To the Elected Officials Across America:
I write by way of admonishment and with a plea. You must cease capitulating to BIG farm, ranch, dairy corporations immediately. You must forthwith and without any delay, come forward and show true support and allegiance for America’s independent farmers, ranchers, and dairymen, upholding the heritage of agronomy in America. Most importantly, legislation must begin forthwith to protect America’s food safety through the country of origin labeling (#COOL). The sleight of hand, backroom deal that ended country of origin labeling on a “must-pass” piece of legislation, was the purest form of chicanery and political skullduggery in the Obama administration; sadly, this was not the only piece of legislation to be affected in this manner!
I am calling out both parties (Republican and Democrat), the national food safety councils, the national ranching/farming/dairy associations, and every other political hack, political action committee (PAC), and lobbyists. I am calling out the staff members of the elected officials who write the laws and perform the skullduggery that allowed country of origin labeling to cease. I am calling out and upon every single one of you to listen and act without delay!
National Councils are supposed to represent the independent rancher, farmer, and dairymen, whose membership pays for the political dinners and political action committees in capitals across America. People who make money off association and membership dues, then forget their members and associates at the drop of a hat for political expediency. I have been on your websites and am thoroughly embarrassed at your performance where the country of origin labeling is concerned. Big Farm/Ranch/Dairy, your actions continue to be the purest and most detestable acts of tyranny ever recorded in American history. I have been on your websites, I have seen the lawfare you unscrupulously pursue against independent farmers, ranchers, and dairymen, and I will cheer the day you are brought to the bar of justice. The disregard for independent farmers, ranchers, and dairymen remains inexcusable!
When was the last time you visited a farm, a ranch, or a dairy and asked what the government (or council) can be doing to improve their businesses? You want these people’s votes, association, membership, mostly you want their money. Then you proceed to demean, denigrate, and plot to actively undercut and abuse the independents, all while capitulating to the demands of the BIG representatives. This byzantine behavior is beyond despicable and remains abhorrent!
Where are the monies promised from the CARES Act that was supposed to go directly to the farmers, ranchers, and dairymen who are unable to sell their products because of the government shutdown of the economy? The local farmer, dairymen, and ranchers, their families, and their communities are precious to the American soul. Each loss of an independent farmer, rancher, and dairymen needs to be mourned, but instead, all I observe are parties celebrating, paid for by PAC’s working to undercut America’s food safety. Your actions to withhold monies and support is reprehensible chutzpah at best!
Fact: General George Washington, first President of America wanted to be, and worked hard to be, America’s first farmer. He worked in the fields with his people, he did farm duties and got his hands dirty. Except for photoshoots can you claim any type of work, let alone that done by a farmer, rancher, or dairymen?
Fact: Thomas Jefferson was a farmer who got his hands dirty. Both Jefferson and Washington were researchers in agronomy, piloting many of the techniques still used today to grow crops. What useful activity are you performing? I guarantee it is not productive!
Fact: President General Washington, said the following: “Agriculture [is] the proper source of American wealth and happiness;” and predicted Americans would continue to be “an agricultural people…for ages to come.” Yet, too often since the 1980s, the politicians of America have turned a blind eye to the agricultural heritage of America. Stooping to actively bring foreign products into America even when those products, too often, are unsafe, poor quality, or worse actively harmful to America’s citizenry and the farmers, ranchers, and dairymen who can, and DO, produce better than their foreign counterparts. You have bankrupted the agriculture legacy of America and you need to begin to make amends!
Fact: When I expressed interest in being a farmer or a rancher as a child, I was encouraged to stay away from those “dying professions” by teachers, guidance counselors, and regrettably even some farmers and ranchers. People who, after a life of working at a job they loved, were getting out and selling out because it had just become too much, too political, and too expensive. A sheepherder in Utah, been in the business for multiple generations, could not find a market and had to sell his animals for glue and parts, losing his job at 70, with nothing from social security. A dairyman in Maine, on the same plot of land since before America was a country, bankrupted by a corporation, then purchased by the same corporation, at a bankruptcy sell. I have seen too many of these tales personally. Good, honest, hardworking people, betrayed by their government at the local, county, state, and federal levels, disavowed by their associations and councils and left to destitution and poverty.
