AUDIO: Cattle and sheep rancher Mike Hollenbeck speaks about beef checkoff referendum

by | Nov 3, 2020 | 0 comments

Photo Credit: Hollenbeck Ranch,


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

The cattle industry needs something of substance that makes packers compete, currently we have no mechanism to make them compete like a free market system should. When packers acquire captive supply cattle, they don’t have to go out and bid on cattle and this drives the market down because the smaller players can’t absorb the volume. 


Q: What solution do you think could be implemented to fix this issue? 

The cattle industry needs to give the 50/14 legislation chance. This legislation would make our cash market transparent. If producers are able to be profitable from this transparency, this change is needed in our markets, but if producers aren’t able to get profitable, then we all need to look at vertical integration as our friend, not our enemy.   


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

The sheep industry has a Scrapie program that requires mandatory identification tags. The program doesn’t work because it’s hard to police, the tags fall out and it isn’t always followed. The same thing will happen in the cattle industry, and that’s mandatory RFID tags aren’t needed. The push to implement RFID tags is government overreach. Implementing the tags will only change perception; it isn’t going to change the quality of the product. 


Q: What are your thoughts concerning beef and cattle imports? 

If the cattle industry had MCOOL, consumers would have the ability to drive whether or not we need imports, but we don’t have MCOOL, so we continue to sneak imports in and label them as domestic product. This situation inhibits the consumer from influencing the market. 


Q: What made your family decide to purchase a small packing facility? 

My son had always had interest in that sector of the business and we saw that the consumer wasn’t getting what they wanted. Also, as a producer, we were up against a bottleneck of cattle that we couldn’t get slaughtered and were 30 days overfed. We saw this opportunity as a way to overcome these challenges and capitalize on the profits of the beef business. 


Q: What are your thoughts on the petition for a beef checkoff referendum? 

The beef checkoff has been turned into a political football and it needs to be revisited and held accountable with a vote.  

There is a significant push in cow calf country for this referendum. Not everyone that signs the petition is against the program, they just feel the checkoff needs to be revisited.  


Q: Any closing statements? 

Due to Covid-19, consumer preferences have changed. This is going to trickle down to the cattle industryPackaging and merchandising will need to evolve to fit consumer’s new buying habits. Consumers are more vigilant about how they’re spending their dollars; they’re also very aware of where their food is coming from. This heightened awareness will push beef towards MCOOL, which will give consumers a choice and the ability to drive the market. 


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How did we get here?

From the Holcomb Tyson fire to COVID-19;
Click to see a timeline of events that have brought to light the profit and pricing disparity in cattle markets.


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