Part 2 of the usefulness of the Checkoff.


Written for the High Plains Journal Dec 21, 2019

Don’t sleep at the wheel

I feel compelled to follow up on last week’s piece with a few more thoughts on the government-regulated speech we call ”the Checkoff”. I don’t really care that some of you think I am just trying to stir the pot on this one, because in my heart I clearly see the dire situation we are in. Yes, dire! At some point, the political winds in DC will shift and those of us in animal agricultural don’t truly grasp that reality. I have just read the 40 year plan put in place by some of the animal rights groups to not only bring about animal liberation, but grant food animals constitutional “personhood.” Maybe reality is starting to sink in as I suspect you’ve heard some Presidential candidates recently and that should put you in more of a listening mode.

Vegan Presidential candidate Cory Booker, while campaigning last week in Iowa, made the statement that “we need to overhaul the meat industry”

As reported by Politico:

BOOKER’S PLAN TO OVERHAUL THE MEAT INDUSTRY: The New Jersey senator’s new legislation would ban new industrial scale livestock farms known as CAFOs, and require existing ones to close by January 2040.

Before we even address the impact of this, the most troubling part of the story is that there are Iowa farmers who support this. After spending 20 years in the trenches, the greatest challenge we have always faced is division from within. Small farms do not prosper by trying to stymie the growth of larger farms. That is short sided, blatantly stupid and a death wish for all American Farms.

Back to the issue at hand; I do not believe Cory Booker has a chance at getting elected in 2020, but honestly he is simply trying to position himself as the VP candidate for the eventual Democratic nominee. Here is the real story whether we like it or not; his message actually does resonate with a lot of folks and he will not disappear from the political scene. And most importantly, his statements move the bar for future positions on animal rights.

People with Booker’s view of worshipping animals instead of eating them will one day occupy positions in the Oval office, the cabinet and the USDA. If we do not change the current structure of the checkoff programs that are federal collections and recognized as Government Speech, we will all be eating plant based slime. 

Let’s go back to the impetus that led me down the path of what I am doing today. In 2000, we were growing concerned about the Hollywood types that were stumping for the end of animal agriculture. We quickly began to understand that folks were listening and if those of us who get our hands dirty didn’t start speaking out, then consumers would listen only to those they hear most often. Sadly the message being most repeated was by folks who wanted to change diet and animal ownership in extreme ways. 

Quickly it became apparent that there was a growing problem with getting approval for CAFOs in Iowa. I was part of a group that organized the Faces Of Ag rally at the Iowa State Capital in April of 2002 the day before Robert F. Kennedy, Jr made the following statement at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA: “What is happening today on farms in Iowa is a greater threat to democracy than Osama Bin Laden.” What most people don’t know or don’t seem to remember is that his partner in crime at the time was then Governor Tom Vilsack. As Governor, he did more to stymie livestock development than any activist ever could. 

After his tenure as Governor, he was selected to be the Secretary of Ag for the USDA. Have you stopped to consider what happened to dietary guidelines and the message about animals contributing to climate change under his watch? It’s not a pretty picture.

Let me share with you the research efforts of a friend of mine who has kept tabs on Vilsack. Sherry Bunting, a journalist from PA, just wrote the following in FarmShine:

The former Ag Secretary, instrumental in removing whole milk from schools, is now the highest-paid executive at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) whose virtual $1 million/year in 2018 came from dairy farmers who are going bankrupt.

For those of you who read my column thinking of the good ole days of USDA working for you and government speech being a good thing, I ask you to use your brain and stop thinking with your heart. Just because the checkoff money has facilitated your travel to great beef functions around the country, we need to reconfigure our investments in research, development and promotion and if you think the USDA is your friend in getting that done then you are simply asleep at the wheel.

Comments