Why the Oregon Refuge Occupiers Had a Legitimate Grievance…..Just Not the One They Went After

By run75441. Originally published at Angry Bear

Protests have always been a part of America and this one at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appears to be no different. Violence and the taking of life when it does not have to occur has also played a part in the protests. It was no different at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

In the past unions, facing company and governmental opposition to their demands have resorted to violence when they found peaceful protests did not work to gain recognition. Frustration on the part of union picketers with the appearance of strikebreakers, the delivery of materials, and the shipment of product eventually led to violent reaction. My own personal experience while attending a seminar in San Francisco found me in the midst of a hotel workers strike at the Sheraton on The Wharf. They were not a happy bunch and spent much time verbally abusing the help or scabs, as they called them, guiding us into the hotel. The hotel business continued and after the strike ended, the workers who stayed during the strike were let go. Either way, Labor paid.

Illegal and at times legal conduct by any protesting group almost always led to forceful retaliatory action by business, police and the military. The clashes sometimes led to injury and death with the employers, police, and government better equipped than the protestors and strikers. Under cover of the law, the actions of the police and government were just another vindication of employer rights and societal laws. Even in this environment, Labor prevailed. It has changed since those times when Labor was growing in influence. Labor and protesting success is on a downward slope losing ground in each confrontation whether legal or not. Legislatures continually nibble away at unions, worker, and protestor rights.

A Little History and Numbers

I did get in a discussion about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The history of the refuge and grazing, the diversion of water, the low grazing prices charged ranchers, and the over grazing of land in the early years is mostly correct. To take over a refuge and federal land, it is hard to understand why someone would risk life and limb to challenge the local authorities, the government, and the military. In any case, it is a sure recipe to lose, go to prison, or die when you challenge the authorities, are armed, and considered dangerous. One man did pay with his life and the rest are under restraint by the authorities. This short commentary is not so much an argument of whether their stance was right or wrong as much as whether it was worth it or the right one to make. By taking over the Refuge, I believe the protesting ranchers left the public with the wrong impression.

The domination of the beef production by the meat packers and retailers plus the failure of Government to react to it has increased the costs faced by smaller ranchers and contributed to the controversy of grazing rights. With the consolidation of meat packers and the rise of giant retailers such as WalMart, prices for bringing cattle to feed lots decreased forcing cattlemen to reduce cost. Two ways to reduce cost are increase the size of your herds which requires more land or increase the numbers of meat packers so no one meat packer can influence the market. Smaller ranches have higher costs in production over larger ranches result from the numbers of cattle brought to market. Fewer cattle to feed lots or markets result in higher costs per head. In my opinion, the argument should be made with the government about the consolidation of meat packer market. Grazing rights and the ownership of land by the Federal Government is not necessarily the right argument to make. Whether the Government can own or control land was decided by SCOTUS (Light vs. U. S. and U.S vs. Grimaud) years previous and after the Sagebrush wars when the Federal Government started to charge fees for access after land was designated as national parks.

“In 1990 and after a decade of mergers, 4 companies ‘slaughtered and packed 69 percent of US-grown cows’ as reported by University of Missouri rural sociologist Mary Hendrickson. The progress gained by independent ranchers from the passage of such bills as the Sherman Anti-Trust, Wilson’s Clayton, and Harding’s Packers and Stockyards Acts has deteriorated. Today, the top “four meatpacking companies control 82 percent of the beef market — an unprecedented share of the pie.”

The Issue for Small Ranchers

The issue of grazing comes up when smaller ranchers try to increase the size and volume of their operations to gain the economies of scale achieved by the already much larger manufacturing ranches and there is nowhere to do so except expand on to public lands. A small ranch of 20 to 49 head may have a cost of ~$1600/head as compared to ranch of 500 or more with a cost of ~$400/head. The larger the ranch and herd is, the more the spread of Labor and infrastructure cost. To grow your herd to lower the cost/head as determined by meat packers and retail giants, a rancher needs land. What was previously free, was leased to ranchers and the costs of leasing came into question as added burden as well as whether it was constitutional.

Ranches-1Pressure to reduce costs came into play. As meat packers scaled up their industry through buyouts and the addition of capital, retailers such as WalMart did the same through larger operations. Larger ranching operations meant lower cost per head and also per pound of meat. Cost pressure increased all the way down the processing line. Ranchers which could expand did so, and the rest either turned to boutique businesses, sold out, or went out of the meat business altogether. The alternatives were dire.

 

Even with the expansion of the ranches, the percentage of retail dollar going to ranchers continued to shrink. It was either scale up and continually lower costs or go out of the beef business. Thousands of ranches did either and still those left struggled to get by. To increase competition amongst ranchers, meat packers offered exclusive contacts to buy meat and added contests (increased prices) which promoted heavier chickens or cattle sold, etc . The problem was, no one monitored what the livestock was fed. The smaller ranches who could not compete in this environment disappeared from the market place.

Producer-share-of-beef-dollar-chartBy policy, federal anti-trust regulators whose funding was cut by Congress, blocked by past administrations, or were pro-business mostly ignored the actions of companies using their market power to drive prices (oligopsonistic?) down. Similar tactics are employed by automotive OEMs who squeezed the supply base on pricing, inventory, payment terms (90 days and then late in payment), etc. If you do not like it, then you do not get the business to sustain yourself. Some Tier Ones such as Delphi, Yazaki, Lear have been able to fight back and then too some of the same (Delphi) have been forced to curtail their businesses through reorganization. The strategy also changed for antitrust regulators as New America Foundation’s Barry C. Lynn; points out; “since the era of Reagan, US antitrust regulators have focused almost exclusively on whether large companies use their market power to harm consumers by unfairly raising retail prices” and leaving small companies to fend for themselves.

 

What the Rancher’s Argument Should Have Been

What this strategy does is change the focus to “low pricing to consumers” (think China manufacturing of product) from competitive and fair business practices of meat packers and retailers in the market place. In other words, if it is low pricing to the customers, it has to be good. Well, past practices of such environments have shown it was not good in the end. Yes the consumer gets a low price; but it is fatal to small businesses and Labor by leaving a concentrated market controlled by a few corporations. Today, the meatpacking industry is controlled by 4 majors having >80% of the business. This type of concentration was largely put to rest in the past by the passage of Sherman Anti-Trust, Wilson’s Clayton, and Harding’s Packers and Stockyards Acts and the enforcement of these laws in the past until reinterpreted narrowly by Reagan’s DOJ. This practice hurt small farms and ranchers decades ago and in the end the consumer as competition is lessened.

This should have been the rancher’s argument. The take over of the Refuge was a distraction from the real issue faced by small ranchers and small businesses. It may have been a reaction of last resort; but, it was fatal to their cause.

