AUDIO: Cattle Rancher Austin Snedden explains how the USDA has contributed to packer consolidation

by | Nov 17, 2020 | 0 comments

Photo Credit Snedden Ranch, https://www.facebook.com/Snedden-Ranch-458471454314321 

 

Q: What do you think are the major issues standing in the way of fair cattle markets? 

Packer consolidation is the biggest issue standing in the way of fair cattle markets; they control 80 percent of the fat cattle kill, which inhibits the industry from having adequate competition.  

USDA has contributed to packer consolidation with their regulations that hinder new packers from entering the business and competing.  

Packers have done a fantastic job of getting folks in the USDA or in positions where they have the power to supposedly speak on behalf of cattlemen, which has caused the USDA to protect the power that the packers hold.  

 

Q: What do you think would be a viable solution that could be implemented to solve this issue? 

This is an issue of inaccurate labeling by USDA. Product of USA beef should only apply to cattle born, raised, and slaughtered here in the U.S. MCOOL needs to be mandatory for two reasons. First off, in terms of safety, U.S. cattle producers are raising the highest quality, safest product in the world. Secondly, MCOOL is needed to keep foreign players from unloading tons of product on our industry and using our brand, product of USA, to affect our markets. 

 

Q: How should the cattle industry increase competition within our markets? What are your thoughts on Senator Grassley’s 50/14 legislation? 

Increased competition within the cattle market starts with more people being able to get into the meatpacking business. As an industry, we need to address the specific USDA regulations that are preventing investors, cattle producers and anyone else from entering the packing sector. 

As for the 50/14 legislation, no matter what level of negotiated cash trade is mandated, I’m not sure if it will actually create more competition in the long run. At the end of the day the industry still has the primary four packers that are making the bids and they will find a way to manipulate what they are paying for fat cattle. 

Another concern with Grassley’s legislation is that it will only apply to domestic fat cattle; any imported boxed beef won’t be subject to this law.  

 

Q: What are your thoughts on USDA’s proposal to implement RFID tags across the industry by 2023? 

This proposal by the USDA is extremely ironic because they are okay with importing beef from Brazil who has confirmed FMD and they claim we don’t need MCOOL. At the same time, USDA wants individual animal identification on every animal from every premise in the U.S. The irony of this situation is laughable.  

 

Q: What are your thoughts concerning the petition circulating to bring about a beef checkoff referendum? 

The beef checkoff referendum is a great opportunity for cattle producers who are paying a significant amount of money into the program each year to make their voices heard  

NCBA is the largest contractor of the checkoff and less than 4 percent of cattle producers are members of the organization, but all cattle producers are required to pay the checkoff. A large majority of cattle producers are funding an organization through their checkoff dollars that they don’t want to be a part of; they are basically paying mandatory union dues. 

 

Q: Do you think the cattle industry is in danger of becoming vertically integrated?  

Absolutely. All we have to do is look at the chicken and hog producers and see the road they’ve gone down. When you look back at history, you see the cattle industry is right where they were before vertical integration overtook those industries. 

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