Nelson: IA congressional delegation helping preserve competition
R-CALF USA Region VII Director
In March R-CALF USA began working with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) on dusting off a bill he filed in 2007, a bill that would have mandated a minimal percentage of cash negotiated cattle trade. On May 12, Grassley and Montana’s John Tester (D-MT) along with cosigning Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Tina Smith (D-MN) filed the 50/14 Spot Market Bill that would mandate 50% of cattle be traded in the cash market and then slaughtered within 14 days of purchase. Recently, on July 9, U.S. House of Representatives members from Iowa Cindy Axne, Dave Loebsack, & Abby Finkenauer introduced virtually the same bill in the U.S. House. This makes five out of six of Iowa’s national elected leaders sponsoring this same legislation, aimed to improve price transparency in cattle markets. This issue is obviously an important one to Iowans.
A generation ago, Iowa lead the country in the production of hogs, with most farmers owning and raising them. But after the hog market crash in 1998, ownership of hogs became concentrated and integrated to the point that very few hogs are owned by Iowans.
Communist China owns more hogs today in Iowa than do Iowans.
Market actions in the U.S. cattle market since August 2019 has shown signs of potential integration of Iowa’s (and the nation’s) cattle industry – similar to what happened to the hog market 20 years ago.
Many in Iowa’s small towns are acutely aware what the loss of Iowa’s hog industry did to their communities, and even with the development of the ethanol and wind energy industries, most rural areas are still reeling from the loss of an independent swine industry.
Now, cattlemen across Iowa and the U.S. are under extreme financial pressure as four meat packers slaughter and process 85% of the fed cattle in the U.S., limiting access for cattlemen to competitive markets. As many of you are aware, meat prices at stores have skyrocketed in the last 9 months, yet at the same time cattlemen are actually receiving less for their cattle than they have in years. Without changes to markets, experts believe the cattle industry is very susceptible to takeover, or integration by the beef packing industry, similar to what’s already happened to hogs and poultry.
Please contact Iowa Senators Grassley and Ernst and U.S. House members Axne, Loebsack, and Finkenauer and thank them for working to protect independent cattle producers. Also, please contact your friends and relatives that live in other states and implore them to contact their Senators and Representatives, asking them to support the 50/14 Spot Market Protection Bill. Americas cattle producers contribute more dollars to the rural economy in the U.S. than any other sector of agriculture, and their survival may depend on this bill’s passage.
Thank you in advance for your help and please be healthy and safe! And of course, eat the world’s best beef often, beef that’s born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.A.!
Eric F Nelson
R-CALF USA Region VII Director
Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News