USDA Secretary can make the difference, but will he?
No matter whether you call yourself a farmer or a rancher; no matter if you raise cattle, hogs, chickens or row crops; whether you are a citizen-consumer who cares where your food comes from, you should be raising hell and demanding a just and fair market for all.
Independent American hog farmers selling into an open market are a thing of the past with over 90 percent of them having been driven out of business in the past few decades. 71 percent of contract poultry growers are living below the federal poverty level. Corn and soybean producers are being forced to live on government handouts while Secretary Perdue responds by calling them whiners. If action is not taken immediately, there is not going to be an independent American farmer left standing in the field.
Many cattle producers are preparing to live through one of the worst cattle markets on record with prices as bad as it was for hog farmers in 1998 when the hog market went to eight cents a pound. The heavy hand of transnational monopolies is setting the stage to “chickenize” the cattle industry forcing independent cattle producers out of business just like what happened to hog farmers in 1998.
With cattle prices falling to just below a dollar and retail prices continuing to hold or inch upward, cattle producers are losing their fair share of the wealth they build for the beef industry. Organization for Competitive Markets’ (OCM) analysis demonstrates cattle producers’ share of the retail grocery dollar for beef is at a miserable 38.5%. This is down from 70% in 1970.
Six Actions Sonny Perdue Can Take Today to Save the U.S. Cattle Market
So often we hear it will take an act of Congress to fix the mess agriculture and livestock producers are facing. While Congress needs to wake up and take action to ensure open, fair, transparent markets for every producer, there is something United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue and the Trump Administration can do, should do and must do TODAY on behalf of independent family agriculture.
1. Restore producer protection safeguards under the Packers and Stockyards Act by issuing new rules that meet or exceed the demands that are outlined by Senators Tester and Grassley along with Congresswoman Kaptur in their recent letter to USDA:
a. Clarify the long-standing USDA position that the Packers and Stockyards Act does not require a producer to demonstrate harm to competition across the entire sector in order to bring a claim.
b. Ensure 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.
c. Protect the rights of farmers to join together in producer associations to advocate for themselves, free from retribution.
d. Grower payment systems (tournament) should be objective, transparent, and reward growers for their management skills, not penalize them for factors outside of their control.
2. 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.
3. Stop foreign meat from being labeled “Product of U.S.A.” by taking up the OCM and American Grassfed Association petition to USDA’s Federal Safety Inspection Service, and rule favorably on behalf of America’s family farmers.
4. Withdraw the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) until such time as Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is included in the USMCA.
5. Reduce the amount of foreign beef imported into the United States and cease all efforts to reopen the U.S. to Brazilian beef.
6. Implement the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations and require USDA Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Group to share marketing data with USDA Packers and Stockyards Act Program or submit to Congress a proposal to allow for such sharing.
Taking these six actions today will stabilize and move the market in the right direction for cattle producers and it would do so immediately without having to wait for an act of Congress. USDA Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration have the power to take these six actions. Let’s not let them off the hook; let’s raise a little Hell!