Black Hills Stock Show panel discussion includes NCBA, R-CALF, USCA
Representatives of NCBA, USCA and R-CALF USA took part in a panel discussion at the Black Hills Stock Show Tuesday, Feb. 1. The event also included a Zoetis veterinarian and representatives from Senator Rounds, Senator Thune, and Representative Dusty Johnson’s offices.
The event was headlined: “The need for unity in the cattle industry.”
Panel members were:
Justin Tupper, manager of St. Onge Livestock who serves as of Vice President of the USCA
Larry Stomprud, rancher, former president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and member of NCBA
Karina Jones, a rancher, and field director for R-CALF USA.
Below you will find some of the questions asked and a paraphrased version of the responses. We will try to include the rest of the questions and responses in next week’s paper.
**In November of 2021, all three organizations supported the suspension of Brazilian beef. Please update us on this issue and give us your organization’s current stance:
Karina Jones: It was exciting to see all three organizations put in letters to Washington requesting the suspension of Brazilian beef imports. R-CALF requested the suspension of both fresh and frozen beef imports. From this wave of attention that the Brazilian beef issue got, Senator Tester introduced legislation to suspend the importation of Brazilian beef. All three organizations also wrote letters. What did we get? USDA denied it. We take this as a lesson of the power that USDA has that it continues to not use on behalf of the American cattle industry. Who does USDA work for? Do they work for the grassroots producers out here or are they taking orders from someone else in the beef supply chain?
Larry Stomprud: This issue is one that fortunately we can see some unity in. We’re responding to Brazil’s systemic approach to not playing by the rules. Every time they’ve been given a chance, they screwed it up. NCBA has a demonstrated history of calling them out on these things. We were the first organization to raise concerns over their failure in 2021. After reviewing the case from the World Organization for Animal Health, we led an extensive fight. In 2016 with Brazil’s history of FMD and food safety concerns, we worked with and closely monitored their imports and worked with USDA to suspend their imports. Brazil should not be allowed to import meat to the US until they get their credibility issues corrected.
Senator Vilsack holds the cards on this one.
Justin Tupper: Yes, it’s nice to start on a topic we all agree on. Brazil is a bad actor. They’ve been caught bribing meat inspectors to get tainted meat. There is no question we have to stay on top of that. We are also disappointed that USDA did not suspend imports of beef from Brazil. We have to stay on top of our Congress people and keep pushing to be sure we can keep safe product within the US. USCA is working with a Hawaiian Senator a bill that’s called the Forest Act, which would prevent any product from being imported into the US that results in deforestation of the Brazilian rain forest. So there are other avenues that we’re going to try and take when we can’t get USDA to do the things we want them to do. If we can’t get USDA to stop them we’re doing to find other ways to do it.
**SB 949 establishes that a minimum of 50 percent of a packer’s weekly volume of livestock slaughter must be purchased through spot market sales from non-affiliated producers, what is your organizations’ commitment to fighting to increased competition and on transparency in the fat cattle market?
Stomprud: If you’ve been following this you realize that this is a very complex issue. Cow calf operators, stockers and feeders all deserve good price discovery to ensure fair prices and in recent years, the percentage of negotiated sales has made it more difficult to get more price discovery, particularly in the southern plains. You may have heard that our voluntary efforts to increase price discovery is a complicated system but it seems to be having some effect to the positive. We saw more negotiated trade as we implemented this. .as an industry we’ve made good progress but we still have room for improvement. This issue is probably highest on the list at the NCBA convention. But price discovery isn’t the only thing affecting our bottom line. We’ve successfully advocated Rep Johnsons’ cattle contract bill, new USDA reports that provide more insight to formula transaction and reauthorization to mandatory livestock reporting. We’ve worked to secure $1 billion to expand packing capacity that seems to be the biggest bottleneck right now for not seeing good prices for our fat cattle. We’ve also been involved in labor reforms to keep those plants operating. NCBA was the first to call for a DOJ investigation and we continue to look forward to that. We can’t repeal the law of supply and demand and the market.