Fact: The founding fathers in America all wrote extensively and worked diligently on farms, ranches, and dairies. What politician, lobbyist, staff member, or other political hacks, can say the same? Which of you can relate business topics, having met a customer face-to-face? Can you still say you have met a customer face-to-face? I know some of you were doctors, are you still a practicing doctor seeing patients? What about lawyers, are you still seeing clients? What about farmers or ranchers, how is your farm or ranch doing? Are the laws you are passing, that are killing your constituents, being felt personally? What about you presidents and political activists of farming, ranching, dairy, or food safety councils and associations, have you been on a farm recently, to work?
Fact: Jefferson wrote that “those who [labor] in the earth…are the chosen people of God if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he had made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.” In December 1778, John Adams wrote to a Massachusetts friend from France that “it is some comfort to me to think that I shall be soon a private Farmer.” Two incredible people who saw their work in politics as a hindrance to being a farmer. They knew productive work and did productive work, they knew the struggles of the everyman and could temper their political actions against the consequences. Of President Adams it is related, “Adams occasionally dug ditches, shoveled and transported manure, spread fertilizer, slaughtered livestock, and worked under the hot sun in his fields both at harvest time in the early autumn and in May, July, and September, when the hay was stacked following the mowing of the meadows.” Can any of you say the same?
Fact: In 1769, Benjamin Franklin wrote Henry Home: “There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered [neighbors]; this is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way…wrought by the hand of God in His [favor], as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.” Biographer Carl Van Doren observed that “Franklin was one of the earliest Americans to perceive that the agricultural resources of the country should not be wasted and that farming must be something of a business and a science as well as a way of life.” Your actions are killing the American way of life and I demand to know why!
Since the 1980’s America has seen the death of too many independent farmers, ranchers, and dairymen, compounded and multiplied by first losing the farm, ranch, or dairy, then again to suicide. Time Magazine has written about the death, neigh almost extinction, of America’s independent farmers, ranchers, and dairymen, as recently as November 2019. Check your offices, you might still have this issue sitting on the low table in your outer office. I know my first magazine article on this topic (1991) was seen in a dentist’s office, in Belfast Maine. I had to see the dentist as I broke a tooth working as a farmer, a fruit picker, and dairy hand.
Let me help you out with a few more facts, sourced from the Time Magazine article mentioned above, and these numbers could be much higher.
Fact: “Farm debt, [is] at $416 billion (2019), an all-time high. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since 2013 and lost more than $1,644 this year. Farm loan delinquencies are rising.”
Fact: “Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them.”
Fact: “The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.”
Here’s an interesting correlational fact: “Congress included #COOL repeal in the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled Canada and Mexico could begin imposing more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. products to punish it for the [undue] harm the labeling requirements were doing to them.” Answer me this, when Either country has to put labels on their products for trade with the European Union (EU), those labels are not considered “undue hardship,” but the cost of doing business with the EU, the cost is then passed along to the EU consumer. Why is trade with America on food safety, all of a sudden an “undue hardship” to label where the food is originating? It seems to me, if you are not trying to poison Americans, you should be proud to be labeling your country on your products.
#COOL labeling was considered onerous and was despised by Congress, even though #COOL labeling was on such a tiny number of agricultural products. Yet, the US Congress caved and a weak-kneed president signed off on this omnibus spending legislative fiasco. So, let us discuss labeling legislation for a moment.
