The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is pushing the government to research why cattle markets are so volatile. Currently, markets are being whipsawed by a shortened grilling season, Japanese concerns about beef following the discovery of Mad Cow disease in Japanese herds, and by a larger U.S. slaughter as drought stricken ranchers cull herds. Many cattlemen feel the concentration of packer ownership may be the source of their discomfort in the market.
On another front close to the meat industry is the government's development of workplace standards. The government is attempting to develop standards, but critics fear the current administration will not regulate with much enthusiasm.
The Clinton administration's proposal for a mandatory ergonomics standard was unilaterally dismissed soon after President George Bush took office. Many business groups were relieved at the outright dismissal of rules they believed to be restrictive, inefficient and costly. Elimination of the ergonomics regulations exuded the exact opposite reaction from labor groups which accused the Bush administration of ignoring what labor claims is the nation's biggest safety and health problem.
Earlier this year, a new proposal was introduced to deal with musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. The Bush administration is now condoning voluntary, industry-specific ergonomic guidelines to be developed in conjunction with businesses. Both the poultry and grocery industries have already pledged their support and help with guideline development.
This has not gone over well with organized labor. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or U-F-C-W, called the proposal a step backward and a proposal to help business instead of protecting workers from hazards. UFCW claims the majority of workplace injuries are caused by an ergonomic issue of some sort and most of the injuries could be prevented. Labor groups also point to a report by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine which estimates ergonomic related injuries at 45 to 54 billion dollars annually.