More than a billion dollars has already been pledged to relieve victims of the drought-turned-famine ravaging the Horn of Africa. The stricken countries—Somalia in particular—do not have the technology and the infrastructure to deal with a major drought, and so in what is becoming a regular occurrence, the West is stepping in with aid.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Texas and Oklahoma are suffering record droughts that are wiping out crops and taxing cattle businesses. Ranchers cannot rely on the forage feeding their herds are used to, and other sources of feed have become too costly; Texas A&M is advising cattlemen that this drought is so severe they will probably be better off selling their entire herds and rebuilding in a better year.

Unless you live in Al Gore’s head, these droughts have not been caused by governmental policy. But governmental policy causes much of the associated suffering. The PowerBlog has been covering the legacy that decades of colonialist humanitarian policy have left in East Africa. U.S. and European agricultural policy continue to cripple farmers in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Fortune, as it turns out, has a sense of irony: the same protectionism that is inducing atrophy overseas is hurting ranchers in America. The Bush-era free trade agreements that the Obama Administration refuses to allow a vote on, and other treaties which it might pursue if it weren’t beholden to big labor, would give the beef industry breathing room—foreign markets for beef could tip the cost-benefit scales back in cattlemen’s favor.

Southwestern cattlemen do benefit from a relatively large market in the United States: there are parts of the country where cattle are economically viable this year, so the Texas plains won’t be littered with sun-bleached skulls next year, but whole herds are still headed to the auction block because the Teamsters and other organizations won’t allow otherwise.

In South Korea for example, the market for U.S. beef could increase by as much as $1.3 billion if the 40 percent tariff now in place fell away, but that free trade agreement is sitting in the bottom of a drawer in the Resolute Desk. South American trade agreements also languish at the behest of unions, while the United States’ NAFTA games threaten existing economic activity.

I’ve not even mentioned U.S. ethanol policy, dust regulations, and the host of other laughable environmental protections that lose most of their humor value during a drought-of-the-century. The greatest statesmen counter the vicissitudes of Fortune by their leadership. Modern progressives, on the other hand, have managed to augment her swings.


  • Roypitta

    Obama MUST be voted out of office! And it wouldn’t hurt to weed out the more “progressive” members of Congress – Democrat AND Republican – who contribute to the financial destruction of the United States.

  • Anonymous

    I love the comment on “big labor,” as if such a thing still exists   Some specifics, please, about how the teamsters are sending herds of cattle to the auction block.  In capitalism, an industry needs to expand expand expand.   There is a good market in the United States but ranchers increase their herds and demand larger and larger markets.  (I live in Idaho, a beef state if there ever was one)    If the beef industry needs breathing room, then let them stir up the foreign markets.  Why expect the federal government to do it for them by putting pressure on governements like Korea to stop looking out for Korea’s interests?    Hey, Texas, proud of its huge economy and boasting of its freedom from big government, could go to Korea and  convince them to end the tariff and trash their own beef industry. 

    • http://blog.acton.org/archives/author/kspence Kenneth Spence

      Yes, it would be convenient if free trade worked that way, wouldn’t it?

  • Warkingroy

    And people still have the nerve to defend this president? How much does he have to damage our economy before his supporters open their eyes and balk?