American citizens are being told that we "need" the NAIS or American farmers won't be competitive in the export markets. Our question is, just how much DOES the U.S. export? We are being told one thing...but the facts are saying something else! The fact is very little of what is grown in America gets exported as compared to what is not exported - you are being asked to give up liberties and freedoms so a HANDFUL of retailers can sell to another country!
Where's the Beef?
by Doreen Hannes
Feb. 20, 2007
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation along with the House Ag Committee Chair Colin Petersen (D-MN) seem to think that we must "preserve our export markets" by trading our real liberty for other nation's false sense of security through mass registration of our livestock and property under
the National Animal Identification System or NAIS. It's common for beef magazines to lament about the new "voluntary" approach to the NAIS as being harmful to our economy.
Finding this an interesting argument, I decided to research the actual numbers to find out the truth of the importance and value of our beef export market.
Oddly enough, what I found out first was that the USDA does not publish all pertinent information in a single document that jibes with other documents. They also don't publish the information necessary to ascertain solid facts about import/export in an apple to apple comparison, but consistently compare apples to oranges. For instance, one report on exports will address the amount of beef imported in millions of tons with no indication of whether this is live weight, carcass weight, or dressed weight, and then the amount of exported beef will be given in dollar amounts. After digging extensively through USDA documents this shouldn't come as any kind of a surprise, but it certainly is an aggravation. In order to be terrifically generous to the USDA , I decided to simply address all weights as dressed beef based on an average dress out of 770 pounds per carcass which seemed to be a fairly agreed upon average between industry magazines and university studies as well as government reports. So let's count the cattle.
In 2005, the consumption of beef in the United States was 27.8 billion pounds. This breaks down to 36,103,896.1 or 36.1 million head. The total poundage of imported meat from all sources was given in one
report as 6.6 million tons, another report as 6.2 million tons and yet another as 4.8 million tons. Which was it? Who knows? The USDA obviously doesn't… which raises some terrifically interesting questions that may be addressed in other articles, but for our purposes we'll just use the average so we can't be accused of being
So imported beef is roughly 5.8 million tons (give or take a few million head depending on the stats) or11.6 billion pounds for 2005. That breaks down to over 15 million head of cattle.
Surprisingly, the revered export market had the same stats in many places. That is 272,000 tons of beef translating into 706,493 head.
Doing the math then, we find that for less than 2 percent of our total consumption we are told we must "get with the rest of the world" and implement an onerous program that will drive small farmers out of business and consolidate the production of food to corporate growers.
Even more incredibly, we are only producing 56% of the beef we consume including the paltry amount we export. So we have a 44% shortfall in production, which means we should be raising another 15.7 million head before we even think about exporting the first cow!
Other statistics indicate that 66% of our cattle herds have less than fifty cattle. Some say 80%, but never mind that, we'll stick with the most accepted percentage. For a herd of 50 cows it would cost $34.52 per cow to get into the NAIS system, or $1726. That is assuming that a laptop can be purchased for $123, which would be a wonder. I don't think I'd want that laptop myself. When you take into account that the average age of the cattle grower is nearing 60 years of age (55.3 nationwide) you have to wonder if people will want to jump through all these hoops just to keep making a few dollars a year. Now, let's have a little more fun with numbers and look to the 2002 Ag Census for some info.
In the 2002 Census, it shows that we have 1,018,359 farms that produce cattle. Yet the USDA adjusted their estimate of the number of premises down from 2.1 million to 1.4 million last fall. Intriguing, isn't it? Busting out the calculator again, if you add the total number of farms with less than 50 head of cattle you come up with
671,425 farms. Presuming those with less than fifty head won't find the idea of coughing up $1700 in order to keep their cows a financially brilliant move, many would probably quit. It's way too much of a headache with all the reporting and such. If those farmers bail, taking their thirty percent of the beef production with them, it means we would need to import an additional 10.8 million head. Hmm. If they all stayed in business, that 10.8 million head would translate into $372.8 million for the identification and technology companies. Finally, we see that someone will benefit from this system!
If USDA statistics are trustworthy, and we actually have 1.4 million premises that should be registered under the NAIS, then every sale barn, vet clinic, livestock hauler and backyard chicken raiser must grow another 11.26 head of cattle in order to meet our consumption. So the next time someone tells you we must preserve our export market, you should probably slap 'em upside the head.*******
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Farm and Food: Busting the great agricultural export myth
By ALAN GUEBERT/Farm and Food Columnist
Former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman couldn’t stop for a cup of coffee in farm and ranch country without waxing romantically on how “one in four acres of American farm production is exported.”