What President Obama Tried To Do to Help Small Ranchers

After his election in 2008, President Obama took up the cause of independent farmers and ranchers against the excesses of meat packers. Starting with a series of 5 meetings with various farm groups representing cattle, hog and chicken farmers, the USDA who was charged with rewriting regulations and President Obama found themselves blocked by a Republican controlled House. While the Senate supported appropriations for the overall meat industry, the House went full out blocking food stamp and food safety programs. No one wanted to place the poor at risk. In December 2011, the USDA published 4 watered down regulations of which the only full strength regulation eliminated arbitration. In May 2012, the DOJ followed through with a report on the five 2010 meetings detailing a lack of competition. The DOJ went to state:

“It could not act to address these wrongs because, no matter how outrageous the conduct of the processing companies, their actions did not amount to “harm to competition” as defined by the current antitrust framework” which was skewed to protect consumers. Obstructionist Republicans in the House not only blocked any reform efforts but also any change to the law or USDA regulations and threatened budget cuts to the Department of Agriculture. It would be interesting to discover which Republicans blocked the reform efforts of Obama and the DOJ and came out in support of grazing rights for ranchers.

How the Administration’s Actions Harmed the Ranchers

The efforts of the administration to reform the industry may have caused more harm than good; “documenting the big processing companies’ exploitation of independent farmers” through the five meetings held by the administration” and “then failing to stop that exploitation and retreating in almost complete silence before entirely predictable resistance from the industry, the administration, for all intents, ended up implicitly condoning these injustices.”

The failure to succeed and subsequent silence gave further support to the “processing companies and they were now free to do whatever they wished to in the meat industry” knowing whatever they did would not be countered.

Furthermore, the raising of hopes and the backing of independent ranchers against big farming business interests frustrated the hopes of the independents who hoped for a fair shake in the open market. They were left again with few if any alternatives. Some gave up and others chose a more militant reaction forcing the administration to take action against the very ones they were seeking to help. And the Republicans, laughed at the moral failures of the administration.

The rest of the story . . .

References:

Obama’s Game of Chicken Washinton Monthly, November/December 2012

Are Monopolies Destroying America

The Oregon Militia Is Picking the Wrong Beef With the Feds Mother Jones, January, 2016

Cattle group alleges corruption in meatpacking industry

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78 comments

  1. Mark P.

    I’m sympathetic. But like I’m sympathetic to coal miners.

    Something that really should get mentioned in this discussion is that animal agriculture — the sheer resource expense on the planet of raising, maintaining, and slaughtering all those animals — is the most environmentally harmful thing humanity does, and the top contributor to deforestation, water pollution and desertification.

    [1] 18 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock farming. By contrast, global transportation accounts for 13 percent.

    [2] 26 percent of Earth’s ice-free land surface is used for livestock farming. That’s 70 percent of all agricultural land.

    [3] 27-29 percent of humanity’s freshwater footprint is used to extract animal products from livestock. Cows are a very inefficient source of protein, for instance, requiring 100g of vegetable protein to produce only 15g of edible animal protein.

    1. Johnnygl

      Alan savory would very much beg to differ. As would the people involved in the permaculture movement. Animal husbandry is highly destructive, as currently practised. You are correct to point this out. However, animals have been around in large numbers for millions of years and did no harm. Our society just doesn’t want to learn how to manage them properly.

      If our institutions wouldd change their thinking, animal husbandry could really improve the environment, especially in drylands.

      1. Masonboro

        “animals have been around in large numbers for millions of years and did no harm”

        How does anyone know?

        Modern humans left Africa about 55K years ago and arrived in North America maybe 12K years ago. High population levels are only in the last few centuries so the problem is not a large numbers of animals but the combined number of human and non-human animals and on a global basis not just the America’s. Throw in fossil fuel burning and we have a crisis for many species – most definitely including our own.

    2. different clue

      That is only inherently true for feedlotted or otherwise factory-concentrated livestock fed industrially grown feed. Livestock, most especially ruminants on multispecies range and pasture, can be managed in such a way as to increase net carbon-suckdown and bio-sequestration into the soil over carbon emissions from the same livestock management on multispecies pasture and rangeland.

      By the way, I wonder what percent of American beef cattle ever even graze on the public lands at all . . . . as against begin their lives on private farms/ranches to begin with and never even see a blade of public grass.

    3. Rancher

      I’ve pretty much given up on posting on articles like this because comment sections are dominated by vegans and other extremists.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    The article seems too kind to the Administration. If the Republicans are blocking reforms to help small farmers, then why on earth aren’t the Dems bombarding rural counties with advertisements pointing this out? This is exactly the sort of thing which a sensible political party would be using to hammer its opposition. Nothing hurts a political party more than having it pointed out it is betraying its most loyal core supporters.

    The answer of course is that both parties ultimately don’t want to pick on big business.

    Incidentally, a similar process can be seen in Europe where agricultural policies originally aimed at helping rural small farmers have gradually been hijacked at both national and EU level to benefit exclusively the largest farms. One aspect of the process is that national farming organisations (most notoriously, the NFU in the UK) have effectively been taken over by corporate interests, so the ‘representatives’ of small farmers at national/international level are actually the corporations themselves. This is one core reason why small farmers are so inadequately represented at trade talks. Their own representative bodies have been hijacked.

    1. Steve H.

      – The problem was, no one monitored what the livestock was fed.

      – No one wanted to place the poor at risk.

      These two sentences indicate some implicit assumptions that are being glossed over. While the facts in the article seem solid, the interpretation does have some knots in it.

      1. tegnost

        I too noticed this, as well as no reference to country of origin labels and trade agreements which clearly favor the large meat packers- did the administration care about the small biz interests when crafting their master plans? Hand wringing about fairness is so much easier when unfairness is codified in the law as well as in social norms. “Honey, the pipers here, and he wants his money…”

      2. NeqNeq

        Re: putting poor at risk

        Agree that implicit assumptions exist. Two biggies being 1) any measure which alleviates squeeze on small ranchers (via price) would result in higher meat prices in stores. Which 2) results in increase in cost to food safety nets (via increased participation and/or increased costs).

        So breaking up the monopsony would have elicited cutting safety net funding….right when funding would need to increase. The other option would be for generalized wage growth in order to keep pace, which would be fought tooth and nail. All in all, there was a real risk of harm befalling the poorest in the country.

        Are these unreasonable assumptions to make?

    2. run75441

      No one said Dems were adversarial. These are not the children of the sixties who were around for the days of rage.

  3. For The Win

    Can’t help but remember the Dann Sisters, who simply wanted the right to use their ancestral lands to raise enough meat for self-subsistence, not to sell go out and buy a 42″ tv, 4 wheel drive, etc. I suspect most of those “little ranchers” don’t know how much of what they already got was paid for in first nation blood.

    That manifest destiny was just 500+ years of “free” handouts which they stupidly didn’t realize the oligarchy actually held the debt notes on, can’t feel too much empathy for them.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      Hello. I lived in north central Nevada, in Battle Mountain, during the 90s, when the Dann sisters became a minor cause celebre for the kind of coastal leftists whose hearts also throbbed for Mumia and Peltier.

      The Dann sisters may have had some valid grievances, but they were not a couple of doe-eyed, primitive sweethearts. They were tough, conniving cutthroats who lied like rugs when it was to their benefit to do so. Only a fool from far away would sentimentalize them like you have.

