It’s important – like filling up your gas tank for the road ahead
By Tim O’Byrne
For many of us, 2017 can be best described as a horse that wandered into the yard off the highway sometime during the early morning hours of Sunday, January 1, and proceeded to hang around until just recently, when he snuck out through an open gate in the back and disappeared over the mountain forever. At first he seemed like a decent caballo, but soon enough his trashy side emerged. All that buggar wanted to do was paw, bite, kick, pull back, refuse to load or hold a foot up, buck us off, get us hurt, run off with our new saddle, crib the boards in the box stalls and eat us out of house and home. Of course there were intermittent times when we suckered a ride off him, or he’d come over to the fence for a head rub and to pat you down for a treat. Me? I’m glad to see that knothead gone. Here’s a brief recap:
Tim’s RECAP of 2017
There was plenty of human tragedy and loss of beloved animals in the past 12 months. Much of the headlines focused on the devastating wildfires across the country. So many of our ranching families and communities were deeply affected, and watching those stories unfold was truly heartwrenching. Tragedy is part of life, and certainly our readership is no stranger to it given our chosen lifestyle tied so closely with the land, but it seemed like 2017 really stood out for the fires and other weather-related catastrophes. Our ranching and beef producing community is pretty handy at praying and sharing, which makes me so grateful to be a part of it.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance is an amazing and dedicated organization, basically a watchdog for all of us in animal agriculture, and their 2017 report is disturbing. Here’s a snippet:
The Alliance sends representatives to the National Animal Rights Conference every year to gain insight into activists’ strategies and tactics as part of our efforts to protect animal agriculture. The 2017 event emphasized the ‘humane meat myth,’ “clean meat” innovations, expanding vegan options into the marketplace and a need for inclusivity within the movement. Speakers urged attendees to avoid using the term ‘factory farming’ to encompass small farms in their rhetoric, and breaking the law in the name of animal rights was deemed acceptable.
It seems like new activist groups with the intent to put farmers and ranchers out of business are popping up every week. The Alliance keeps detailed profile reports on more than 80 groups to keep our members informed. For key animal rights group profiles, visit animalagalliance.org/protect/#animalrights. Members can log in to see all 80 profiles.
The POTUS withdrew, for whatever reason(s) the U.S. from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, which I thought was rather shocking given our export goals in that region.
The Japanese Trade Tariff on imported frozen beef was increased from 38.5% to 50% running up to April 2018. “Can they just do that?” I asked myself. Apparently they can, and did.
As we go to press, only a fraction of the 14 senior positions in the USDA requiring Senate confirmation have been filled. That’s like trying to win the Superbowl with only six offensive players and a coach.
The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) legislation coming out of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been heading our way for a couple of years now, and in a monumental team effort we managed to get them (the FMCSA) to cut us some slack. We got the MAP 21 150 air-mile rule clarified so commercial carriers are clearly noted, and now we need to put the pressure on the 16 remaining states that still have a ‘Planting and Harvest’ window on the books (which is the only time a carrier can legally utilize the 150 air-mile rule). Plus, FMCSA gave us an early Christmas present: a 90-day ELD extension for livestock and insect haulers! The deadline for implementation of this controversial law was bumped from Dec. 18, 2017 to March 18, 2018. That should give us a bit of time to move to the next step: a full exemption for livestock carriers, an update of Hours of Service and a reasonable bunk split that will work.
USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue announced in October he was eliminating the GIPSA rule that was put in place by the Obama administration during its final days. Commonly called the Farmer Fair Practice Rule, it makes sense to me on one level, but the arguments against it also hold water to a certain degree. Greed and unfairness on any level is not an impressive attribute in a civil society such as ours; we learn that as kids (some of us apparently just hear the words) yet it remains pervasive instead of being shunned in favor of equitable arrangements that easily sustain all parties for generations.
The Veterinary Feed Directive came into effect on January 1, 2017. I’ve heard a few tidbits about it during the past twelve months, but I need to do a little more research on how well it has been received.
The WOTUS Rule was rescinded, which means our team will have a chance to score a goal by working the obvious flaws out. That was definitely a dog that needed to be sent back to the trainer.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association signed a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese e-commerce company by the name of JD.com to the tune of some $300 million bucks. Their goal is to import $200 million worth of Montana beef (however that’s defined) and put $100 million into a feedyard and packing plant setup. Should be interesting to see this mega-project evolve.
The markets seem to be holding and some even seem to be strong. Exports look good, too.
President Obama’s BLM 2.0 Rule was repealed, which gives us a chance to take another look at how public land may be utilized to everyone’s advantage. Thankfully, it seems as though the general message is becoming stronger; as time goes by I’m noticing less and less friction from the public to the established scientific fact that managed livestock grazing and public lands sustainability actually DO go together quite nicely.
The Farm Bill’s on the drawing board for 2018 and we’ve got a ton of great industry leaders on the scene to make sure it calves out healthy and gets a good shot of colostrum after it staggers to its feet.
China’s importing U.S. beef again after 14 years. That’s incredible!
After USDA’s FSIS discovered several serious import violations related to the safety of Brazilian raw beef, the decision was made to suspend imports in June. I had wanted this to happen for some time now (see WR Sept Oct 2015, p. 16, Toppin’ Out). Grab the thumb off p. 16 of the Sept Oct 2015, it’s a page that has white cows on it and Foot & Mouth?
In a positive twist on the previous newsbyte, after 13 years, fresh U.S. beef is back on the shelves in Brazil.
And finally, the dastardly Death Tax, a concept that could easily qualify as a ‘top 5’ contender for The Most Preposterous Ideas to Gain Traction in Modern American Society, was recently dealt a crippling blow which, if we’re all lucky and plans stay on track, will lead to its eventual and most welcome demise.
Goodbye, 2017, down the road you go.
My Turn To Brag
We’re plumb happy to run one of our most popular pieces in the magazine, Kid & Critter Corner, which has taken on a life of its own (see page 86 of this issue), so I don’t feel a bit bashful about doin’ some bragging of my own, except I want to brag up my lovely wife, Christine. In addition to being a great cowboy’s wife (trust me, I broke her to moving around the big outfits in a heck of a hurry), an awesome cook and mother, and a terrific Working Ranch Junior kid wrangler/managing editor and outstanding life partner, she’s also a really good artist. This comes naturally for her; back when Mickey Mouse was still black & white and bouncing around on a tugboat, a young man by the name of Walt Disney asked her grandfather Ernie if he would like to move to Hollywood and cartoon for him, which he graciously declined.
For a spell, when Christine was cooking in camps at Nicola Ranch, Douglas Lake Ranch and Gang Ranch, we’d be gone punching cows all day and there’d be nothing or nobody around except the cavvy, a couple of sorry cowdogs that wished they were with the crew, and our young son, Mark. She had a lot of time to hang with the horses as they grazed and dozed their off-days away, and a series of paintings came out of that which I am very proud of, so proud I want to share some of the horse detail that I think captures those lazy days so perfectly I can almost smell the rain and hear the grass squeak as the horses nibble away.