Her replacement, Secretary Mike Johanns often makes the same point with more precision. “Twenty-seven percent of U.S. farm receipts come from trade,” Johanns told a May 8 Chicago luncheon crowd.
The trouble with Veneman’s oversimplified number and Johanns’ overcooked number is that both are wrong, wrote Ed Maixner in the April 28 issue of the Kiplinger Agricultural Letter.
The actual “value” of ag exports to farmers and ranchers, noted Maixner, Kiplinger’s editor, is neither 27 percent nor 25 percent. “Analysis shows the portion is 8 percent,” he explained, when “measured by value...”
The difference, he goes on to explain in the Letter, is “the government doesn’t account for extra value that gets added to goods after they leave the farm... shipping, processing, packaging and more. Ignoring such markups greatly overstates the exported share.”
For example, Maixner told Keith Good in a May 13 interview (which can be heard at http://agpolicysoup.blogspot.com/), steaks exported to Japan might carry a $15 per lb. price tag at the export terminal, but the rancher gets less than a $1 per pound from the packer when the animal is sold.
Likewise, $3 North Dakota wheat may fetch $5.50 when it leaves Washington State for Shanghai, but the grower still only received $3 when he sold it in Jamestown.
As such, counting the steak’s $14 markup or the wheat’s $1.50 price boost as “farm value” is “logically ridiculous,” Maixner continues. What USDA is actually tabulating, he adds, is “added export value, not farm value.”
USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins says Maixner’s math is “a valid concept. We shouldn’t think of exports as cash receipts.” But that’s as far as Collins will take the thought without walking it backwards fast.
To say that exports are only 8 percent of farm value is “ridiculous on its face,” he notes. “That means that 2006’s estimated $64.5 billion in exports is worth, let’s see...” Collins pauses to do the math... “$19 billion. That’s just crazy.”
Not so, replied Maixner in an interview.
“We had appropriate USDA analysts examine all the trade data to make the estimates we published.”
The difference between Maixner the editor and Collins the economist is not dismal science. Farm groups, politicians, and trade negotiators rely on accurate, definitive data to propose farm programs, write farm bills, gather votes and —like today — cut world-altering trade treaties. The data not only make a difference, they are the difference.
USDA’s most recent examination of its trade data, published in the Nov. 2003 issue of its magazine, Amber Waves, shows that, by either value or volume, both Veneman and Johanns are off the mark.
By volume, the export share of U.S. agricultural production has averaged 22 percent since 1996. By value, however, the export share of U.S. agricultural products averaged 17 percent from 1998 to 2002, or 5 percentage points lower than the volume-based average.
Still, the value number includes far too much off-farm money in its total, Maixner believes.
For example, he says, three out of four bales of U.S.-produced cotton will be exported this year. “USDA would chalk up the cleaned bales of cotton sitting at an ocean or Mississippi River port as farm value. Not hardly,” he explains. What about ginning, transporting, warehousing and interest — all included in the port price?
“We’re not raining on anybody’s parade, here. We are trying to encourage public policy statements based on fact.”
He was more blunt with Keith Good. Asked why he looked at USDA’s trade data with a jaundiced eye, Maixner pointed to both the Doha Round of trade talks and the about-to-begin 2007 Farm Bill writing.
“When developing farm policy,” Maixner told Good, “it’s probably good to start somewhere near the truth. We don’t export everything... Maybe the first thing we need to take care of is our domestic agriculture economy.”
Alan Guebert is a freelance agricultural journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 21673 Lago Dr., Delavan, IL 61734.
STRAIGHT FROM AN AUSSIE'S MOUTH:
"I'll just quote some figures from an article I have in front of me. Australia has expanded its share of the Japanese market from 38% to 90% since the USA was excluded from that market. America CONSUMES 96% OF ITS BEEF PRODUCTION. Australia exports 68%...A lot of that is TO THE USA AS WELL, and could be greatly INCREASED if the U.S. Government didn't have QUOTAS ON IMPORTS FROM AUSTRALIA. Some interesting sites:
Then go to Agriculture and Food, and then NLIS. Also go to:
http://www.cattlecouncil.com.au. The Cattle Council is QLD based, and they have often very big properties with often little inputs. A small excerpt out of a 24 page document written against it by your Beef Association."