  4. Steve

    “This type of concentration was largely put to rest in the past by the passage of Sherman Anti-Trust, Wilson’s Clayton, and Harding’s Packers and Stockyards Acts and the enforcement of these laws in the past until reinterpreted narrowly by Reagans DOJ.”

    “Starting with a series of 5 meetings with various farm groups representing cattle, hog and chicken farmers, the USDA who was charged with rewriting regulations and President Obama found themselves blocked by a Republican controlled House”
    ==========================================================

    If Reagan’s DOJ interpreted anti-trust narrowly… Why counldn’t Obama’s DOJ broaden their interpretation? Why did they need congress?

    1. run75441

      Steve:

      It is a fair question. I do not think Holder had the strength. He was more of a go along person.

    1. For The Win

      The prices for the lentilunderground.c*m lentils, before shipping, are about what it costs to get the same weight in beef steak at the local store, that’s got to be food for hipsters.

      I will note that thanks to concentration in retail stores, it is hard to find beans/legumes/lentils at the price they should be selling at, but it’s not that hard.

      1. Carla

        I agree the Timeless Seeds lentils are very expensive. To be fair, though, a pound of lentils will go a lot farther than a pound of beef.

        Actually, I wanted to highlight the story told in the book “Lentil Underground” about these Montana farmers successfully pushing back against industrial agriculture, which actually has made food in this country artificially cheap.

        And the Timeless Seeds web site features a whole bunch of great lentil recipes — for free.

  5. Paul Tioxon

    Yeah, the small ranchers should go out of business, sounds good to me. When Philadelphia and Detroit and Camden went from prosperous cities with factories and jobs and an improving future right after WWII, that did not last for long and like many other Rust Belt industrial communities, populations were lost to runaway factories. The support needed to help these people was not evident from anywhere in Sagebrush lala land. When for example, Detroit and Philadelphia were both large cities of 2,000,000 people the 3rd and 4th largest in the US, with over 1/2 million jobs in the city, and then collapsed, Philadelphia losing a 1/2 million people and Detroit which is still in free fall of population loss, down to less than 680,000 as of today, the best advice was to move out of a bad situation to a better one, usually meaning the Southeast or Southwest or West Coast.

    Anywhere but up North where it snows. I remember seeing the proudly displayed let the Yankees freeze bumper stickers on cars in Texas, compliments of our friendly gun nut freedom lovers of the Oil patch. How do you like your oil industry now assholes. How do you like your business friendly limited government getting out the way now assholes. Kiss your guns real hard, I know they make you feel constitutionally free and strong. How do you like your way of life going down the drain by being squeezed by economic forces beyond your control? Where was your all American concern when we needed it? Why should I want to see you get free land to build up a life, mine gold and pass it on to your kids? What about my kids, do I get title to land, and timber and mines and mineral rights and water rights and drilling rights? What’s in it for me?

    I’ll tell you what, I want single payer health care, Medicare for All. I want solar and wind power, for electric vehicles, within 10 years supplying almost all electricity. I want every coal burning power plant shut down. I want no more dams being built to make electricity. I want oil drilling and gas fracking stopped. Work with me on that, I’ll support all the land reform, anti-trust protection and price parity you need or want. Make me give a shit whether you live or die, because right now, people like you are cutting the throat of people like me with your politics. It’s a great big country, and not everyone lives on a ranch, has to have a gun for any reason, rent and car insurance and potholes take enough of my money, I don’t have a lot to spare. And too many guns where I live make for more robberies and murders, not more constitutional freedoms. But when you are ready to talk about joining me in getting what I want from the government, let me know, I’m all ears and need all the friends I can get.

    1. Carolinian

      So presumably you would agree with Mencken who wrote this when farms and farming were a much bigger part of the national life than they are now:

      No more grasping, selfish and dishonest mammal, indeed, is known to students of the Anthropoidea. When the going is good for him he robs the rest of us up to the extreme limit of our endurance; when the going is bad he comes bawling for help out of the public till. Has anyone ever heard of a farmer making any sacrifice of his own interests, however slight, to the common good? Has any one ever heard of a farmer practicing or advocating any political idea that was not absolutely self-seeking–that was not, in fact, deliberately designed to loot the rest of us to his gain?

      A bit over the top but it might suit some of these welfare ranchers who graze at the public trough. Presumably when we turn our national lands over to them they will reimburse the rest of us for the roads, water projects, fire suppression, pasture maintenance that make their lifestyle possible. As has been pointed out, the real reason the states don’t want to take over the BLM lands is that it would cost them a fortune to take over this task–a money losing proposition for everyone except those who raise cattle where they probably shouldn’t be raised.

      Undoubtedly monopolies in all areas of our economy are a bad thing and some day we may have politicians who enforce those laws and bring back the ones that have been discarded. But if the above post is supposed to make one sorry for the Bundy terrorists then one can only say “oh please.” Our agriculture policy is a mess but the supposedly put upon farmers and ranchers like it just fine when collecting their government subsidies.

      1. diptherio

        You know, there ARE actually small farm and ranch producers. I actually know a few. They are good people. Mostly they vote Dem and care about the environment (depending upon it directly for livlihood). You would probably like them if you met them. They would probably wonder why you seem to hate them so much.

        There are also people who own lots of farm/ranchland but don’t work it themselves. Real farmers and ranchers don’t have much use for those people, in my experience. Lumping everyone together and then slandering them is beneath us, or at least it should be.

        1. Carolinian

          I don’t hate them….just quoting Mencken who was trying to be provocative.

          That said farmers–not necessarily your friends–do distort national policy with their small state political power and zeal for boondoggles like ethanol fuel etc. I also assume your friends don’t carry around assault rifles, threaten government workers who are just doing their job.

          My mother’s father was a small farmer. I know all about the struggles of small farmers.

          1. weinerdog43

            Well said Carolinian. What I think Paul was trying to say was that lots of urban & suburban people are sick and tired of being labeled by these farmers and ranchers as not being ‘real Americans’. Everybody has problems. The author appears to be suggesting that we need to be more sympathetic to the plight of the poor, poor welfare rancher types because they have grievances too.

            I eat local. I shop farmers markets. I try my best to avoid corporate food. So I really try to help my local ag folks. So I’m really not interested in hearing a sob story about ranchers having trouble while they’re grazing their beef on public property.

            So let’s be clear here: Local farmers & ranchers trying to do the right thing and live lightly on the land should be commended. But any sort of equivalence between them and the terrorist Bundy clan needs a bright line of demarcation.

            1. run75441

              There is a line of demarcation in that post between the Refuge protesters and farmers/ranchers who are being squeezed. There is a world of difference between working 8 to 5 and never stopping work on a farm or a ranch.

              Roughly 50% of our food is imported today. I kind of like to keep our food growth local and support our local farmers.

              This was not a story about ranchers grazing on public lands. The ranchers I write about are just like factory workers being squeezed by big business.

      2. different clue

        Which farmers and ranchers are collecting what government subsidies? I had thought the government subsidies went to large and huge upper-class farmers and ranchers who had the power to work the government subsidy rackets. Am I wrong?

