A democracy to the highest bidder isn’t a democracy

To the Editor:

Four giant meat-packers put local farms at risk, and the meat-processing industry as a whole is allowed to pass off imported meat as American products. That’s my takeaway from the annual Farm Forum.

At the event, U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-8) said in theory we should be able to know whether a beef product was raised and processed locally, and it would be easier to know this if we had appropriate labeling laws in place.

I’ve read that a beef product can be labeled “Product of the U.S.A” or “Made in the U.S.A” even if the beef was raised and slaughtered in another country but repackaged here in the states. Although the public supports country-of-origin labeling laws, the World Trade Organization has called such laws barriers to trade, and Congress, fearing costly trade repercussions, has acquiesced. Consequently, consumers are left uncertain about where their meat comes from, big processors make huge profits packaging and selling cheaper, imported meat, and local ranchers lose money on the cattle they’ve raised.

In his remarks during the forum, Jack Irvin of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation said roughly 80 percent of meat in the United States is processed by just four companies, two of which are not American owned.

These four companies have the power to control the market and influence labeling laws because they spend lots of money on lobbying and elections. They can do this because the U.S. Supreme Court, through a series of decisions across many years, has basically given corporate entities constitutional rights meant for human beings and has ruled that money spent on elections is protected speech.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the meat-processing industry spent $4,206,309 in 2020 on lobbying, with just two companies accounting for half of the total. That same year, political donations from the industry totaled $3,951,869, an amount representing contributions from the organizations’ PACs and individuals donating $200 or more. By contrast, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spent $380,000 on lobbying and $820,554 on political donations.

Call Rep. Davidson and encourage him to support House Joint Resolution 48, the proposed constitutional amendment that makes clear only people have constitutional rights — not corporate entities — and money spent on elections is not protected speech and shall be regulated.

Issues faced by our local farmers are complex, but one thing’s for sure: A democracy that goes to the highest bidder isn’t a democracy.

— Deb Hogshead

Troy