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Ultimate Naivety

Billings, MT | This is a chicken and egg question. What must come first: a reliable food supply or a strong military? Now don’t answer that because you can’t have one without the other – they’re mutually inclusive. They’re also arguably interdependent – while you cannot maintain a strong military without a reliable food source, you likewise cannot maintain a reliable food source without a strong military should an adversary wish to take it from you.

Now consider this: Many of the major news sources are reporting that the Chinese balloon detected earlier this year floating across the United States from Montana to South Carolina and eventually shot down by our U.S. military was gathering intelligence data from sensitive military installations and likely digitally transmitting that data in real time back to China.

But the surveillance balloon’s reported path took it across something else. It took it across major cattle producing regions and across some of America’s most productive farmland. In short, it floated over America’s major food sources.

Employing the prudent “abundance of caution” approach, we’d best be concerned about both its military installation and its food-source transgressions.

Now couple this with the growing sentiment in Washington, D.C. that China is both a significant political and economic threat to the United States ... the Chinese Communist Party that is, which is the ruling party in the People’s Republic of China.

So now let’s define naivety. It describes a neglect of pragmatism in favor of moral idealism. In other words, when you neglect what is real because you want to believe something else, you suffer from naivety.

And here’s naivety in action, emanating from an unlikely source. Just before the detection of the Chinese surveillance balloon, our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided to initiate a rulemaking to require the use of electronic surveillance devices on cattle, and cattle are sometimes called “beef on the hoof” because beef, the food, is of course derived from cattle.

Now the electronic chip used in the surveillance devices to carry information about your beef most likely originate in Asia generally, and China in particular.

In fact, the USDA has developed a very short list of companies from which American cattle producers would be compelled to purchase their mandatory electronic surveillance chips. And prominent on that short list is China’s manufacturer of electronic animal identification devices, so designated by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. (The company is Wuxi Fofia Technology Co., Ltd.)

Now based on our knowledge that one or more of the companies the USDA intends to force American cattle producers to do business with in return for the privilege of owning American cattle, is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, we issued a request to the Secretary of Agriculture.

We requested that the Secretary inform us as to the manufacturer origins of all the chips offered by the short list of companies that the USDA has designated as officially approved manufacturers of the electronic surveillance devices that American cattle producers would be forced to purchase and forced to affix to their American cattle.

Of course, our position is that it would be fundamentally wrong and extraordinarily naive for the USDA to compel American cattle producers to affix a chip manufactured under the control of the Chinese Communist Party onto each of their cows that will then carry that chip with them as they journey across America.

To be fair, we don’t know precisely what level of surveillance data the Chinese could gain through their chips. In fact, we don’t know any better than our intelligence experts who still can’t say with certainty what information the Chinese balloon was able to collect and send back to China. But, in today’s world rife with geo-political conflicts, the only prudent course is one in which we proceed with an abundance of caution.

So, the question of the day is how did the Secretary of Agriculture respond to our important request? And the answer is he blew us off. He didn’t bother to even answer. And when I called his office to ask why he wouldn’t answer, his office didn’t bother to call me back either.

And now we must ask what conclusion should be drawn from the Secretary’s disregard of our important national security concern. And our conclusion is he just doesn’t care. Did I mention Abraham Lincoln called the USDA “The People’s Department”? Well that it is not, so we’re going to have to shop around and find a less naive department that better understands national security. Perhaps that will be the Department of Homeland Security. We’ll let you know how that turns out.

Meanwhile, we’ll be submitting comments on the USDA’s proposed mandate to affix electronic surveillance chips to American cattle. Looks like we’re relegated to doing so without the benefit of pertinent facts.


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R-CALF USA’s weekly opinion/commentary educates and informs both consumers and producers about timely issues important to the U.S. cattle industry and rural America.

Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) is the largest producer-only trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information visit www.r-calfusa.com or call (406) 252-2516.

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