        Of course welfare ranching on yours and my public lands is a subsidy in itself. Actually a near free gift. Is it possible to manage the eco-alien species known as cattle on the dry and super-dry Western lands in such a way as to increase the soil carbon and water retention of those lands and hence increase their productivity for livestock and native species alike? If not, then welfare ranching should be altogether banned from the public lands.

        In the meantime, it sounds to me like this Menken was one of those urban/suburban supremacists who believe the farmer should produce free food for Mencken to eat at his pleasure without having to pay anything at all. Half the cure for the problem of cattle growers getting a shit price would indeed be the restoration of law just as Yves Smith describes. The other half would have to be
        the abolition of Free Trade and the restoration of militant belligerent Protectionism for American livestock growing. Because if law is revived and enforced for the benefit of American livestock growers under a Free Trade environment, the 4 big packers will simply outsource their operations altogether to the slave labor countries and import shit meat to sell for a shit price.

        Until these changes are brutally forced upon the Shitmeat Monopolists, the only thing that concerned individuals can do is pay a boutique shinola price for boutique shinola meat raised with boutique shinola methods. That will at least keep a few boutique shinola eco-friendly producers alive on the land to provide a benchmark of how livestock can be raised in an eco-friendly way.

        1. Carolinian

          I recommend the book Cadillac Desert which explains in detail why the Federal government’s water policies in the West–largely driven by agricultural interests–don’t make much sense. For example taxpayer billions were spent on the Central Arizona Project which takes Colorado River water from below Lake Havasu across the state in a concrete trench. This was sold as a way of helping a smattering of desert farmers–including water intensive cotton farmers–to the East. Needless to say agriculture is very climate and weather dependent and one way of reducing the risk is to farm in a mild sunny climate as long as you can get the taxpayers to provide the water.

          The reality is that the CAP turned Phoenix into a giant sprawl while almost all of the farms are gone–many turned into sprawl. Doubtless diptherio’s Montana will go the same way once the movie stars have completely taken over. It should also be said that small farmers often provide votes and political cover for policies that primarily enrich big Ag which supplies most of our food.

        2. Synapsid

          different clue,

          “In the mean time, it sounds to me like this Mencken was one of those urban/suburban supremacists who believe the farmer should produce free food for Mencken to eat at his pleasure without having to pay anything at all.”

          Words fail me. No, wait–they don’t:

          Dunning-Kruger alert.

          1. different clue

            Food for pay, not for free. The farmer/rancher is not your slave.
            If ;you want to pay a sh*t quality price, then you deserve sh*t quality food.

      3. Paul Tioxon

        I would agree that Mencken was as keen an observer of the human condition in America as anyone, and the human condition is timeless. I am reading Hamilton’s bio by Chernow right now and political factions forming into the political parties we recognized today were just starting. Hamilton and Jefferson were at each other’s throat, vying for Washington’s ear and building up their respective influence in policy from the newly minted offices they occupied at the very beginning of our fledgling national government. The same old rural/city divide, the agricultural vs financial interests and the nasty clash of wills and public attacks against one another is played out over and over again in America, up to now and in the Bundy protests.

        My perspective is simple, where are all the Americans who stand with flags and protest and confront the government as evil, over reaching, deaf to the will of the people when someone who does not look and act and believe exactly like them is in the same kind of trouble from the government?
        The ACLU will defend the right of NAZIs to march, when does the right wing stand as bravely for eternal verities when it is not in the precise service of their pet causes?

        In Philadelphia, due to the population exodus, 10s of 1000s of empty homes, dating back to the 1970s were abandoned due to foreclosures or elderly just dying with no one to take over. Homelessness was and is a feature of our property owning citizenry when the factory runs away to Naftacized Mexico or where ever or until you get downsized to finance the blockbuster M&A deal.

        Just one small sample here of the activism and protests, and in a very famous Federal Park, Independence Mall National Park, federal land in the city, Cheri Honkala led a tent city protest for housing. From Wikipeidia:”……

        In the spring of 1994, the Quaker Lace factory (a manufacturer of lace tablecloths) in the Kensington area of Philadelphia burned down, leaving an empty lot. The following summer, Honkala and KWRU constructed a large tent city on the site.[15] Because Philadelphia authorities could not produce documentation establishing who owned the property, it was unable to evict the residents. (Eventually, they were driven out by flooding.) This very public action resulted in a substantial increase in donations to KWRU.[15]

        In September 1995, while the tent city was still standing, Honkala staged a protest by camping out for a day-and-a-half, with others from the tent city, on Independence Mall within sight of the Liberty Bell, to make the plight of Philadelphia’s homeless visible to residents and tourists next to one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Although she argued that she and the others were merely exercising their right to free speech and had not hurt the park, she was cited and later tried for “residing in a park area.” She was sentenced to six months’ probation and fined $250.”
        ———————————————————————————-

        You may recognize Cheri’s name, in 2012, she ran with Jill Stein for the VP on the Green Party ticket. She is an example of people breaking the law, taking out land for tents or camping on Federal land as a protest. Of course, she wasn’t demanding to open a concession stand to sell to the tourist trade and personally profit. However, in other direct actions, she assisted homeless families, usually single welfare mothers and their children, to get off the street and place them in empty HUD owned row homes in the city. This is a tactic used around the nation today. The analogy I am trying to draw is a simple one, federally owned homes by HUD lay empty, putting the homeless in them solves a lot of problems. Sometimes, civil disobedience is used to carry out these tactics. It has some comparison to Bundy in Nevada and the Oregon ranchers his sons crossed state lines to support. Of course, the macho armed insurrection BS got one of the knuckleheads killed. My response is solely to the post which is about that incident, and perhaps a notice to them and the public at large that is actually paying some attention to this mess that an armed group scaring the wits out of everyday people and the federal workers who run a wildlife preserve could be handled by other legal and more diplomatic means.

        You shall know them by the fruits of their labors. These idiots brought out law enforcement to a bird watcher sanctuary, men who didn’t know if they would get killed by irrationally angry snipers fighting for vague claims on land owned by the federal government. As opposed to Cheri pitching tents in front of the Liberty Bell for 2 days, unarmed, without threats of violent retaliation if the G-Men showed their jack boots. It is hard to have sympathy for armed groups in para-military formation to look like victims of bureaucracy, as opposed to unwarranted, repeated police shootings or other state violence. If bureaucratic red tape is their problem, they should be glad. Seems like something they can endure and work through. And, if they worked to build some coalition that did not include building battalion strength militias, but to engage the government to get what they want, instead of trying to shoot their way to power, I would not be surprised if they had many allies, unarmed conservationists, radical environmentalists from Green Peace and others who could share with them tactics that don’t include an almost guaranteed death in a shoot out with law enforcement. I don’t want America to wake up one morning, and it looks like
        Syria.

