Meyer: THANKS Senator Rounds; NO THANKS Compromise Bill
Upon living much of the past century under monopolistic dominance and rural destruction by the unchecked corporate greed of our nation’s meat packing industry, I thank Senator Mike Rounds (R-S Dak) for his courage to question the merit of Senator Fischer and colleague’s Senate Bill 3229, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2021, known as the Fischer-Grassley compromise bill. Senator Rounds, a true champion for restoring fair markets for cattlemen, has also co-sponsored several other significant bills for restoring cattle producer market transparency, including Senator Grassley’s S. 949, “Spot Market Bill.”
S. 949 would require packers to purchase a minimum of 50% of weekly slaughter volume through cash spot market sales with a known base price and slaughter delivery within 14 days. Immediately packer voiced organizations responded with an imprecise 30% level assumed by the packer minions as more realistic. Consequently sides were drawn and again cattle producers were left hanging with continued trivial markets. However, there remained rumors of compromise which months later transcended as the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2021, (S. 3229).
The S. 3229 is being hyped as the best option for cattlemen with that “take it or leave it” assertiveness so what does the bill contain for cattlemen? Some of the questionable ingredients which Senator Rounds refers to are:
1. Based upon 18 month averages, are there safeguards establishing a floor on minimum cash trade level at each packing plant?
2. No regions cash minimum level may be higher than 3 times the lowest regions level; does this set precedence for lowering cash trade levels in Iowa and Nebraska?
3. Nine of the 18 plants lie outside mandatory regions; is there a plan for inclusion of these 9 packing plants?
These are only 3 of the ambiguities that cattlemen should be concerned with as time is expiring quickly for many drought and inflation stricken producers. Many independent producers and feeders cannot wait 18-24 months for the Secretary of Ag, in consultation with his Chief Economist and with public comment, to determine their fate.
Since the 1981 repeal of the Packer Consent Decree cattlemen have lost prominence within USDA marketing policy and are over shadowed by big corporate lobbying efforts, often financed with our own checkoff money. So with time of the essence and the dwindling past USDA enforcement of transparent markets, cattlemen should ask themselves, “Do we need the prompt immediate 50% market incentive of S.949 or do we meander through the hoops of the minimal S. 3229 packer compromise, all the while begging for a few more crumbs?”
“Mandatory” is a word packers and their fabricated cattle organization minions despise as it encompasses the fear of losing inroads to USDA along with loss of producer and consumer domination. Their market totalitarianism has allowed huge profit taking, with this past January, JBS reporting a net revenue increase of 25.8% over 2020 and Tyson bragging 19.1% operating margins verses 13.2% in 2020. All the while American consumer meat counter prices increased 7.8% in just the month of January alone.
Consumers and producers are being subjected to the big global meat processors stranglehold on our businesses, diets and billfolds. In the past USDA condoned producer profit stealing as the standard for consumer economic efficiencies however lately consumer price indexes have shown otherwise.
Like Senator Rounds, producers need to question the unapplied edicts of S.3229 and likewise the intent of the endorsing organizations who signed on before the final draft was introduced. Have these organizations and congressional constituents sold out the very people and industry they proclaim to represent?
I urge producers to support the S.949 Spot Market Bill as it is synonymous with having a life line thrown overboard verses a pair of swimming fins. Livestock producers and their families have endured a century of packer aggression and deserve better. Please call your senators (202-224-3121) and stress the urgent need for S.949. Let those Senators know that 50% is a compromise and 50% of nothing (S.3229) is nothing! Call Secretary Vilsack (202-720-2791) and remind him that cattle producers are invaluable for food security and we are the largest source of true wealth of this nation. I urge cattlemen and women to join and participate in a sincere producer organization that relies on their members to establish policy rather than mirage organizations that suck their revenues from your beef checkoff.
Lastly, like our South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds, be assertive and demand answers to your future!
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Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the May 14, 2022, edition of Tri-State Livestock News