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Agriculture Today

Ranchers trump politicians, activists when it comes to animal husbandry

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Guest Editorial
June 20, 2012 | 3,692 views | Post a comment

If history is any indicator, then we can be sure of one thing -- when the government gets too involved, the problem usually gets worse. Flip through pages of history and you’ll see examples of this time and time again.

Common sense tells us that we should learn from our mistakes, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case in Washington, D.C.

Case in point -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California and Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon recently introduced legislation that would federally dictate how eggs can be produced. S 3239 and HR 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would codify an agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) calling for federally mandated production practices in the poultry business.

This is a slippery slope for all livestock producers, and a road better left untraveled.

Here’s why. America’s farmers and ranchers are experts when it comes to taking care of their animals. Government bureaucrats are not. Neither are sneaky executives at HSUS. Many of them have never spent significant time on a working cattle ranch.

Ranchers are experts on animal care because it’s our obligation. It’s the right thing to do and we know quality beef begins with quality care. This is why we work tirelessly to keep our livestock healthy, safe, and secure. We take this commitment so seriously that we personally invest millions of our own dollars into programs like the Beef Quality Assurance program and the Cattle Industry’s Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle. These programs and guidelines are designed by true experts including ranchers, veterinarians, animal scientists, and animal care specialists with only the best interest of cattle in mind.

Let’s dig deeper and look at the lobbyist group behind this legislation -- HSUS. It’s no secret this group wants to eliminate all animal food production. A staffer at HSUS has gone so far as to state that his “goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.”

HSUS can’t make consumers stop eating beef, but they can raise millions of dollars under false pretenses and turn around and use that money to buy votes in Congress that hamstring the livestock industry. They do this with the hope that it will eventually become too burdensome and expensive for family ranches to stay in operation.

The intention behind S 3239 and HR 3798 is not to better protect livestock. If it were, the government would heed the advice of the World Organization of Animal Health when it acknowledged that mandated animal production practices are not in the best interest of promoting true animal welfare. They would work alongside ranchers rather than weigh them down with costly and unnecessary regulations.

Passing this legislation as a stand-alone bill isn’t the only option HSUS is seeking. There has been talk about including this as an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill, or other ag-related bills that come through the House or Senate. They will do whatever it takes to see this legislation become law.

Unfounded and irresponsible lawmaking like this could eventually disable ranchers like me from providing families, both at home and abroad, with a safe, abundant, and healthy food supply. We simply cannot afford for that to happen.

This is why it is so important for ranchers to band together through the TSCRA [Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association]. Together through a strong membership, we can help elect officials who understand and respect the beef industry and stop HSUS and other anti-agriculture groups from chipping away at the livestock industry one senseless regulation at a time.

Joe Parker Jr. is a third generation rancher from Clay County, Texas. He is president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

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