        Until the politics exhaust all other means and produce no results at all, and conditions deteriorate to unendurable pain, I don’t have any sympathy for the armed confrontations. We haven’t arrived in that situation yet in the most wealthy nation on earth. To pretend that intangible ideals like freedom and the right to bear arms has descended into some sort of intolerable condition because the government writes laws regulating your behavior when you own a ranch stocked with cattle, your belly is full, and you have enough extra money to buy guns and ammo and travel to other states and camp out in protest, is not a just and good cause. Cheri got results without armed standoffs. I suggest that people like that adopt other political strategies than do not reach for the gun first and foremost. That puts me agreement with the main thrust of the post, not sympathy for knuckleheads, but another way to get what you want. Of course, they would have to stop being knuckleheads and listen to some advice from people they may not trust, but then, there comes a time to put away the things of a child.

    2. diptherio

      Um…it’s actually farmers and ranchers who have been among the most vocal and active in fighting fracking and other oil/gas development in Montana. So your screed just sounds ignorant from where I’m sitting.

      And you do eat food, right? You know someone has to produce it, right? Guess who does that. Go on – guess.

      If you don’t approve of what Big Ag is doing, you better damn well support Small Ag. Or you could just stop consuming food, so as to maintain your “purity.”

      1. jefemt

        Ponderable for your week: “If it wasn’t farmed, it was mined”

        I’m pretty unsympathetic to the guys in NV and UT that have the privilege of holding below-cost leases for grazing, and refuse to pay for them.
        These leases have become non-competitive, and are generally conveyed along with the rest of the ranch, like an appurtenance. It’s crazy! Un-“American”
        If the marketplace were present, other local ranchers would have a crack at the leases, perhaps drive up the price and value and revenue, and even environmental groups, conservation groups, or perhaps even solar-and-wind developers might compete for the opportunity.
        My bigger concern is how any protest of any sort quickly gets labelled as terrorism, and then has all of the Patriot-Act law brought to bear. Pick your protest topic… if the powers that be don’t like it, legitimate or not, it can be quashed with the full weight of the machine.
        So, while I strenuously object to the shang-hai of my federal lands by a few off-based (in my opinion) wing-nuts with a transparent and illogical agenda, I do worry that when I gather my pot and spoon to go out and protest what I construe as a legitimate issue-du-jour, the po-leece might be every bit as disenchanted as they were with Wacos, Ruby Ridgers, The Bundys, Occupy, the Unions in WI… ad infinitum
        And the world is in a dither because Bernie took exception to being interrupted when he had the talking stick. Civility in a shrinking world….
        Sheepers

      2. FluffytheObeseCat

        “And you do eat food, right? You know someone has to produce it, right?”

        This self-aggrandizing tommyrot has nothing to do with the anger driving a couple of these commenters. They — rightly — see traditional users of public land as arrogant self-dealers who misuse Hollywood tropes about themselves and their ancestors in order to grab public goods at low prices, to the detriment of the rest of us. They may work hard and produce something of value, but they do so in comparatively comfortable circumstances…. while the rest of us are being told to “suck it up” and face dwindling prospects, evictions and grinding poverty. Those who are sentimental about ranching, they regularly sneer at the rest of us for having or being ‘less’ than they are. I saw this kind of hubris throughout the time I lived in Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Elko, throughout the 90s, mainly directed at mining business newcomers, since we were the only ‘others’ around in these remote towns.

        Your average American has somewhat woken up to the fact that he’s held in contempt by these sons of guns and he isn’t like his daddy — raised on too much Roy Rogers and Gunsmoke reruns. He is tired of being put down while certain well connected others are unduly elevated, and he is right to be angered by it.

        1. Synapsid

          FluffytheObeseCat,

          Winnecucca, City of Paved Streets.

          I loved those old billboards. Nevada has been one of my places to visit whenever I could since I was a kid.

          I remember being taken outside at four in the morning by my parents, and facing north (this was in Henderson down south, when it was only on the south side of the highway and eleven miles of desert from Vegas), and suddenly the entire sky lit up, all 360 degrees, and then went out. They’d set off another one up at Yucca Flats. The fallout drifted into Utah so no one cared.

          What were you doing in north-central Nevada, land of beauty and clean emptiness? (And the occasional ranch.)

    3. tim s

      I’m not sure how this article relates to Texas. The public land and its use was a pretty key focus here, and Texas has relatively little public land. I hope you can channel that rage toward those bodies who actually are more responsible, else it will just be wasted.

  6. TarheelDem

    The meatpacker consolidation issue is such a long-term one that the political science case study I had in Intro Political Science in college fifty years ago was about an act introduced to deal with the dominance of large meatpackers and protect small meatpackers. The case was about how that purpose changed over the course of the legislation to do the opposite.

    But these days I have little sympathy for the folks who are radically of the opinion “free market for thee but not for me.” Preferentially lease rates for public lands are a form of welfare. Overgrazing is just another form of stripmining resources, which the logic of the ranching, mining, and timber industries encourages–just another form of theft from Mom Nature’s saving account.

    The truth of the matter is that there should be no economic activity on the lands that they have settled and leased for generations. It is not sustainable, and not being sustainable, when one plot is exhausted, the logic of the business will claim another until it is exhausted. And then another. And claim it as an individual sovereign right. All the while insisting the the world does not owe you a living.

    These guys need real jobs not fantasy Marlboro Man jobs.

    1. jefemt

      Yes. I am amazed how we seem to reject the simple notion that we can revisit past behaviors and change direction. Federal lands are a case in point. My dad, quoting his mom (western Massashooters) used to pick up trash while were on hikes on forest, blm, or national parks lands, saying, “These are OUR Lands”. What a terrific notion- right up there with public libraries. The commons CAN and DO work:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elinor_Ostrom
      I’m stuck on what lifestyle a person lives – human as a part of, not aside from- nature, in the 21st century. Now, times that by 8 billion.
      Maybe we’ll get it over with sooner than later, extirpate ourselves, give nature her reprieve and rest, and get that asterisk seemingly due to us on our limb of the tree of life.
      Epitaph— Homo Sapiens — too much head, not enough heart.

      Mister Happy

      1. jrs

        I really think the Epitaph will be Homo Sapiens – too hierarchical a species. Because that is the root of the problem that even the best of us allow ourselves to be lead by the worst of us who are running and ruining the world.

  7. steelhead23

    Thank you for publishing this. I have been watching the usurpation of wealth from the land and producers into the middleman’s pockets for years. Grazing on federal lands is cheap, but the lands are often abused. As regards middlemen, let me tell you the story of 2001. Dry year. But Idaho’s potato farmers produced a bumper crop. JR Simplot had offered $4.50 per hundredweight pre-season, but farmers needed about $6 to make a profit so many refused to sell ahead (farmers often sell their produce before they produce it to ensure price). When the bumper crop came in, spot prices dropped to $0.50 per hundredweight – not even enough to pay the truckers to take them to market – and farmers plowed many fine spuds back into the earth. We have a food problem in this country – too much of the market is controlled by too few. It is high time for Congress and the Administration to work together to solve this problem. And doggone it, farmers and ranchers should create more coops so that they, not the middlemen control price.

  8. Watt4Bob

    The situation is a little reminiscent of that old joke about the drunk who lost his keys in the dark.

    When asked why, if he lost the keys in the dark, he was searching under the street-light, he answered;

    “Because that’s where the light is.”

