Fair Cattle Markets: Ranchers rally in Omaha to ask Trump for COOL, more

Fair Cattle Markets: Ranchers rally in Omaha to ask Trump for COOL, more

News | October 4, 2019

Deanna Nelson-Licking
for Tri-State Livestock News

OCM’s list of six actions President Trump and Secretary Perdue can take to save the U.S cattle market.

Buy American.

Stop foreign meat from being labeled “Product of the USA” by ruling in favor of the OCM and American Grassfed Association petition to USDA’s Federal Safety Inspection Service.

Withdraw from the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) until such time as County of Origin Labeling (COOL) is included in the USMCA.

Reduce the amount of foreign beef imported into the United States and cease all effort to reopen the U.S to Brazilian beef.

Restore producer protection safeguards under the Packer and Stockyards Act by issuing new rules that meet or exceed the demands that are outlined by Senators Testor and Grassley along with Congresswoman Kaptur in their recent letter to the USDA. These include: (1) Clarifying the long-standing USDA position that the Packers and Stockyards does not require a producer to demonstrate harm to competition across the entire sector in order to bring a claim.

(2) Ensure the packers are not providing preferential marketing arrangements to only a select group of large livestock feeders, while excluding opportunities for smaller, independent feeders to remain profitable.

(3) Protect the rights of farmers to join together in producer associations to advocate for themselves, free from retribution.

(4) Grower payment systems (tournament) should be objective, transparent, and reward growers for their management skills, not penalize them for factors outside of their control.

5. Restore the enforcement power of the Packers and Stockyards Act by re-establishing the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) and increase funding for investigations and enforcement.

6. Implement the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations and require USDA Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Group to share the marketing data with USDA Packers and Stockyards Act Program or submit to Congress a proposal to allow for such sharing.

Over the past decades the American public has stood by and watched the destruction of the family owned poultry and pork producers. A few large processing companies controlled the price and broke everyone of the independent producers. Today the American cattle producer is standing on the brink of oblivion. If something isn’t done soon the ranching way of life will be gone and anyone raising cattle will be doing it for one of the multi-national companies who will control all beef from birth to plate. Someone should do something about it but we are always too busy ourselves, the time has come to act or be forced out of business.

This was the wake-up call issued at the Rally to Stop the Stealin’ held in Omaha, Nebraska on October 2nd in the Ramada Inn Ballroom. This event was sponsored by Organization for Competitive Markets. A variety of other groups were invited to attend and participate, incuding R-CALF USA, Family Farm Action, Farm Aid and a score of other groups and organizations. Close to 400 cattle producers and feeders from close to a dozen different states came to listen and learn. A number of OCM board members spoke stressing the need of reimplementation of Country of Origin labeling, and for the government to step in and investigate the fat cattle market manipulation and to take additional action to save the cattlemen. They are urging people to continue calling Washington, Tweeting President Trump and using social media to let their voices be heard.

Corbitt Wall, host of Feeder Flash and commercial cattle manager and livestock market analyst for DV Auction spoke in the morning to a full house. He used slides and humor as he stressed how we have lost all competitiveness in the fat cattle market.

Imploring cattle feeders to sell more cattle on the negotiated cash market rather than in formula contracts, Wall talked about his concern that the cattle industry will go the way of the hog industry due to the same vertical integration tactics being employed by the big packing companies.

Wall emphasized that for cattle producers to remain viable, changes might be necessary. “Sixty-five percent of our supply all on the same side. If you look at some of those cattle inventory reports, that says what half of the year your calves were born in, you always have more than 65 percent of them were born in the spring. It’s lopsided… We need to stop being idiots,” he joked. “You got to look at yourself in the mirror and try and think about some things you can do to change it up a little bit. We got to stop being idiots, look at ourselves and start doing things different.”

Wall acknowledged that some operations, in much of the country are not in a position weather-wise or labor-wise to calve in the fall, but drove home the point that all producers need to be educating themselves in order to capture as much profit as possible, so as to never become dependent on government assistance.

OCM board members David Wright, Mike Callicrate, Wes Shoemyer and Vaughn Meyer all spoke about the six issues that OCM has outlined as most important and in need of President Trump’s immediate attention.

Fred Stokes, the founder of OCM is a small purebred cattle producer from Mississippi. “I retired from Army Military Intelligence in 1972, having grown up on a small farm all I ever wanted to do was raise cows. At that time cattle markets were at record highs, money was easy to borrow and I borrowed a bunch. The bottom went out and they were worth 30 percent of what I paid for them. I owed more than everything I owned was worth. I worked years to get out of debt, I did it but I’m still mad.

“I’m 85 and I don’t have any skin in the game anymore but I feel that with the beef check-off we have been funding our own demise. People say, ‘Someone should do something but I’m all tied up.’ We all have to come together and put aside our differences to do something. We must preserve our independent, domestic cattle industry,” Stokes said. “We supported President Trump and now we are calling on him to fulfill his campaign promises.”

OCM board members Chris Petersen of Clear Lake, Iowa and Jonathan Buttram of Alabama related their own experiences as hog and poultry producers who were bankrupted and warned that the same fate is coming for cattle producers if things don’t change.

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, spoke at length outlining the issues faced by cattlemen. “We warn that if we lose the critical mass of those cattle producers, cattle feeders, auction yards and the other infrastructure that is needed to facilitate a competitive market, if we lose the critical mass it’s game over. Because your industry will be headed down the same path as your sister industries, the hog and poultry industries that are now completely controlled from either birth to plate or egg to plate by the multi-national meat packing industry…Our industry faces an impending crisis, a crisis that was emphasized by the Tyson Fire on August 9th… Today’s cattle prices are as much as 25 percent less than those five year averages. This is serious and something must be done to sustain the viability of our industry, while we address the broken market problem…The very worst thing this nation can do to America’s cattle producers today, is to do nothing.”

“We are going to win this for ourselves and for our children,” Bullard said in closing.

Tatum Lee of R-CALF USA gave a rousing impromptu talk urging producers to join together and fight for their way of life.

She clarified R-CALF USA’s purpose as focused solely on the profitability and viability of the US cattle producer and explained that the group is not and has never been connected with the Humane Society of the United States, as some have said.

Al Davis from OCM pushed for the government to step in and work to fix the problem. “Farm and ranch families are facing a great extinction. If our government won’t stop the stealin’ now, the family farmer or hardworking rancher will be just a dusty memory in a Louis L’amour novel.”

“We must make sure the President understands our problem and makes a move to fix it,” Stokes said. “I’m very happy with the number of people who came and thankful to Corbitt Wall, Joe Maxwell, R-CALF and the others who pulled this thing off at very short notice.”

OCM did address their relationship with the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS provides pro bono legal representation for its beef checkoff program transparency lawsuit. “Without them there would be no lawsuit,” OCM stated.

After the meeting, OCM, via social media condemned “Mr. Corbitt Wall’s ignorant and bigoted comments” at the rally – apparently referring to jokes made during his presentation. Many meeting-goers took to social media to defend Wall and show appreciation for the information he shared.

OCM Board member Vaughn Meyer, a South Dakota Angus and Red Angus breeder, said he hopes this is just the beginning of a new energy and cooperative mentality for the cattle production and feeding sector.

“It was a good rally, the momentum is building. It was a start to fixing our problems and we’re going to continue to fight for improved competition and profitability for the U.S. cattle producer,” he said.