamoring for a ban on imports until every last single threat to our food supply and economy is thoroughly extinguished.

Well, get real! Turn on your radio at 5:30 a.m. and learn the awesome news, a cow has four stomachs and recycles grass, all courtesy of our check-off tax dollars. Fat cattle have dropped in price while boxed beef reaches unprecedented levels, the KLA (Kansas Livestock Association) is ashamed of US beef and strongly opposes country-of-origin labeling. By 6:30 a.m. I've had bacon, eggs, and flapjacks plus a healthy guilt trip courtesy Kansas Beef Council. Their ad soundly assures us that "real ranchers feed their livestock before their families." In spite of check-off-funded research telling us to feed cows at dusk to enhance daylight calving. By 8 a.m. the verbal flatulence has become overpowering. The soybean check-off is working for everyone. Ethanol is the panacea that will solve low corn prices. It didn't in the '70s, '80s, or '90s, and it won't again. And, wheat! Why, we're bringing another bunch of foreigners to Kansas and sending a delegation of Kansans to some foreign land. Who cares about the price? It's travel miles logged that's important!

Just like those cargo containers, our policy leaders dance the global two-step, sharing the pestilence of low prices with all farmers of the world.

Who looked with more scorn or chastised more vociferously those bums on welfare than did farmers and ranchers? Has globalization reduced our much-flaunted "independence" to acquiescing to our political and agricultural leaders joining the mellifluous babble, demanding more government handouts in Washington? Are farmers and ranchers with their new title "businessmen" now willing to stand, tin cup in hand, before their FSA (Farm Service Agency) office for the next welfare payment?

Those cargo containers contain not just the imports necessary to "create a commodity surplus," they also bring the poverty of low grain prices, the stench of unquenchable monopolistic greed, the nightmare of imbalanced currency valuations between countries, and the piranha-like feeding frenzy exploiting the weak. Those containers also carried a cargo of 8 million good manufacturing jobs out of the United States last year, and will also transport your job and mine if we continue the insanity of unfettered free trade long enough.

I challenge any agricultural leader (if there's one left) to compute the economic, social, environmental and consumer benefits that would accrue if those $40 billion of meat, dairy, fruits, nuts, and vegetable products were produced and processed in the good ole USA rather than imported.

Those cargo containers may well symbolize unbridled wealth for the global food cartel; but they forebode the demise to third world status for all others.