    Protesters of the low-information, right-wing persuasion are indeed right to be angry, but they are far behind the curve as concerns understanding who the enemy is, and the belief that firearms could in anyway be part of the solution is a pathetic misunderstanding of history.

    Ask these guys why they are occupying a bird sanctuary in the wilderness rather than the corporate offices of one of the big meat-packers, and they’d probably answer;

    “Are you kidding, they’d arrest us if carried our guns there.”

    They’ve been fed a steady diet of ‘government is the enemy‘, and ‘they are coming for our guns‘ propaganda for so long that so far, they believe government is the enemy, and guns must be the answer.

    If these guys don’t start putting a little more effort, hell, any effort, into understanding how their anger is being used against both them and the rest of us, I’m afraid we’re going to start to seeing brown-shirts come back into style, along with night-rallies and bonfires.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I’m really sick of the “low information” trope; too often, it’s a way for “progressives” to call other people stupid. Well, if they’re so damn smart, then how come they lost most of the governorships, the House, and the Senate?

      1. steelhead23

        You picked on Bob’s use of the perjorative “low information” ignoring the larger issue – the “the government is the problem” meme. I believe this is an anti-democratic meme sponsored by our oligarchs that is really damaging us. That is the trope we should be railing against.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Agree that we need to fight the “government is the problem” concept. Government is the battleground. It’s a tool, a weapon. It can be used for good or evil. It can redistribute money and resources upwards or downwards. The real fight is over who controls it.

          1. polecat

            perhaps “government ‘of the corrupt’ is the problem” would be a more accurate meme to utilize by all concerned.

      2. jrs

        I think this i equating the Dem party with progressives, but ok whatever, who the heck even knows what ‘progressive’ means, they aren’t leftists at any rate. But don’t Dems mostly lose the House because it’s entirely gerrymandered, the Senate never was a democratic institution and should be abolished, and well the governorship they might genuinely be losing fair and square on that one. Maybe because they are just another corporate party, the less disintegrating before our very eyes one’s than R’s are at the moment, but nonetheless.

        1. Carla

          ALEC — of which the so-called moderate Kasich was a key architect — is largely responsible for a minority party kidnapping just about every level of government. And the Dems are too busy trying to be convincing Republicans Lite to hijack the effort. Disgusting.

      3. Watt4Bob

        I agree with you that the phrase has become useless, and I’ll have to start thinking of a different way to describe the problem.

        That said, there’s a difference between “calling people stupid” and criticizing stupid behavior.

        Also, I’d point out that the “progressives” you’re talking about, are for the most part neoliberal elites who don’t think much of “our’ intelligence either, and ought to really be thought of as the progressive miss-leadership class.

        They think both the poor working-class conservatives, and ‘real’ progressives as being “stupid”, and treat both groups as deserving of poor treatment on that account.

        If you have paid any attention to my comments over time, you’ll find many calls for “us” to find places where both “we” and angry conservatives can find common ground upon which to build effective political coalitions.

        We must do this before poor progressives also start believing it necessary to arm themselves.

      4. Propertius

        Well, if they’re so damn smart, then how come they lost most of the governorships, the House, and the Senate?

        And how did they fall for Obama’s glib, patronizing rhetoric? TWICE!

      5. FluffytheObeseCat

        Well, you know, it’s possible for both sides of a fight to be dominated by the stupid among us.

      1. Watt4Bob

        Good, Run.

        Empty nest at the moment, son graduates from Mad-Town this spring, daughter just off to school.

        Still plugging away and living the dream, Ha!

        Great to see your stuff getting a wider read, keep it up.

  9. RUKidding

    I agree that the Bundy clan & pals may have had a real beef (yeah, bad pun) with the Fed Govt, and I also agree with citizens’ rights to protest about whatever they happen to believe in and feel needs to be done.

    I am a little aware of the issues with the meat packing industry. Actually there’s a whole lot of issues with that industry, but of course, most of the worst of the abuses have come about due to less regulation, not more (which is needed).

    The issue with the Bundy’s are, for me, twofold: 1) they’re basically asking for welfare for themselves but screw everyone else, while also supporting the very specious notion that we need “less govt” when what’s really needed is more and proper regulation, 2) in terms of the Malheur stand off, it’s not just that they arrived fully armed without any real provocation, but they were outside agitators demanding use of land that was never going to be theirs anyway.

    Unfortunately, types like the Bundy’s and their fellow travelers have been woefully propagandized by all the usual suspects to vehemently believe in what’s worse for their own interests. I’m getting thoroughly sick of their ignorance and refusal to really educate themselves as to what’s really going on.

    They despoil the environment, refuse to pay low fees for use, seem to believe that they are entitled to free stuff, while dissing others who might need a hand out. I’m paying for a lot of their crap. I get it that I benefit from small ranchers and small Ag, but really, they need to get over their wild west glibertarianish fantasies. Them days – which were never that great – is over.

    Get a job. How ’bout many limiting the size of your families so that you can support them better on what you make?

    1. Home for Wayward Trout

      My perspective on the Malheur stand-off is very personal. I grew up in Eastern Oregon in a 6th generation Mormon family. I also lived in Central Oregon during the 1980’s Timber Wars.

      What struck me most about the stand-off was how gracious the people in Burns were throughout the occupation. None of the fire bomb throwing that I hear from my relatives when I go back and visit rural Utah.

      It appears that some of the communities in rural Oregon have come to grips with their economic reality. It was mentioned in the media but never stressed that 50% of the jobs in Burns are with the City, County, State or Federal Gov’t. That doesn’t leave many families out.

      The key difference between rural Oregon and rural Utah is the birth rate. And I think that accounts for 100% of the desperation of the Bundys.

      1. Ignorant rancher

        I agree – I’m also from that area.

        I don’t know what has been worse…listening to the Bundy bunch somehow “speak” for the locals or listening to vegans and/or libs/outsiders tell locals what should be done. Somehow each side (this article and most comments included) knows what’s best without even knowing, or caring to know, why the situation even exists. (They most likely can’t find it quickly on a map) Bundy just exploited the lack of voice given to the locals. It’s now easy for outsiders to minimize local voice by using incorrect information. What’s worse?

        The locals are mad and they have a right to be. Now if people would start listening, and quit assuming, maybe a long term solution can be found. If not, the problem will continue to fester. Perhaps we’ll see a future bhagwan wearing a cowboy hat.

        Meatpacker consolidation is a factor though. It’s an aging industry. Another cost due, in part, the likes of Walmart and Costco.

        The grazing subsidy argument is ridiculous and immediately paints an ignorant picture of the person that uses it.

        Please keep in mind that grazing lease prices are set due to what the market will bear, repair work and maintenance needed on the leased property, location, water availability, terrain, etc. Put another way…would I rent a 500 sf apartment in Tulsa, OK at the same rate I would pay in Manhatten? Now what if the apartment required ongoing maintenance? Many studies have found that these grazing rights are equitably set. If not, BLM always has the option to set new prices and see if there are any takers.

        A prime example of BLM mismanagement occurred this past summer as wildfires ravaged the west. Invasive grasses, such as cheat grass, provided too much fuel. Interesting that BLM doesn’t seem to understand their inaction in this area in affecting the sage grouse populations.

