Opinion: Brett Kenzy: Competition
If you had to choose one initiative that would fix the cattle industry (and a lot of others) what would it be? My answer would be to restore competition.
I bring this up because that is the question that I’m asked most often. Restoring competition is essentially the entire goal of R-CALF USA and what drew me to it. We fight to restore MCOOL to allow American beef to compete with imports because we were long ago told we must be able to compete in the global market place. We were and are tireless promoters of the Grassley Tester 50/14 Bill that would set a minimum standard of competition for American fed cattle. That bill didn’t pick winners and losers, it was simply a compromise between total competition and zero competition that could serve as a lifeline to allow independent cattlemen to compete. It was, in my mind, a bridge to enforcement of our antitrust laws as laid out by the 1921 P&S act. (I would add that that bill, S.949 is still before the Senate ag committee, it has not been withdrawn. I’m not whipping a dead horse, I’m defending the horse we need.)
Recently we have seen the introduction of the Compromise Bill, and I am fearful of the precedent it would set. My biggest concerns are:
-It would empower unelected and revolving personnel at USDA to determine what constitutes competition REGIONALLY according to previous academic studies. I think we all realize that academic studies of limited parameters can fail in real world application and be swayed by a number of influences.
-It would tether minimum trade levels in regions with higher cash trade levels to regions with lower cash trade levels.
-It would exclude participation of 9 of the 24 packing plants operated by the big four packers: 5 of 9 JBS plants, 2 of the 7 Tyson plants, and 2 of 6 Cargill plants.
I would ask anyone reading this to try to consider these facts outside the scope of organizational affiliation. I understand that the people who worked on this are trying hard to get something done, calling it a starting point that can be built upon at a later time. I cannot state strongly enough how fearful I am that this bill would set precedent that would forever diminish efforts for more meaningful reforms in the future. It is time for the President to step up and enforce existing laws like our antitrust laws. It is time for Congress to accept their obligation to fix a broken market by creating clear and enforceable laws going forward without punting authority and accountability to the letter agencies. It is time to drop the R vs D and act like Americans. It is time for American cattle producers to stop being spectators in the effort to restore competition to their industry. No one can fight harder or more honorably than a person defending their family legacy – now is the time to speak or forever hold your peace. The ability and will to find common cause and promote it will determine what is possible for our industry’s future.
R-CALF USA President
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