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American Grass Fed Certification Now Assures the Highest High quality for Beef and Dairy Merchandise

AGA grass fed label


Editor’s Word: This text is a reprint. It was initially printed February 7, 2017.

You are in all probability conscious that the meals {industry} has the ability to affect your consuming habits by using promoting and lobbying for industry-friendly laws. However do you know the U.S. authorities truly funds a few of these actions by the gathering and distribution of taxes on sure meals?

And that by doing so, the federal government is actively supporting agricultural programs which are adversarial to public and environmental well being, and discouraging the adoption of more healthy and extra ecologically sound farming programs?

The meat {industry} particularly seems to be rife with corruption geared toward defending huge factory-style enterprise reasonably than the up-and-coming grass fed {industry}. As defined in Washington Month-to-month:1

“Think about if the federal authorities mandated {that a} portion of all federal gasoline taxes go on to the oil {industry}’s commerce affiliation, the American Petroleum Institute [API].

Think about additional that API used this public cash to finance advert campaigns encouraging individuals to drive extra and switch up their thermostats, all whereas lobbying to discredit oil {industry} critics … That is a deal not even Exxon may pull off, but the nation’s largest meat-packers now get pleasure from one thing fairly prefer it.

[W]hen you purchase a Huge Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the fee is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the federal government fingers over to a non-public commerce group referred to as the Nationwide Cattlemen’s Beef Affiliation [NCBA].

The NCBA in flip makes use of this public cash to purchase adverts encouraging you to eat extra beef, whereas additionally lobbying to derail animal rights and different agricultural reform activists, defeat meat labeling necessities and defend the continued consolidation of the {industry}.”

Federal Tax Helps Beef Business Promote Beef

In a nutshell, the U.S. Division of Agriculture (USDA) beef checkoff program2 is a compulsory program that requires cattle producers to pay a $1 payment per head of cattle offered.

It is mainly a federal tax on cattle, however the cash does not go to the federal government however to state beef councils, the nationwide Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the NCBA. All of those organizations are clearly biased towards the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) mannequin.

The cash is collected by state beef councils, which preserve half and ship the opposite half of the funds to the nationwide CBB, headquartered in Colorado, which is answerable for the nationwide beef promotion marketing campaign. Nationwide, the meat checkoff charges add as much as about $80 million yearly.

As the first contractor for the checkoff program, the NCBA receives a majority of the checkoff proceeds, which is used for analysis and promotion of beef.

However whereas the meat checkoff program started with one of the best of intentions, aiming to assist struggling ranchers by pooling their cash to pay for the promotion of beef, discontent over how the cash is getting used has grown over time.

Checkoff Program No Longer Advantages Small Ranchers — It Harms Them

Many cattle ranchers really feel they’re being pressured to pay for actions that go in opposition to their environmental or moral views on animal welfare and environmental stewardship, for instance. Furthermore, whereas being a federal tax, the federal government has just about no oversight over how this checkoff cash is used. As reported by Harvest Public Media:3

“Checkoff officers say … each greenback collected by the checkoff delivers $11.20 in return. Amongst its successes is a sequence of iconic commercials referred to as ‘Beef, it is what’s for dinner.’ However there’s much more to the meat checkoff than meets the attention. That $1 evaluation, critics … say, flows with restricted oversight to state and nationwide pursuits.

Sellers should pay even when they do not imagine they’ve any say over who will get the cash, or why. And so they should pay even when they imagine the fund advances the pursuits of multi-millionaire ranchers in opposition to their very own …

As many as a fourth of the nation’s 730,000 ranchers … have complained for years that the checkoff has turn into a billion-dollar bonanza for large ranchers, {industry} executives and large beef packers. Federal statistics present bigger extra environment friendly cattle operations are forcing out smaller ranchers and feedlots.”

One working example: When a commerce criticism was filed in opposition to Mexico in 2014, NCBA opposed anti-trust enforcement in opposition to the three multinational companies that management greater than 80% of the meat packing {industry}.

The NCBA additionally helps the North American Free Commerce Settlement (NAFTA), which permits for low-cost beef imports, thereby undercutting American ranchers.4

What’s Good for Giant Meatpackers Usually Hurts Small Ranchers

Additionally, for the reason that $1 per head payment is remitted by federal legislation, checkoff funds should not allowed for use for lobbying or political contributions. Nonetheless, critics have argued that each state beef councils and the nationwide beef board have robust ties to beef {industry} lobbying teams — a few of them even share workplace area.5

On the nationwide stage, a majority of the checkoff cash will get funneled into the NCBA, which has a robust political voice within the Washington D.C., the place it has spent thousands and thousands in marketing campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. In response to Harvest Public Media:6

“Within the 2014 mid-term elections alone, the NCBA gave almost $800,000 to primarily Republican political candidates … That quantities to greater than 98% of whole checkoff income and 82% of NCBA’s whole finances, in keeping with a latest lawsuit filed by small producers …

That very same lawsuit claims that the NCBA controls half the seats on the meat checkoff’s contracting committee. ‘I believe it’s a damaged system,’ mentioned Wil Bledsoe, president of the Colorado Impartial Cattle Growers Affiliation …

‘I do not need them utilizing my cash to combat my livelihood like they’ve been,’ he mentioned. ‘What’s good for packers is not often good for the little man, and vice versa. So how can they declare to signify each?’

