USCA hosts annual meeting
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) concluded its second annual 2017 Cattle Producer’s Forum at the Big Horn Resort in Billings, Montana, on Sept. 16. The event, co-hosted by the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Cattlemen’s Association, Montana Farmers Union, Beartooth Stockgrowers and Bitterroot Stockgrowers drew over 250 cattle producers and industry representatives.
The forum, hosted by Jeff “Tigger” Erhardt, host of the Working Ranch Radio Show, kicked off with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer.
“We are going to put a little bit of country back in this and a whole lot of God,” Erhardt said.
“That, ladies and gentleman, is the future of agriculture, and I’m very proud to be a part of that,” Erhardt added, following the presentation of the colors and the pledge of allegiance by a group of FFA members.
Participants heard from agricultural leaders on topics ranging from trade under the new administration, cattle market update, how producers can capitalize on a changing industry and much more.
The cattle market panel included, Domenic Varricchio, Commodity Broker with Schwieterman Inc, Corbitt Wall, Livestock Market Analyst with Feeder Flash, Justin Tupper, Manager at St. Onge Sale Barn, and Allan Sents, USCA Marketing & Competition Committee Chairman.
According to Wall, moving cattle next month may be a challenge.
“Light calves are going to sell well,” Wahl said. “You need to be discovering ways to add value.” But by October, “there won’t be enough trucks to haul them off,” Wahl shared, adding that cattle may be sitting at the sale barns, waiting on trucks.
“I know everyone wants to wean a 700 pound calf, but you have to find someone that wants them,” Wahl said.
Mandatory price reporting was also on the table for discussion, and finding tools to survive the volatility was brought up by Sents.
“We know that the packing industry has the power. We are not going to change the direction of this train. But hopefully we can tweak it,” Sents said, adding that analysts are calling for large beef numbers in 2018, leading to loss of leverage, and challenges in the packing industry in part, due to the ongoing loss of packing capacity.
Tupper said there are some opportunities out there, despite drought conditions.
“My job… becomes more of a guidance counselor. Because of the drought,” Tupper said.
“Some of these guys that are making drought decisions. There is some opportunities here,” Tupper added. “There’s definite dividends in moving those cattle early.”
Tupper also discussed price reporting, praising USCA’s work on the topic.
“The challenge is trying to explain how if falls on me,” Tupper said, adding that as soon as the “captive supply cattle” topic comes up, the discussion becomes difficult.
“All the leverage is obviously in their court; We left the door open. Because of U.S. Cattlemen’s we left the door open [for more discussion],” Tupper concluded.
A producer listening in from Kansas posed the question, “Why hasn’t the beef industry implemented the same proposed price reporting as the swine and sheep industry?”
“It’s an area that needs to be carefully researched,” Sents said..
“The cattle industry is hanging on. The hog industry has given it up. The sheep industry has given it up even more than that,” Wahl added. “This vertical integration is the scariest thing in the world.”
“The next scariest thing in the world is this confinement of beef cows. It takes country to raise cattle,” he said.
“They own them from the squeal to the market there,” Varricchio said of the pork producers.
Becoming involved, and becoming team players was another theme through out the forum, along with saving the family ranch.
“To me it starts right here, with these meetings, in this room. If you’ve never been on one of these DC tours, you need to go. If we want real change, it’s going to have to be from a grass roots,” Tupper said.
“One of the things I see as a problem, as cattlemen, is we can’t get together. I’d like to see us concentrate on the 80 percent of the things we agree on. And push the 20 percent to the back,” he added.
Senior vice president of beef margin management of Tyson Foods, Kevin Hueser, spoke to the group about the changing business model, and was hit with the Country of Origin Labeling question – Why is Tyson against it?
And with a “I think we will have to agree to disagree,” opening, he pointed out some of the companies concerns with COOL.
“At the end of the day, the consumer didn’t benefit from it,” he concluded.
Following a full day of panel discussions and workshops, attendees kicked up their boots at local steakhouse, The Windmill, with a live band, auction, dinner and whiskey tastings by Trailhead Spirits. The “Producer’s Night Out” was made possible by Yellowstone County Implement.
USCA awards an annual Top Hand award, to an agricultural leader who has gone above and beyond to seek out a better industry for U.S. cattle producers. This year, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Board of Directors voted to award Northern Ag Network’s Taylor Brown with the 2017 Top Hand championship buckle.
In addition to Brown’s work, each year, USCA will award an individual (or multiple) that have impacted the industry due to their years of service and work.
“We call this award the “Champion of Change” and it can apply to any subject area. Last year it was given out to those working in the trade arena; this year we awarded it to Allan Sents for his years of dedication to the issue of Marketing and Competition within USCA,” Executive Vice President, Kelly Fogarty, said.
“Allan has served as the USCA Marketing and Competition Chair for years and has made countless trips to Washington, D.C. to speak on the issue. Allan has been asked to testify on the issue of competition in a number of events and has remained committed to seeing improvements made for the good of the industry and producers.”
“USCA would like to thank all of the Forum co-hosts, sponsors, attendees and speakers – without their support, none of this would be possible,” said Fogarty. “We designed the Cattle Producer’s Forum as a platform with which to have dynamic conversations on the future of the U.S. cattle industry. We’re focused on the road ahead for U.S. cattle producers and creating a venue where we can have constructive conversations on these issues is critical. “All of the topics discussed [at the forum] affect producers’ bottom lines. From trade to markets to diversifying your portfolio, no issue was left untouched at the Forum and attendees left the meeting having gained a broader perspective on the number of factors impacting their industry. We look forward to hosting the Cattle Producer’s Forum again in Billings, Montana, in 2018.”
The enthusiasm and support for the youngest cattle organization was evident, and the staff and board members were friendly and assessable the entire event.
“Phenomenal event- honest, unbiased information, panel discussions from extremely qualified individuals, met and visited with engaged fellow cattle Producers and a heck of a lot of fun,” said producer Curtis Martin, from North Powder, Oregon, following the event.