Beef Checkoff-funded packer group works against Rounds letter
Billings, Mont. – Last Thursday R-CALF USA announced a drive to encourage 200 members of Congress to join a bipartisan and bicameral letter authored by U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) that calls attention to the food crisis in America. The letter urges the U.S. Attorney General and Congress to work together to reform the nation’s cattle and beef markets. It explains that consumers are paying an unnecessary, over-inflated price for beef in the store while the nation’s cattle ranchers and farmers are on the verge of going broke.
Today, R-CALF USA obtained a document circulated in Congress by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which claims to be the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. According to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, the NAMI document attempts to dissuade members of Congress from joining the joint Rounds/Smith letter. R-CALF USA is now circulating its rebuttal to the NAMI document.
Bullard says NAMI received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the national beef checkoff program during the past four years and is now lobbying against the interests of both cattle producers and consumers who desire meaningful reforms in the cattle and beef markets. He says the NAMI document is an attempt to deceive Congress into believing everything is just fine in the cattle and beef markets.
But Bullard says the opposite, that the market is completely dysfunctional, marked by consumers paying record-high prices for beef at the store while cattle producers are receiving seriously depressed prices – the same prices they received over a decade ago. He said the spread between retail beef prices and the price of cattle have never been greater, meaning consumers on one end of the food chain and producers on the other are being exploited.
The NAMI document claims cattle prices are responding to normal supply and demand signals. Bullard says that is completely false as evidenced by upward trending beef prices and downward trending cattle prices since 2017.
“If cattle prices were responding to supply/demand signals, the exceptional beef demand for the past several years along with the record exports would have driven cattle prices upward. Instead, cattle prices have been driven down and consumer beef prices have been driven up,” he said.
The NAMI document points out that because cattle producers received COVID-19 subsidies from the government, their income was higher in 2020 than any time since 2016. But Bullard said cattle prices have been seriously depressed since 2014 and the 2020 government subsidies did not come close to restoring the income lost from the dysfunctional cattle market.
“Cattle producers lost in excess of $600 per head in 2020 compared to 2014, yet retail beef prices increased significantly during that period. The COVID payments did not make up that loss even though consumers were paying more than enough for beef to have done so.
“The cattle and beef markets are broken and the NAMI is trying to fool Congress into complacency so they don’t do anything about it,” Bullard concluded.
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