Tupper: 5014 is a bill that the USCA supported from the beginning. We’d love to see 50-14. Tester looked around and saw this is not a bill that can pass. If you can’t get bills passed, we are spinning our wheels. So out of that Senator Fischer’s compromise bill came up. It has a lot of good things in it. It establishes a minimum negotiated cash standard in the regions. Right now about 50 percent of the cattle in IA and MN are sold cash. They are carrying the brunt for the industry. We’re not against AMAS we believe they have to be a part of the equation. One thing some opponents have talked about is that the bill isn’t enough or that it establishes regionalization. We are already regionalized. A Texas A and M study that came out today said Texas will be zero negotiated cash by 2026. We don’t have time to wait, ladies and gentlemen. The Fischer compromise bill is a good start and it sets a floor of where we need to go. There is no such thing in congress as a silver bullet bill to fix all the problems in the industry. But if we don’t take the reins and get something when we’ve had the limelight on us for so long, then we’ve lost. The compromise isn’t perfect but it has 17 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. That’s historic, we haven’t been able to move Congress forever. USCA is definitely behind the compromise bill, that’s not the ending point, that’s just a start.
Karina: there is an old song – you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. R-CALF Is committed to standing for a minimum standard of conduct that all 24 plants owned by the big packers have to live by. As Justin talks about, the compromise bill would be historic, it would exclude 9 of the 24 big four plants – 5 of JBS’s plants, the Tyson plant in Pasco, Washington wouldn’t have a minimum put on them. It would historically damage what we are working for in R-CALF to create a minimum standard of conduct coast to coast for all 24 plants. The problem with 50-14 was its beauty and simplicity and what Washington and lobbyists couldn’t stand was common cattle producers like us writing legislation. It quickly gained ground, had 10 co sponsors in the senate and what does Washington do when something is getting hot, it creates a diversion that’s what the compromise bill is a diversion. Why would we empower USDA to study, to further study these regions and to empower USDA to create regional minimums? USDA doesn’t have the power to set laws. We elect lawmakers, it is Congress that is to set laws. We just talked about how USDA punted on the Brazilian beef issue, and now we want to hand them our cattle market? That’s crazy.
R-CALF is also known for our historic lawsuit, our antitrust lawsuit against the big four packers. That is in discovery and I think we’re all about to learn more about the packers’ conduct of doing business in the future.
**What is your position on Beef Checkoff reform?
Tupper: I’ve served on the SD Beef Industry Council for over 15 years. I believed the national checkoff needed fixing when I got on 15 years ago. The 50 cents retained in South Dakota is well used. The 50 cents that goes to national may need some reform. USCA supports periodic reforms, we believe we need to modernize the beef checkoff. They’ve done some good things – when mad cow in Canada came along, we’re prepared to defend that. There are things that we need. Does the checkoff have problems? Without question. Do we think we need to take it all away? That’s not necessarily what we believe. We believe we can modernize, the act, make it more streamlined, more user friendly. We’d like to separate the Federation. We’d like to allow the CBB to contract directly with vendors. USCA is a contractor. We’ve worked on different research projects. Its tough. It needs some redoing, it’s not the be all end all, or the biggest problem in our industry but it does need some reforms and USCA supports that.
Karina: R-CALF is the only organization here that doesn’t accept and beef checkoff money. How many of you actually voted in 1985? Show of hands. I don’t know if we’re at 10 percent of this crowd. I didn’t either. The beef promotion act actually says we are supposed to have periodic referendums, once again in the hands of USDA who can grant or deny those. We haven’t been granted a referendum in 37 years to recheck the accountability. We don’t know if we’ll ever get a referendum. Since the checkoff was put in place, beef consumption has dropped 20 pounds per capita. 1985, cattle producers were receiving 57 percent of the consumer dollar, today it’s about 37 percent. There were 110 million cows, today 93.5 million. We’re losing our cowherd, producers, percentage of the consumer dollar and per capita consumption of beef. R-CALF has 2 lawsuits – one is going on to discovery.
Larry: Let’s be clear. The detractors of the checkoff do not want to reform it, they want to dismantle it. Foremost among these is PETA and HSUS and those organizations in partnership with them. The Beef Checkoff is the strongest tool cattle producers have to defend their industry from environmental activist to fake meat companies. These organizations are spending millions and millions of dollars to put us out of business. With regard to NCBA not a single penny of your checkoff dollars goes to the policy part of NCBA. We work as the largest contractor but we do some great work. The checkoff funding does support important research and consumer focused programs in Washington DC. And it does support some consumer programs that drive consumer demand for beef and protects our reputation. NCBA through the checkoff program provided comments friendly to beef consumption on the dietary guidelines. Contractors have to do the work and it has to be audited before it can be paid.
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