        The joke is that cows have to graze at 60 miles per hour in these areas. I don’t see the “overgrazing” argument as accurate. There just isn’t enough feed there to begin with. Animal units are based off available food, water, competing grazers, etc. This isn’t just a wild guess. Cattle grazing is limited based on targeted deer, antelope, etc populations. Ag science has come a long way in the past 50 years. Believe it or not, ranchers are more in touch with the environment than the dude sitting in a coffee shop in Portland.

        I witnessed the water diversion in the 80’s. As BLM flooded out neighboring ranches. If you don’t think it happened, you should ask yourself why there are so many 4″ layers of asphalt that were added to the highway at the Malheur Refuge. Even then markers had to be put up so that you could tell where you should drive in the water. This was Plan B…after the talk of eminent domain didn’t garner the necessary support.

        I guess we wouldn’t need ranching if there wasn’t a demand for meat, leather, etc.

        The problems that need to be discussed as I see it:

        -Lack of industry in the area. That makes a small business owner’s (rancher) very dependent upon available land. When a competing party, whether it be the government or the ever increasing conglomerates (thanks to Bush), gobbles up land and resources your options dwindle.
        -Ever increasing dependence upon the government that isn’t wanted by the locals. But with time is needed. It’s always interesting that, by far, the nicest vehicles in these parts are government owned vehicles. When you see the luxury that exists (compared to your own plight) it doesn’t take too many decades to become apathetic.
        -A large portion of the subsidies are claimed by Portland, Boise, etc doctors and dentists that buy hunting property (thereby taking available land out of production and driving up land costs). These same absentee landlords then apply for subsidies. It works perfect for them since they didn’t have the time, or knowledge, to work the land anyway. However, the subsidy blame is worn by the local. I’m not saying that locals don’t apply for and receive subsidies in certain situations. I would just like to see the ratio of absentee landlords to locals and who is receiving them. Locals get bashed on this though. It would be one thing if local people were affluent to begin with but poverty is high in Harney and surrounding counties.
        -Now Keen Footwear is circulating a petition to get Obama to make the Leslie Gulch/Succor Creek area a national monument. Obama refuses to discuss plans and locals are nervous. If history is a predictor, and the outgoing president satisfies his voting base located 400 miles away, locals will get squeezed even more. Locals don’t want invasive mining, road improvement, etc in this area. They do want to keep it how it has always been though – preserved by the locals that know the area best. Instead, existing roads will be closed, fees charged, and recreational access blocked with time. Park fees will be charged (that the locals can’t afford) and people from the city will take an adventure to see the “uneducated” locals. They’ll give the locals their wisdom on farming and ranching (the wonders of a You Tube education). But the local will take their money, while desperately biting their tongue, because they desperately need it.
        -Elections and policies will continue to be determined in the urban areas.
        -Meanwhile the local has to hear about the horrible effects of gentrification in the inner city. Even though the same thing is happening to them but nobody gives two shits. Hell…I moved away for college and never moved backed because of lack of opportunities. Brain drain in these parts is very similar to gentrification in the inner city.

        But at least everyone knows how to pronounce Malheur now…so I guess people must be listening. Keep the silly comments (similar to Bundy’s) coming and continue the lack of engagement. The next posse that rides into town will be even more interesting.

    2. FrenchToastPlease

      I have read a little of the court cases that the Bundys have been through. The first judge ruled in their favor, by the way. But then the government took it to another judge. As I understand it, Bundy had a contract for grazing with the state before the land was made federal and the BLM came in. They had certain duties that had to be fulfilled as their part of the contract and the state had their own duties. But when the BLM came in, apparently they ignored the grazing for, I think it was a couple decades and did not do any of the duties that was in the contract with the state. There is such a thing in real estate law, and Yves may know more about that than I do, that is called prescriptive rights. If you use land or occupy land for a number of years out in the open and no one challenges that right, then you have a right to continue. In any case, their contract should have been renegotiated when the BLM came in. They did try to pay their fees to the state, but that was not allowed. What about the duties that were part of the contract that the government was supposed to perform?

      By the way, I don’t know of any violence that was initiated by the occupiers, only by the federal government. What amazed me was that the whole topic of federal land control was covered with the drama about the occupiers and all the name-calling. In that regard, the occupation was probably not the best way to go about things, but they had tried to go through the courts previously and there is a lot more to this than most people are aware.

      Grazing rights now are way different than what they were with the Bundy case. For example, Finnicum’s situation was vastly different and there is another confrontation going on in Texas at the Red River if you want to Google that. There are no media-catching protests there, so it’s not on the news. But here is an example of how the BLM gives away the resources to corporations that should be kept in trust for all of us: http://storyofstuff.org/nestle/ In this case it’s giving away pure water from a national forest to Nestles, a foreign corporation, to sell for a profit back to us or even to China during an extreme drought.

  10. susan the other

    The point about consumerism is amazing. We’ve been perverse socialists since Reagan and Maggie. Monopolists and their markets. Socialism for the rich is always a free market, isn’t it. Give consumers subsidized prices and watch demand skyrocket as the economy becomes unhinged. And the environment. We will never get control of this mess unless we begin local farming; local everything.

  11. Cat's paw

    I’m in the midst of conducting research with ranching families across the Great Plains. It’s more than a little dismaying to see some of the comments here about ranchers and farmers.

    Just in case anyone was wondering, there was hardly a rancher among that bunch of goofballs at the refuge in Oregon. Mostly 2nd Amendment absolutists and conspiracy buffs that struggle with correctly interpreting reality.

    You know what I like about ranchers? Because they work with real forces on a daily basis–animals, weather, machines, markets, regulations to name just a few–they tend to be (political) realists who have a clear sense of their interests. Let’s just say they are not so alienated from the significance and value of the products of their labor. They generally know when they’re getting screwed and who is doing the screwing. They could be natural allies for a left that cares about food and labor…think about it.

    1. steelhead23

      Once upon a time there was a Farm Labor Party in Minnesota. In 1944 they joined ranks with the Democratic Party. It isn’t farmers and laborers who left the Democratic Party – rather, the party left them.

    2. Cat Burglar

      Good point about the connection of the work with the politics.

      Raising food is a basic human activity like making things, education, or healing — the cloak of the commodity doesn’t fit it very well, something you know if you’ve done it.

  12. Cat's paw

    Edit: They could be natural allies for a left that cares about food and labor and the environment…think about it.

  13. Cat Burglar

    The article is right on target.

    The rural arid west is dying as a social entity; the death of arid lands cattle ranching part of that. As a rancher in Central Oregon, I get to watch it die every day. For that reason, I have some sympathy for the Malheur occupiers, though I have no truck with even one iota of their politics.

    The occupation was a good example of a direct action based upon specious legal and social analysis. The occupiers appear to have actually believed they could incite an armed rural rebellion to dispossess the government of its land holdings — not a realistic goal in the short term. Tactically, destroying Federal property and being armed (and threatening the Feds) is a certain route to a long prison term and political demobilization — that is one reason (aside from principled non-violence) that radical environmental and peace groups do not destroy property or use violence: you don’t do hard time, and you can concentrate on getting your message across.

