By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
I heard a story recently about a government bureaucrat from DC visiting real America for the first time. He worked on agriculture policy but grew up in the city so his only experience with food involved his plate. He bought a pair of shiny new boots and headed off to cow-calf country.
When his plane touched down, he was greeted by a man with a cowboy hat and a firm handshake. They jumped in the rancher’s F-350, a vehicle so big the city slicker couldn’t figure out how you’d parallel park it, and headed out to his ranch. When they arrived at the rancher’s pasture, the bureaucrat thought he’d ask a tough question to impress the tough cowboy: “Why doesn’t that cow have any horns?”
“Well,” the rancher said, “there are many reasons why a cow doesn’t have horns. Ya see, some don’t have horns because we dehorned them as calves and some, like Angus, are a polled breed that naturally never grow horns. But the reason that cow doesn’t have any horns is because it’s a horse.”
This joke illustrates a broader point: ranchers in cow-calf country work hard every day to produce the best beef in the world, but continue to lose hundreds of dollars per head because the deck is stacked against them. DC lobbyists and bureaucrats, who have never been to a sale barn or stepped foot on a ranch but still think they know better, continue to rig the system and line the pockets of the big packers. They’re ripping off our ranchers, small processors and, ultimately, our consumers. That needs to stop now.
As we enter a new year and a new Congress, it would be easy to get discouraged, see the situation not changing and give up. But these issues are too important to quit on. There is fire in my belly and I’m going to fight like hell until we get this done.
When I meet with ranchers in South Dakota in places like Wall or St. Onge or Ft. Pierre, it’s clear they know what’s best for their operation. They demand greater market transparency, new markets for state-inspected facilities, Product of the U.S.A. labeling and Mandatory Country of Original Labeling (MCOOL). Those are the people I am fighting for in Washington.
Over the last year, I’ve introduced bipartisan, commonsense legislation that touches on each of these issues. We formed coalitions with folks on both sides of the aisle who care about the needs of our ranchers and processors. And while you’d think that’d be enough, it’s not. When we attempted to force votes on these issues, our attempts were denied. The stranglehold on certain members of Congress is still too strong. DC dysfunction at its finest.
But the good news is that momentum is on our side. Every day we are continuing to win senators and members of Congress over to our way of thinking. They are beginning to understand that what’s best for the consumer, in this case, is also what’s best for the producer. It’s going to take all of us working together to get this done. I don’t care who I have to talk to – Republican or Democrat.
This is a priority for me now more than ever. We cannot stand idly by and watch our ranching community continue to suffer. As we enter a new year, it’s time to discard DC dysfunction, grab the bull by the horns and deliver results.