Over 100 Mississippi Farmers and Ranchers Gather to Reclaim a Fair Food System
The meeting was hosted by the Jasper County Farm Bureau with presentations by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). OCM’s mission is to ensure the marketplace works for everyone – especially the farmer and the consumer.
In the name of globalization, the United States government has allowed large multi-national corporations to take control of the market allowing as few as four corporations to control over 50% of the market. This heavy concentration prevents the market from working competitively and fairly. Rather, it allows the largest corporations to set prices at both ends of the food chain; below market prices for the farmer and above market prices for the retail consumer.
“With Mississippi losing 75% of their cattle producers since I got into the business, we cannot endure another drawdown due to this market crash; no one is going to just give us back a fair and open market,” stated OCM board member, Fred Stokes. “This meeting is just the start. To strengthen our efforts, OCM plans to have several meetings across the United States. OCM believes doing nothing is simply not an option unless we want the American cowboy to become extinct and Brazil to become our beef provider.”
Fred Stokes opened the presentation by outlining how the market has been hijacked and how it is organizations bearing farmers’ or ranchers’ names that are fronting for the multi-national corporations and packers. “With National Cattlemen’s Beef Association receiving the lion’s share of our beef checkoff funds and then working to end Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), we are simply funding our own demise,” he concluded.
Research shows a correlation between Congress’s repeal of COOL and this market downturn.
Through the advancement of their anti-Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) efforts and other anti-independent family farm policies, NCBA has played a major role in this market crash. Calf prices are half of what they were when COOL was in place. NCBA lobbied and litigated to abolish COOL on behalf of packers so that cheap imported South American beef could be substituted for US beef without notice. Unbiased observers need only look at what has happened to cattle prices here at home.
Past President of OCM Mike Callicrate’s presentation clearly established that the U.S. cattle producer’s share of the retail beef price has dwindled from 70% in the 1970’s to a low of only 40% today. “With so few packers left in the U.S., the price U.S. cattle producers are paid is dictated by the packer and not the marketplace,” explained Callicrate. “While the price cattle producers are paid has taken a dive to the bottom, consumers have not seen the cost of feeding their families drop. What more evidence do we need to know the marketplace is rigged and severely broken?”
OCM outlined the actions the group is pursuing to restore justice for the American farmer and rancher:
• To stop NCBA’s illegal influence and to get to the truth on how U.S. cattle producers’ beef checkoff funds are being spent, OCM is pursuing an ongoing Freedom of Information complaint in federal district court.
• Following a yearlong effort, OCM has secured two U.S. Senators’ support to end checkoff abuses. Senator Lee (R) Utah has filed SB 3200, which would make all checkoff programs voluntary, and Senator Booker (D) New Jersey has joined Senator Lee in filing SB 3201, which if adopted would provide meaningful reform to all checkoff programs, including banning lobbying organizations such as NCBA from receiving any checkoff funds, providing further transparency and strengthening the market disparagement and anti-competitive provisions within current law.
• OCM has begun a research project to outline the actions that need to be taken to end the heavy market concentration of both packers and retailers. They are encouraged by recent hearings which have been held in Washington DC on this topic.
• Through its national collaboration, OCM is pushing for changes in the Packers and Stockyards Act, which would end packers’ predatory practices in the market and would provide meaningful protection for contract growers.
At the conclusion of the meeting, OCM president Mike Weaver asked every farmer to join the fight to ensure economic justice for independent farmers and ranchers. “We need your help, and we can’t do it alone,” stated Weaver. “If we are going to take on the world’s largest corporations, all independent farmers and ranchers must be organized and speaking as one voice.”