… And authorities screens overseeing this system are conscious of the issues, mentioned one former U.S. Division of Agriculture official.

‘The administration is effectively conscious that the NCBA has misappropriated producer cash and the NCBA has helped defeat coverage reforms that might have helped small producers,’ mentioned Dudley Butler, who resigned as a prime USDA official in 2012. Butler, a lawyer, says the checkoff is nothing greater than an ‘unlawful cattle tax.’”

The Livestock Advertising and marketing Affiliation (LMA) has been calling for the USDA to carry a referendum on the potential termination of the meat checkoff, and greater than 146,000 cattle ranchers have signed the petition.7

In 2001, the nationwide checkoff program for pork was terminated by a nationwide referendum that occurred in late 2000,8 however, because the Des Moines Register bluntly put it:9

“The USDA ignored the vote. As an alternative, it created the Nationwide Pork Producers Council and diverted the cash into that — the place it’s used to foyer for company hog pursuits. What which means is that the checkoff now funds lobbying to assist hog confinements which are damaging our water provides and our surroundings at the price of household hog farmers who proceed to be squeezed out of the enterprise.”

So, nonetheless to today the combat to terminate this system continues.

Beef Council Accountant Investigated for Embezzlement

Misuse of checkoff funds isn’t the one drawback ranchers are railing in opposition to. Within the beef {industry}, federal authorities started investigating embezzlement prices in opposition to Melissa Morton, a former Oklahoma Beef Council accounting and compliance supervisor,10 in keeping with the council’s personal inside investigation $2.6 million allegedly got here up lacking underneath Morton’s watch. As reported by the Cornucopia Institute:

“In 2014, in keeping with the council’s newest federal tax data, the group took in $3.6 million in income. That very same 12 months the compliance supervisor allegedly embezzled $316,231, almost 9% of the state beef council’s annual income.”

In 2016, Morton allegedly solid 131 checks totaling almost $557,790. In response to Mike Callicrate, a cattleman and founding member of the Group for Aggressive Markets (OCM), information of the embezzlement added to “the suspicion that … our greenbacks should not being utilized in a manner that really advantages the cowboy that is paying the meat checkoff.”

Embezzlement apart, critics have additionally identified the exorbitant salaries collected by NCBA administration — salaries paid for by checkoff {dollars} collected from ranchers. In a 2015 article, California cattleman Lee Pitts wrote:11

“… [T]he final information I used to be aware about concerning the wage of NCBA’s CEO, Forrest Roberts, was from his 2013 federal tax types when he was paid $428,319. That is extravagant sufficient however in keeping with a Cattleman’s Beef Board huge wig who referred to as me, Mr. Roberts is now allegedly making $550,000 per 12 months!

… I would not have an issue if Mr. Roberts was being paid with NCBA dues cash, that is their cash and allow them to spend it how they need. However in keeping with my supply, 72% of Robert’s wage is paid by the meat checkoff as a result of that is how a lot time the NCBA says he spends on checkoff issues. 72%!

The NCBA positive could not pay that sort of a wage in the event that they needed to dwell off dues, now may they? … In response to one supply, there are at the least 10 individuals working for the checkoff who’re making greater than $290,000 per 12 months! NCBA paid out $13 million in yearly salaries and 82% of NCBA’s finances comes out of your checkoff {dollars}.”

Checkoff Funds Used to Promote Worldwide Beef

Final 12 months, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Motion Authorized Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) filed a lawsuit in opposition to the USDA, claiming the meat checkoff tax is “being unconstitutionally used to advertise worldwide beef, to the detriment of U.S. beef merchandise and producers.”12 In response to R-CALF USA CEO Invoice Bullard:

“The Checkoff’s implied message that every one beef is equal, no matter the place the cattle are born or how they’re raised, harms U.S. farmers and ranchers and deceives U.S. residents.

Regardless of what we all know to be clear proof concerning the prime quality of beef raised by impartial U.S. cattlemen, we’re being taxed to advertise a message that beef raised with out the strict requirements utilized by our members is similar as all different beef, a message we don’t assist and don’t agree with.”

R-CALF USA’s co-counsel J. Dudley Butler of the Butler Farm & Ranch Regulation Group PLLC, added: “This isn’t solely a battle to guard constitutional rights however a battle to make sure that our meals provide isn’t corralled and constrained by multi-national companies leaving impartial farmers and ranchers as mere serfs on their very own land.”

The lawsuit was filed in response to Montana Beef Council’s advert marketing campaign for Wendy’s — a quick meals chain whose hamburgers can comprise meat originating in 41 completely different nations. The NCBA additionally has a historical past of selling beef, no matter origin, which is a major detriment to the ranchers paying the checkoff charges that pay for all this promoting and advertising.