OUR NOTE: Did you catch the part about the U.S. *consuming* 96% of her own beef? AND importing tons of beef from Australia? That doesn't include what we also import from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, etc. Now, tell us again WHY we are being coerced into giving up our Constitutional liberties and freedoms for "exports"? So that a handful of big retail marketers can sell to another country if they want to? By the way, Japan would very happily start buying American beef again IF WE WOULD TEST EVERY COW FOR BSE AT SLAUGHTER LIKE THEY DO, but the USDA refuses to allow our processors to test! Why?! (UPDATE JULY 2006: Japan has now been forced through pressures from the international trade treaties to resume taking American beef even though their consumers do not want any American beef that was not tested first
WE WANT TESTED COWS, NOT TAGGED COWS!!
Creekstone Packers in Kansas has lost over $2 billion in exports in the last two years due to the USDA refusing to allow them to test every cow for BSE (they have the USDA in court over this right now). We import more than we export so if we just keep our animals safe by cracking down on what is being imported then we would not have to worry about all of this in the first place. The farmer could make more, and private companies like Creekstone would surpass what is exported now. All of this is logical common sense...so why is the NAIS being pushed on us so hard? Always ask WHY.
Export stats figures don't match - cattlemen get $1 or so per pound, but these figures are for RETAIL....ONLY PACKERS BENEFIT. Read this:
FROM THE USDA'S ECONOMIC RESEARCH SERVICE WEBSITE:
U.S. Cattle and Beef Industry, 2002-2005
- Retail equivalent value of U.S. beef industry:
2002: $65 billion
2003: $70 billion
2004: $79 billion
2005: $78 billion, estimated
- Total U.S. beef consumption:
2002: 27.9 billion pounds
2003: 27.0 billion pounds
2004: 27.6 billion pounds
- Value of U.S. cattle and calf production:
2002: $27.1 billion
2003: $32.1 billion
2004: $34.9 billion
- U.S. beef production (commercial carcass weight):
2002: 27.09 billion pounds
2003: 26.24 billion pounds
2004: 24.55 billion pounds
2005: 25.6 billion pounds, estimated
- U.S. beef exports (commercial carcass weight and value):
2002: 2.45 billion pounds, $2.610 billion
2003: 2.52 billion pounds, $3.144 billion
2004: 461 million pounds, $552 million
- U.S. beef exports as percent of production:
2002: 9.0 percent
2003: 9.6 percent
2004: 1.9 percent
2005: 2.5 percent, estimated
In 2005 we PRODUCED 25.6 billion pounds of beef, but only EXPORTED 2.5 percent of that total! That is a TINY amount compared to what was NOT exported! In 2004, 461 million pounds of beef valued at $552 million were EXPORTED while we CONSUMED 27.6 billion pounds ourselves (not counting the beef that we also IMPORTED to eat). That amount was valued at $34.9 billion...worth MUCH more than what the exports were worth! So tell us again WHY we are being told that we HAVE to give up our liberties and freedoms so *someone* (mega-retailers like Cargill) can "export" their beef? Keep watching the numbers as they are NOT ADDING UP. And the NAIS is NOT ADDING UP FOR AMERICA!
Letter to the editor
Friday, April 28, 2006 5:14 PM CDT
USDA and meatpackers in cahoots
You were right! The amount of ground and boxed beef that came into this country last year was 3.6 billion pounds. When you include the amount of live cattle that came into the United States from Canada the volume of beef imported was 5.1 billion pounds, 18 percent of our domestic beef market.
We spent the winter in Mexico, and it is common knowledge there that thousands of head of cattle are coming from Central America into Mexico and ending up in the United States. Lets be truthful -- when USDA talks about Mexican cattle they have no idea what country these cattle are coming from.
Jim Robb says all beef imported into the US meets USDA standards. It is my understanding that most ground beef imported from foreign countries comes by ship containing thousands of 1,500 pound frozen blocks. Less than 1 percent is visually inspected. If Jim Robb really believes that all ground beef sold in the United States is 100 percent beef, then this couple from Idaho has the Brooklyn Bridge for sale for $5.
The National Animal Identification System will only benefit companies who stand to sell millions of dollars worth of equipment, the USDA and the big meatpackers who are all like Siamese twins. We're sick and tired of seeing our rural towns destroyed, our family farms destroyed and our young people being forced out of rural America. It is really sad when the biggest enemy the family farm has is our US government.
Gary & Janell Willson