    Their general goal seems to have been the end of Federal Public land ownership — I won’t bother to discuss the idiotic states rights or pseudo-constitutional metaphysics behind it. There is significant support for public land here among ranchers and farmers, which I see every time the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management has an outreach meeting. Most ranchers understand they benefit from our incredibly cheap grazing leases. But there is also great anger and resentment toward the BLM especially, partly generated by what is viewed as extra work rotating stock off land to allow recovery (my late aunt viewed rest-rotation grazing as some kind of communist plot!), and also what is perceived as punitive administration in service of policies generated without local knowledge in Washington DC. They’re right about the latter point — BLM, in relation to how much land they have, is abysmally underfunded and understaffed, and will sometimes violate your rights just to get the job done. I say, let’s get them more funding and staff so they can work with the locals.

    But all this has taken place at what looks like the end of western ranching. A realtor that buys and sells ranches told me, “Of course you know, as a business proposition, ranching doesn’t pencil out.” Holding sizes have to be in the tens of thousands of acres to make enough to support a family now. In this region, when big ranches sell, they are bought by investment bankers or other people with big money as resort hobby ranches. And a modern cattle ranch provides only a little employment at relatively low wages. For years, the largest employer in a neighboring county was the Chevrolet dealer; and they almost closed the county road department last year for lack of funds. Post Offices are being closed right and left. It is all drying up very fast, and that is what the Malheur occupation is reacting against.

    Ranchers — and the occupiers — are used as political human shields by elite interests with the real power. Imagine if Federal land were to be sold off — would locals get to buy the land adjacent or enclosed with their land? In your dreams! It will be bought up and traded by the very groups we all read about at NC every day. I remember reading a great letter to the editor in an ag weekly — why, he asked, is the membership of the Farm Bureau larger than the number of ranchers and farmers in the country? And why did the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association support ending country-of-origin labeling as per the WTO case against it? The occupiers are pawns.

    1. downunderer

      I too sympathized with their plight, but not their understanding of it or their way of dealing with it, based on my experience in SW Oregon gold country.

      Fed administrators are very efficient at enforcing the restrictive letter of the law when they feel like it, even inventing lots of new rules as other new laws seem to allow. But they can conveniently ignore the parts of the law that are politically unpopular, like granting patents on mining claims that have long since met every legal requirement. No need to change an old law, too hard. Just ignore the parts you don’t like.

      Just the way the entire Constitution is now treated: enforce when convenient, otherwise talk rings around it and do as you please to anyone who can’t afford a good lawyer and a long fight.

  14. bob

    First up, how many of the bundy bunch were “ranchers”?

    Second, What part of “ranching” requires arson to cover up poaching?

  15. Gil Gamseh

    The modern law of antitrust, with its single-minded focus on consumer welfare, is another Long Con. Like most things that matter, consumer welfare means low price. But as there is no free lunch, there are no low prices, just better externalizing by makers and sellers. Pay now, and pay later. But pay you will: lost jobs, wrecked communities, ravaged environments, poisoned water, air.

  16. Elliot

    Actual western farmer here. Agree that the mega-beef industry is where a real injustice lies.

    But the Bundys are footsoldiers for the Bert Smith/Koch bros financed move to privatize all public lands for private gain. That is: log it all, mine it all, drill it all, pave it all. Louts like Kenneth Ivory profit directly by selling moonshine about how mistreated western yeoman farmers are and how they can “get back” something that was never theirs. So do local legislators that urge their states to sue to take over public lands.

    The Bundy clan are part of the sovereign citizen movement which sees the US government as illegitimate and vow to resist all public authority higher than sherrifs (if they are part of the anti-government “constitutional sherrif” movement). This is in large part based on fringe LDS thinking (look up Cleon Skousen) and on disdain for having to pay taxes, child support, and the like. They seem to have thought they’d have gotten a warmer welcome on the Malheur than they did, as the family they were supposedly standing up for asked them to leave, and went willingly to jail to serve their time.

    Sovereign citizens often do indeed pose a violent threat to law officers and others. Domestic terrorism is an apt term in many cases. (Stockpiling weapons like grenades, calling for the death of local LEO, or even the President, building bombs, etc.)

    The Bundy types do NOT have a legitimate beef against public lands; about 98% of the entire rest of the ranchers who graze on public lands are up to date on their fees, the average who is in arrears is under a thousand dollars. They KNOW they get a sweetheart deal.

    The miners & loggers who want to get hold of public lands want NO environmental regulation (mostly driven by deep pockets who want to open places like the Grand canyon to fracking & unimpeded mining, or who tell them the jobs in the woods and the mills are gone due to the wicked government, not to mechanization, both in the mills and the woods,like feller-bunchers which eliminate about 5 jobs per buncher, and cut far faster than a logger can.

    The bs about more logging or local control equating to better management or less fires is just that, bs. States don’t have the money, and unless better management means no management other than cutting regs, states don’t have the money for that either. Studies have been done again and again.

    They also ignore that selling off the lands would lock citizens out for hunting, fishing, etc.

    This is being used as a red-meat conservative issue by the privatizers, who are drooling in anticipation at firesale prices to them and selling it to speculators at massive profit.

    It’s unconstitutional (as a century of caselaw notes), and would rob the population at large and that of our children for generations to come.

    1. Cat Burglar

      And how! Great post.

      The West is often called the land of wide open spaces — what no one mentions is that it is wide open because so much is public land.

      Where you have nothing but large holdings of private land, you always have goon squads to police it. It is no accident that in each of the Bundy incidents there were large numbers of armed enforcers. Remember when, during the Nevada incident, they began stopping and inspecting other ranchers’ cattle trucks to ensure the BLM wasn’t confiscating Cliven’s cows? I’ll bet that endeared the old man to the neighbors.

      This kind of thing goes way back.The Pulitzer Prize-winning Oregon novelist HL Davis was a cowboy in Central Oregon, and wrote an amazing story (in the HL Davis Reader) about a kid and an old man trying to get a herd of cows to market. Their problem: the few pieces of not privately owned land (it would be BLM land now) where they could spend the night, and water and graze the stock, were claimed by the large neighboring landowners who would send out armed goons to beat or kill the herders and scatter the animals. Thatis the world the Bundys would bring back.

    2. run75441

      Elliot:

      Your first sentence is what I tried to detail as most people do not understand where there cheap beef comes from and who pays the price.

      I do not advocate what the Bundys did and believe they hurt the ranchers cause which is more as I describe it. Big business is the issue and meatpackers control the pricing. There are several acts which need to be reinterpreted to allow the USDA to again kick some a** in favor of the little guy. Holder did not do and Bush’s AG reinforced it.

      I was a little more subtle than I should have been. My apology and thank for a good comment.

      I agree there is plenty of case law and two SCOTUS decisions determining whether the Gov can control land with the BLM making the rules. Yes, they can.

  17. Skippy

    Seems the debate is moot due to the environmental changes coming to the entire west coast – divide ranges.

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