Independent ranchers and animal rights activists don’t agree about much, except that it’s time to stop using federal tax dollars to support the meat lobby.
Imagine if the federal government mandated that a portion of all federal gas taxes go directly to the oil industry’s trade association, the American Petroleum Institute. Imagine further that API used this public money to finance ad campaigns encouraging people to drive more and turn up their thermostats, all while lobbying to discredit oil industry critics—from environmentalists to those calling for better safety regulations or alternative energy sources.
That’s a deal not even Exxon could pull off, yet the nation’s largest meat-packers now enjoy something quite like it. Today, when you buy a Big Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the cost is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the government hands over to a private trade group called the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The NCBA in turn uses this public money to buy ads encouraging you to eat more beef, while also lobbying to derail animal rights and other agricultural reform activists, defeat meat labeling requirements, and defend the ongoing consolidation of the industry.
Like most things that go awry in Washington, this one started out with arguably good intentions. The story begins in the 1980s, a time when the plight of family farmers and ranchers inspired the likes of Willie Nelson and Neil Young to put on benefit concerts and launch the Farm Aid movement. Another, more enduring response to the farm crisis of the 1980s was Congress’s decision to create what’s known today as the beef “check-off” program.
For the rest of the story: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/january_february_2014/features/big_beef048356.php