Letter to the Editor: A Squandered Opportunity
During the week of March 23rd, Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs at NCBA, appeared on CNBC for an interview to discuss the current state of the cattle markets. The anchor started by asking, “If demand is up, why are prices down?” Ethan replied, “We’ve struggled to realize those gains in the live cattle and feeder cattle sectors.” I don’t think this answer could’ve been any worse. He should’ve taken advantage of this moment and explained that four large packers are manipulating the price on the cattle end, and then gouging the consumer on the other end. Instead, he side stepped this question because these packers who control the industry are members of NCBA.
It’s clear as day why demand is up, and prices are down; JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef hold a monopoly in the beef industry and manipulate the market in their favor when they so choose. When a crisis comes along, either directly related to the cattle industry or completely removed from it, these packers take advantage and drive cattle prices down, and in turn make record profits.
The news anchor goes on to state that meat sales have been up 77% at the retail and it seems like a heavy lift to be asking the government for assistance with such high beef demand. To that, Mr. Lane is quick to respond asking for a government handout. Our industry doesn’t need a handout. What we need is an actionable plan to fix this monopolistic issue, a long-term fix that will ensure our markets won’t experience such manipulation in the future.
No matter who you’re talking to, or where you’re at, when someone asks what is happening to our industry, it is imperative for all of us to share the reality that we’re facing; all cattle producers, feeders, backgrounders, and stocker operators are entirely dependent on a few processing facilities owned by these four packers.
Through this market collapse, both NCBA and other state cattlemen’s affiliates have reiterated that they aren’t packer influenced, that they represent all segments of the industry. However, when push comes to shove, these organizations are quick to hush individuals who raise questions regarding packer influence. Their words clearly do not line up with their actions.
This interview was a crucial opportunity for the cattle industry that was squandered away because Mr. Lane was scared to spill the beans. It was a chance to share with the masses the struggles facing the American Cattleman. Instead, Mr. Lane, on behalf of NCBA, chose to make a mockery of the industry.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News