The NCBA promotes the concept “beef is beef, whether or not the cattle had been born in Montana, Manitoba or Mazatlán” and, becoming a member of forces with commerce teams representing each nationwide and worldwide meat-packers, the NCBA additionally fought in opposition to the USDA’s implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL), and has been tireless in its opposition in opposition to demand for greater requirements within the therapy of animals.

Pitts’ article additionally factors out that NCBA’s CEO has clear conflicts of curiosity that coloration the group’s stance on issues like using veterinary medication. Previous to turning into the CEO of NCBA, Roberts held advertising and gross sales positions with Upjohn Animal Well being (which merged with Pharmacia Animal Well being and later Pfizer Animal Well being) and Elanco Animal Well being’s beef enterprise unit.

“Gee, do you assume he may be a bit prejudiced on the subject of antibiotics, hormones and pure versus chemically produced beef?” Pitts writes.13

Nice Information: Grass Fed Dairy Normal Launched!

Fortuitously, you needn’t fear as there’s an alternate certification that may bypass most of this nonsense. The American Grassfed Affiliation (AGA) launched much-needed grass fed requirements and certification for American-grown grass fed dairy,14 which can enable for better transparency and conformity.

Previous to this certification, dairy could possibly be offered as “grass fed” whether or not the cows ate solely grass, or obtained silage, hay and even grains throughout sure instances. As reported by Natural Authority:15

“The brand new laws are the product of a 12 months’s value of collaboration amongst dairy producers like Natural Valley in addition to certifiers like Pennsylvania Licensed Natural and a staff of scientists.

‘We got here up with an ordinary that is good for the animals, that satisfies what shoppers need and count on once they see grass ate up the label, and that’s economically possible for farmers,’ says AGA’s communications director Marilyn Noble of the brand new laws.

The usual shall be launched formally in February on the American Grassfed Affiliation’s annual producer convention on the Stone Barns Heart for Meals and Agriculture in New York State, although the precise begin date for certification stays to be decided.”

Contemplating how necessary a cow’s eating regimen is on the subject of the standard of its milk, particularly after we’re speaking about RAW milk, I might strongly advise you to make sure your uncooked dairy is AGA licensed as grass fed (as soon as the certification turns into formally obtainable).

AGA grass fed label

USDA Grass Fed Beef Label Rescinded

Additionally you’ll want to search for the AGA’s grass fed label when shopping for grass fed meats, as in January 2016, the USDA’s Agricultural Advertising and marketing Service (AMS) rescinded its official requirements for the grass fed beef declare.16 In response to the AMS, a evaluation of its authority discovered the company doesn’t have the authority to develop and keep advertising requirements, therefore it needed to get rid of its definition of “grass fed.”

The USDA’s Meals Security and Inspection Service (FSIS), which approves meat labels generally, nonetheless approves grass fed label claims. Nonetheless, producers of grass fed meats are free to outline their very own requirements. In response to the AGA, “FSIS is simply contemplating the feeding protocol of their label approvals — different points equivalent to confinement; use of antibiotics and hormones; and the supply of the animals, meat and dairy merchandise shall be left as much as the producer.”

In different phrases, a producer of “grass fed beef” may theoretically confine the animals and feed them antibiotics and hormones and nonetheless put a grass fed label on the meat so long as the animals had been additionally fed grass. As famous by the AGA on the time:17

“The unlucky factor for producers who’ve labored laborious to construct high quality grass fed applications is that, with no widespread requirements in place, they are going to be competing within the market with the economic meatpackers who can co-opt the grass fed label.

As soon as once more, shoppers lose out on transparency and an understanding of what they’re shopping for. Grass fed has all the time been a supply of some confusion, however not, with no widespread requirements underpinning it, shoppers will discover it more and more tough to belief the grass fed label.

Like different principally meaningless label phrases like pure, cage-free and free-range, grass fed will turn into simply one other feel-good advertising ploy utilized by the main meatpackers to dupe shoppers into shopping for mass-produced, grain-fed feedlot meat.”

When Shopping for Grass Fed Meat, Search for the AGA Grass Fed Label

On the upside, the AGA grass fed requirements are extra complete and extra stringent than the AMS requirements had been. So, to make sure you’re truly getting high-quality grass fed beef, you’ll want to search for the AGA grass fed label in your beef in addition to your dairy. No different grass fed certification affords the identical complete assurances because the AGA’s grass fed label, and no different grass fed program ensures compliance utilizing third-party audits.

Alternatively, get to know your native farmer and discover out first-hand how he raises his cattle. Many are very happy to offer you a tour and clarify the small print of their operation. Barring such face-to-face communication, the AGA grass fed brand is the one one in a position to assure that the meat comes from animals that:

Have been fed a 100% forage eating regimen
Have by no means been confined in a feedlot
Have by no means obtained antibiotics or hormones
Have been born and raised on American household farms (a overwhelming majority of the grass fed meats offered in grocery shops are imported, and with out COOL labeling, there is no telling the place it got here from or what requirements had been adopted)

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