Fact: Feel free to look this one up. 49 U.S. Code § 32304. Passenger motor vehicle country of origin labeling. Prominent placing is critical to the country of origin labeling on all vehicles, and this labeling is not considered “undue hardship” by the WTO. Even small assembly parts can be included in the vehicle country of origin, not considered an “undue hardship” by the WTO, and falls under the vehicle mandated country of origin labeling. In fact, the manufacturing of foreign parts can be hidden, provided proper labels are designed, and the country of origin masked, and this is not considered an “undue hardship” by the WTO. No one ever saw Congress cave on vehicle country of origin labeling, and the auto industry has been slammed in America by foreign vehicles and foreign trade. Closing the rust belt and extinguishing America’s manufacturing jobs without a single cry from Congress, about “undue hardship.” No staff member tried sneaking in a repeal of the country of origin labeling into a “must-pass” piece of legislation. How many lobbyists and political action committees are dedicated to removing the labeling requirements on vehicles?
Fact: Page 76 of the “Overview and Compilation of U.S. Trade Statutes” lists pipes and pipe fittings as requiring country of origin labeling, not considered an “undue hardship” by the WTO. Failure to comply with all pipe types and fittings having the country of origin labeling is punishable by hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to the manufacturer, the retailer, and the potential for lengthy prison sentences. Best of all, there are “no exceptions” [emphasis mine] allowed to the country of origin labeling requirements for pipes and pipe fittings, manhole covers, gas cylinders, and more.
Fact: Mushrooms must have a country of origin label per the “Overview and Compilation of U.S. Trade Statutes” manual. Native American Jewelry, computers, phones, monitors, rugs, floor mats, and practically every single item in an American home must-have, under penalty of law, no exceptions, labels demanding where that product originates. Also, not considered “undue hardship for labeling are specifics on sizes, volumes, and much more. Yet, for food country of origin labeling, is considered an “undue hardship” for other countries to comply with, and thus, American food producers, the ranchers, farmers, and dairymen, are unfairly able to compete. What about the complaints of America’s manufacturers, restaurants, and others who got nailed by the incredible labeling costs under Obama’s FDA mandate for nutritional labels? A simple rule change at the FDA condemned hundreds of small businesses, eateries, café’s, and food producers to bankruptcy; yet, none of the political activists, staff members, committees, PAC’s, etc. even cared. In fact, many of them cheered and helped waste a lot of reporter ink on this topic.
Let me see if I fully understand this problem, and I fully anticipate your full and transparent commentary, as well as your forthright action to correct this problem. American chicken companies can purchase foreign-born and raised, chickens, have them shipped to the US, killed in a US factory, and do not need to tell anyone that chicken came from overseas. Why? Isn’t this the same as a car manufacturer, having all the parts for a car made in Vietnam, shipped to America, and sold as an American car, and just as illegal? What about Brazilian beef that caused Americans to become sick, that miraculously now is available for retail again, while American ranchers cannot get their products to market at all?
What about all that romaine lettuce that has been causing E.coli across America for multiple years? The growers are Mexican and others south of the border, the seller is an American company, and Americans are still suffering from this disease madness. Yet, if a pipe manufacturer did exactly the same thing, with sewers exploding from poor pipes not bearing the proper country of origin labeling, that retailer, manufacturer, and the entire supply chain can be held liable for the harm, accountable for legal penalties and every class action lawyer in America would be dreaming dollar signs for injuries, damage, and mental harm caused. But where food is concerned there is no problem, no foul, nothing to see here.
What about the Chinese Melamine Pet Food fiasco? How is the purchase of melamine-contaminated food which was then processed into foods for pets and humans, not requiring country of origin labeling, different from a computer? If the computer fails because a chip made in Ireland was poorly manufactured, there would be significant problems, legal interventions, trade embargoes, and a political rant for years. Yet, because China was contaminating the source ingredients, there were no problems to be seen here. Israel manufactures many phenomenal products for technology; let one of those products cause a tiny amount of inconvenience and the news reporters will try to run out of ink reporting Israeli manufacturing problems and defects of that product. Lots of political pandering from 2007 saw China poisoning with melamine story die very quickly. Why? Are pets somehow less important than people; if America’s spending on pets is any indicator, that answer is a resounding NO! Yet, not only did you pander to China, you killed the US Media reporting this issue, and then repealed a law that should have been useful in preventing this fiasco from ever happening in the first place.
