The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) held their 14th annual meeting and convention in Broken Bow recently.
“We need to get out and help ourselves,” said ICON President Jim Dinklage during his opening comments.
The opportunity to do just that was presented by guest speaker, Brian O’Shaughnessy, who serves as chairman of Revere Copper Products, a company founded by Paul Revere in 1801 that is the oldest, basic manufacturing company in the United States. He also helped found and serves as vice chairman of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) – a nonpartisan coalition of domestic manufacturing, ranchers and farmers as well as organized labor who are seeking members from all backgrounds to change the trade policies of the United States of America to promote domestic production of products mined, made, grown or serviced in the USA.
O’Shaugnessy grew up in White Pine County, Nevada where his family worked in the copper mining business. He explained the core business of Revere Copper Products is producing copper coils to ship to other manufacturing companies, mostly in the U.S. and some in Asia and other parts of the world, “Since the year 2000, 30 percent of the manufacturing we shipped out in the U.S. has shut down and moved offshore.”
Due to this dramatic change in U.S. markets, O’Shaughnessy joined the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), thinking the organization could help combat the severe imbalance in trade issues, “I discovered the board of directors is controlled by Wall Street and multinationals. On that board of directors, I was a pusher and wanted to have them support a bill to fight China’s manipulation of currency. When I got up to discuss the bill I said, ‘Those of you who have plants and facilities in China and those of you who import, parts components /etc. and those of you who depend on the goodwill of the government of China – all of you should recuse yourself from voting because you are conflicted. You have to choose between your country and company.’ It was deathly silent.”
O’Shaughnessy said the multinationals are causing the same problems for manufacturers as they are for agriculture. Among other things, he pointed out, they control the Department of Treasury and Department of Agriculture. Because of this control and gross imbalance, O’Shaughnessy helped start CPA to fight these issues. Today, he said membership in CPA includes more than 4.4 million people from all walks of life and political parties and is growing rapidly, “We are becoming more powerful. It’s wrong of you to think these multinationals are going to represent America’s best interests. They’re not. It’s all about stakeholders vs. stockholders.”
There are many reasons for trade imbalances and outsourcing of production and jobs, O’Shaughnessy explained. One reason he cited was low cost labor. However, he said, one major CPA supporter, NuCor Steel, made the case that the labor and cost to produce a ton of steel in the U.S. is less than the shipping cost of a ton of steel from China. NuCor Steel Chairman Emeritus, Dan DiMicco, now serves as board chairman for CPA to help reveal issues that are causing an imbalance.
O’Shaughnessy was adamant that, “The overwhelming factor is the currency exchange rate . . . They underprice you. Whether you are in agriculture or manufacturing.”
He said currency misalignment happens because the U.S. is the world reserve currency, “If Germany is doing business with Brazil or Canada, they do it in U.S. dollars. If Japan is doing business with Australia, it is done in U.S. dollars. This means a lot of money flows to the country that has the highest interest rates. We often have the highest real interest rates in the world. Part of it is because other countries have weak currencies. Even though we have budget deficits, the budget deficits of other countries are much worse.”
O’Shaughnessy said a new strategy is needed for agriculture, “We need to frame ag issues as trade issues. People who are not in agriculture get upset when they talk about federal hand-outs to farming and ranching. You need to manage U.S. domestic production and prices because of subsidized/managed foreign production. Compare the damage by meatpacking multinationals to manufacturing multinationals. It’s the same damn thing.”
“We have big problems. We need to think big,” O’Shaughnessy said to the group boldly. “What (Trump’s) problem is, is that his history is 20 years ago . . . He has a long history looking from the manufacturing side. But he was like I was 30 years ago, I never understood that ag had the same problems. I never understood that meatpackers were like General Motors and Chrysler. So, what did he do when he put his administration together? I mean Sonny Perdue is Secretary of Agriculture? Perdue Farms is a multinational. That is a huge problem.”
“America has to be educated as I was educated that multinational meatpackers are the same thing as other multinational companies,” O’Shaughnessy said in closing. “You have to tell your friends and everyone that this is a problem. These guys should choose between their company and their country. Call them all out.”