Fresh look: #FairCattleMarkets initiative
As cattle producers face supply chain uncertainty, tumbling markets and heightened tensions both within the industry and without, they’re looking for answers.
They want answers to questions like, “Why are packers making more money than ever, while cattle feeders are losing it?” and “Why are there four major packers in operation in the United States—one less than there were in 1919 when President Wilson ordered the investigation that created the Packers and Stockyards Act—and it’s still not considered a monopoly?”
The industry is to the point where the cattle producers—who put in most of the work, time and money it takes to put beef on the table—are demanding to be fairly compensated for what they do.
Several livestock industry news outlets are coming together to provide a united voice for cattle producers, calling for transparency and truth from the people who are in a position to provide answers and solutions.
Tri-State Livestock News and The Fence Post, in partnership with Western Ag Reporter, will be producing online interviews with industry leaders, conducted by Mackenzie Johnston, a rancher and cattle industry advocate from Brewster, Nebraska.
“Our goal is to provide our readers and followers, plus elected officials who need to know what is going on in the industry, with reliable information, so they can make their own decisions,” said Bree Poppe, publisher of Tri-State Livestock News and The Fence Post. “We want to go directly to the source on these topics, and deliver thoughtful interviews that answer the questions we’re all asking on social media and private conversations. It’s time to bring truth and transparency to the whole market chain, from cow-calf guys to packers.”
As mainstream media reports packing plant closures due to COVID-19, alongside record prices in the grocery store, and record profits for packers, those farther down the supply chain are seeing their break-even points fall below the red line.
“These guys—especially the cattle feeders, who don’t have a choice about when they market their cattle—they aren’t even asking for a profit,” Poppe said. “They’re asking to have their costs covered so they can stay in business. Right now the packers have them in a choke-hold and there’s nothing they can do. Cattle feeders have been silent for years because they knew that if they spoke out against the packers, the packers could just refuse to buy their cattle. When you have one or two viable options for selling your cattle, you can’t afford to make any enemies. That’s why we need to come together as an industry and demand some relief from what looks like a monopoly that’s driving down the price of fat cattle, while demanding record high prices from consumers. Everyone, from the guy who who’s trying to get his pairs to grass, to the mom standing in front of the meat counter looking at $6 hamburger, should be mad as hell about this.”
Those in the cattle industry tend to have strong opinions, and widely varying ideas about what “progress” looks like and how to achieve it. But the entire industry is united in the belief that the packers need to be investigated, and some of the profitability needs to trickle down to the people who produce the beef—not just the people who butcher it.
“The cattle producers—the ones who care for these animals every day of their lives, and shoulder the vast majority of expenses for raising them—see the least return,” said Poppe. “And of the return they see, they pour that back into their local communities, the feed store, the property taxes, the church, the gas station. They’re donating to cancer fundraisers, and giving local beef to their hometown schools. We need these businesses that actually generate wealth for the United States, to the tune of $67.1 billion dollars in 2018. We don’t need the ones that take their profits off the top and put them in their Brazilian bank accounts.”
It’s for the people who are too busy doing their jobs to fight for them that this effort was started.
“This coalition of ag news outlets, that is tasked with reporting every day on the ups and downs of this industry, is committed to moving this effort forward,” Poppe said. “We encourage everyone, regardless of previous political affiliations or trade organization alliances, to throw all your efforts into this one issue—making cattle markets fair again. Give the cattle producer a way to stay in business, and keep producing the safest, most affordable, most sought-after beef in the world.”
For more information about how you can join the cause, check out http://www.fair-cattle-markets.com
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