I know who you are. You’re one of those guys who’s always trying to do a better job of managing your cattle operation. You’re careful with your range, Johnny-on-the-spot with your wormers and fly control, good about watching winter nutrition, studious about genetics and willing to pay $5,000 for a bull when you could get five bulls for that at the sale barn.
If that’s the way you want to run your deal, that’s fine. But maybe it’s not how I want to live my life, thank you. Maybe I’m not the most attentive manager (as if that’s all that matters in life). I don’t always get around to everything when I should. But I’m not just here for the money. I’m here for the quality of life. How fair is it that I have to compete with type A money-grubbers like you?
This check isn’t fair. Sure, my calf crop is below-average. I have fewer calves to sell and they don’t weigh as much as those delivered by you better managers. So every year, you get more money than I do. Where’s the fairness in that?
What I’d like to see is the federal government mandate that people pay me more for calves than they pay you for your bigger calf crop. I forsee a backwards scale that goes something like this:
Say calves are worth $1 per lb. If I have a 70% calf crop and they weigh 500 lb., I get only $35,000, while you, with your attention to detail, have a 100% calf crop that weighs 700 lb. You get $70,000.
Do you see how unfair that is? Year after year, you get more and I get less. If this goes on, I’m going to be driven out of business! In fact, the last 40 years, 800,000 farmers and ranchers have been driven out of business by people like you.
We need a “more level playing field.” We need this to be more “fair and equitable.” Happily, we’ve got just the government to help.
Let’s get GIPSA to require buyers to pay for cattle on a sliding scale. All it takes is a rule. And some paperwork—buyers will have to keep records on who they pay what, and you and I will have to document how big our calf crop was and what they weighed.
But that’s just record keeping. No worries!
Oops, I picked out the wrong management input there. What I meant to do is ask GIPSA to level the playing field on the way cattle are marketed, not the way they’re grown. I meant to endorse the Obama administration’s plan for “restoring” competitiveness and eliminating favoritism and discrimination in the cattle market by having trial lawyers and urban-based juries decide what is and is not a fair way to sell cattle.
Instead of making everyone pay the same per head, let’s require everyone to market cattle the same way and require buyers to offer everybody—from the seller who is a longtime, reliable and reputable supplier to the trader who is just off his latest cease-and-desist order—the same deal.
Yes, that’s much fairer. It levels the playing field, like Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder promise. It will keep the good marketers from putting the poor marketers out of business.
We may give up some efficiencies, reduce incentives for herd improvement and weaken consumer price signals still more. But that seems a fair price to pay to protect cattle producers who don’t want to try new stuff, doesn’t it?
- November 2010