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Guest Opinions

Letter to the Editor - John Francis

Written by John Francis

To the Editor:

There has been a lot of talk about the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). It seems that McDonalds, Wal-Mart, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Brazil’s JBS and others are going to make us volunteer to be sustainable. Sort of reminds me of Bill Clinton’s idea of requiring people to volunteer. This group of do-gooders wants to help us stay in business for years to come. Why do I not believe them? 

I don’t believe them because of the entities involved. Like Wal-Mart. It is my understanding that Wal-Mart likes to chicken-ize their suppliers. It seems they like to make tight contracts and then force their suppliers to be the low-cost producer. Being forced to be the low-cost producer does not sound sustainable to me. What about quality? Does quality come from the lowest cost per unit? And speaking of quality, how about JBS, the Brazilian meat packer? These are the people who want to import their South American, low-priced – and I suspect low-quality – beef at the expense of the U.S. rancher. 

McDonalds says that they plan to double the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat foods that they sell. Does that sound like they are supporting the beef industry? If McDonalds wants to help U.S. ranchers to be sustainable, they would buy 100 percent born, raised and processed in the USA beef. And they would brag about it.  Wal-Mart would do the same.  If they don’t, they are not trying to make ranching in the USA sustainable. 

GRSB talks about our carbon footprint. I wonder if they consult with any genuine scientists or if they choose to listen to the Hollywood and political big shots. There is a lot of science that is not brought to the table in conversations about carbon. For example, all of the grass growing on the prairies is going to turn into carbon. If that grass is not consumed, it decays. When it decays, it turns into its basic components, which include carbon. Sometimes it decays quickly, as in fire. In that process it turns into its basic components, which include carbon. If cattle, bison, antelope or rabbits eat the vegetation, it turns into carbon. So, fortunately for us, carbon dioxide is made in great quantities on a continual basis. Without CO2, our plants would die and so would we. The flora needs CO2 just as we need oxygen. And the plants use the CO2 to make that oxygen. 

What other reasons do I have to not believe that GRSB is here to save us? How about their principles? They talk about using the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As much as I would like for the entire world to think like I do, it isn’t going to happen. I have no interest in what the United Nations thinks that I should do. And I don’t expect the people of China or Germany care what I think they should do. The New World Order is not for me. 

Although I have not seen it in writing, I suspect that the GRSB would be quite willing to accept EPA’s onerous and expensive rules and regulations. For example, we have a diesel-powered pickup that gets about 16 miles per gallon (MPG). That is, until the anti-pollution equipment engages. I don’t know the process that is used, but after the re-gen cycle, the total fuel mileage average goes down to about 12 MPG. Consider that we will put 100,000 miles on this pickup during its life with us. At 16 MPG, it would use 6,250 gallons of fuel. At 12 MPG, it would use 8,333 gallons. So to make EPA happy, we use an additional 2,083 gallons of fuel over the lifetime of this vehicle. Does this make any sense? Not to me. Now consider the price of that fuel. At $3.80 per gallon, the EPA will have me paying $7,915 more for fuel than I would need to spend. Is this what sustainable means? Does Brazil have these requirements? We can’t compete with the world markets unless we have a level playing field. 

My final point is about management of a business. Does anybody at McDonalds know why I don’t graze cattle in Section 12 before July 10? Do they know that this specific pasture has larkspur growing in it? Do they know that larkspur is deadly poisonous to cattle? Does Wal-Mart understand that the water source in the lower pasture usually dries up in late June? I strongly suspect that the answers to these questions are no. Yet it looks as if they want to tell me how to best run my ranch for their benefit. And what do you think? Will they buy my high-quality beef when JBS will sell them some South American special at 15 percent less? Or would it be 30 percent less?

The WWF specifically wants to save the prairie dogs. They have a very good reason for this. Prairie dogs are the source of food for the Black-Footed ferret. Unfortunately the prairie dog probably destroys more grassland than any other animal. Having prairie dogs on the place does not make a ranch sustainable. 

The word “global” is part of the primary idea behind this movement. I have been going on about the United States cattle rancher. It is not my first goal to save the rancher in Argentina or the poultry house in China. I am much more concerned about the rancher in the USA. Yes, for personal reasons and also for a greater cause. I do not want the USA to become dependent on imported food. I think I will pass on using the United Nations guidelines for making the USA a food dependent nation. 

Sincerely,

John Francis

Cheyenne