Forget pets and melamine for a moment, do your political brains have sufficient room to remember when melamine was found in baby formula and killed infants? Melamine tainted food is a hallmark of China, and yet somehow China is now able to send “safe” food to America all without a country of origin label. I find this fascinating and demand to know why the country of origin labels are required by law on every other tradable good or product, but not foods!
Fact: Research published in February  claimed that up to 10 percent of rice sold in China was contaminated with heavy metals, including cadmium. Data collected by Nanjing Agricultural University found that the problem was most acute in Southern provinces, wherein some areas 60 percent of samples were contaminated, some with up to five times the legal limit of heavy metals. Where is the demand for the country of origin labels? When you plant a seed in the ground with contamination, that contamination grows into the seed and will be found in the fruit that seed produces. This was a fourth-grade science product where we changed the color of celery by contaminating the water with food dye. How many rice producers in America cannot compete for shelf space in their local supermarket, even though they have a superior product, all because of heavy metal rice from China? The same China who has a multi-year deadly hog disease that has killed millions of pigs and raised meat prices in China. You cannot grow safe food or animals in contaminated environments without getting that contamination into the food!
China, the same country where fake water was sold, where machinery oil has been used to cook food, rotten meat has been used to create oils to cook food, and so many more food safety violations. Yet, importers can import all sorts of meat that “meet proper regulations” and not have to declare where the meat was raised, what the meat actually is, and when that meat was slaughtered. Importers can sell all types of vegetables and fruits grown in unknown ground conditions, which infect the fruit with the same ground and water contaminants without ever identifying sources and origins.
Does anyone else remember the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act (July, 2016)? a GMO labeling bill that allows companies and producers to use QR codes, 1-800 numbers and other difficult to access technology to label food products that contain GMOs, instead of clear, on-package text.
Fact: “Over 90% of Americans support clear mandatory GMO labeling, but President Obama signed [legislation] giving way to the Big Food industry to continue to hide GMO contaminants in American sold products. Even though these same companies must declare GMO contamination clearly on the package for products sold elsewhere in the world. The DARK Act, supported by Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), as well as trade groups representing the Big Food industry like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech companies such as Monsanto, is an unfortunate example of how powerful corporations and moneyed interests have taken over our democracy.” Have you noticed the rise in farms, ranches, and dairies failing to correlate with the labeling legislation? It appears that every time Congress changes the labeling laws allowing more inferior fruits, nuts, veggies, meat, etc. come into America, and more independent American farms, ranches, and dairies fail!
Your actions to adopt country of origin labeling requirements on the most important items in a person’s home is beyond despicable. The following is a statement from Andy Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety:
“I don’t know what kind of legacy [President Obama] hopes to leave, but denying one-third of Americans the right to know what is in the food they feed their families isn’t one to be proud of. This law is a sham and a shame, a rushed backroom deal … the law also represents a major assault on the democratic decision making of several states and erases their laws with a vague multi-year bureaucratic process specifically designed to provide less transparency to consumers.”
I unequivocally and absolutely support the country of origin labeling (#COOL) for all foods imported into America. If the WTO does not like this, let them eat cake from China; preferably, made from fake flour, and melamine-contaminated milk, with eggs from hens raised in a heavy metal contaminated environment and manufactured from an environment that has been shut down for violating the cheesy food safety rules of China.
The time has come for America to cease bowing to every global interest body, large food growing corporation, and return to supporting her local farmer, rancher, and dairymen. Take pride in those who do this work and demand #COOL! Choose, do you want your food from an unknown environment and a big corporation that doesn’t care, or the local guy; I know my choice #COOL!
By way of praise, I want to thank the Lehrman Institute for their excellent work in documenting historical resources on the founding fathers that improved this letter.
© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.
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