Photo credit F&T Livestock, https://www.facebook.com/PalmyraLivestock
Q: What are the biggest issues standing in the way of fair cattle markets?
The U.S. cattle industry doesn’t have a fair market because foreign cattle are being imported from countries that don’t have the same rules and regulations as we do here in the U.S. These foreign cattle are imported for pennies on the dollar and that beef is eventually sold at the same price as U.S. beef. Without adequate labeling, consumers have no idea if they are purchasing domestic or international product, and this is clearly hurting the U.S. cattle market.
At the end of this summer, killer cows were bringing anywhere from $0.80 to $0.85, right where they need to be. If you look at the market today, those prices have taken a hit. Many individuals in the cattle industry say that imported cattle and beef is needed to meet our trim requirements, but if processors had to purchase trim meat from all U.S. cattle, it would drive up our kill cow market. Additionally, if domestic and international beef were labeled accurately, consumers would know what they were buying and most likely demand U.S. beef, which would also benefit the cattle market.
Q: What do you think would be a solution to fix this issue?
For starters, the cattle industry needs MCOOL reinstated. Consumers deserve to know where their beef comes from; they deserve to know they’re either buying foreign product, or domestic product, which is a much more safe, wholesome product.
Furthermore, we have to start holding the packer’s feet to the fire and forcing them to buy more of their cattle through a sale barn.
Q: What are your thoughts on Senator Grassley’s 50/14 legislation?
A lot of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have the right intentions, but they don’t seem to have the support to get anything pushed through that would benefit small, independent producers. Long story short, the cattle market needs true price discovery, and right now we don’t have that.
Q: What are your thoughts on the USDA’s proposal to implement RFID tags across the cattle industry by 2023?
Mandatory RFID tags would ruin a significant amount of sale barns. Sale barns already have a long list of rules and regulations to adhere to, adding mandatory RFID tags to that list might be the tipping point that would cause some barns to close their doors.
The biggest fear of many cattle producers in the Palmyra area is the implementation of mandatory RFID tags; these tags would push a lot of small producers out of the business. Mandatory RFID tags are easily the biggest threat to our industry.
Q: What are your thoughts concerning the beef checkoff referendum?
The time is now for a beef checkoff referendum because the program is doing nothing for the independent cattle producer. A lot of producers don’t necessarily want the beef checkoff program to go away; they just want to know where their money is going.
Any cattle or beef imported from south or north of the border isn’t paying into the program. The checkoff needs to be promoting U.S. beef, rather than just beef.
Q: Do you think the cattle industry is in danger of becoming vertically integrated?
Coming from a former hog producer, if some kinds of changes aren’t made sooner than later within the cattle industry, we’ll see this industry turn into an integrated industry within the next five years.