MT, MN producers speak to House Ag Committee
While ranchers from the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming were still digging out from the second epic April blizzard, Congress was focused on unfairness in the cattle market.
Following a similar Senate Ag Committee hearing the day before, the House Ag Committee conducted “An Examination of Price Discrepancies, Transparency, and Alleged Unfair Practices in Cattle Markets,” April 27, 2022.
Among the witnesses were Mr. Gilles Stockton, Cow/Calf Producer, on behalf of the Northern Plains Research Council and Western Organization of Research Councils, Grass Range, Montana, and Mr. Don Schiefelbein, Cattle Producer, President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kimball, Minnesota. Their written testimony, and the written testimony of the other witnesses can be found here.
The CEOs of Cargill, JBS, National Foods (owned by Marfrig) and Tyson Foods – the “Big Four” meat packers – also testified.
NCBA’s Schiefelbein said instead of focusing on controversial matters, NCBA has encouraged Congress to support policies with wide industry backing, said an NCBA news release. “Broadly supported proposals have seen tremendous legislative success in this chamber recently,” said Schiefelbein. “However, repeatedly belaboring the same divisive issues has detracted from that collaborative work to the benefit of no one. It is time to move on and focus on areas where agreement can be reached.”
“The only people who know exactly how cattle producers should navigate these uncertain times are the individuals who work around the clock, day in and day out, to raise the safest and highest quality beef in the world—in other words: cattle producers,” said Schiefelbein.
Schiefelbein’s testimony was rooted in the policies adopted by NCBA through its century-old grassroots policymaking process.
NCBA policy supports enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, said Schiefelbein in his written testimony.
He also said that this group does not support the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, and urged the committee to oppose it as well.
Gilles Stockton had a different message for the committee. He insinuated that rural America is in crisis due to lack of profitability in the livestock production sector.
In his written testimony, he said it’s impossible for a beginning farmer or rancher to start, without assistance. “We are losing an entire generation of motivated, talented, and trained young men and women, because they cannot afford to take over the family farm or ranch,” he said.
“In 1975, the concentration in the beef packing industry had four firms controlling 25% of the market. Today they monopolize 85%. I lived and ranched through the entire period that has seen the beef industry become subservient to a monopoly cartel,” he said in his written testimony.
He said his life in the ranching industry has been “wonderful,” but that his community of ranchers is dying.
“The Cheap Food Policy has been extraordinarily effective. Over the past half century Rural America has been impoverished and hollowed out. Now from Grass Range Montana to Lumpkin Georgia, rural America is a very large, underpopulated slum,” he said.
The solution, he said is to pass the “American Beef Labeling Act,” and require beef packers to buy cattle in a competitive and transparent marketplace.
“…do what your colleagues did in 1921. Require that the beef packers buy their cattle In a competitive and transparent marketplace that they neither own nor control. This is what the Consent Decree that accompanied the passage of the Packers and Stockyards Act required.”
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