At a rally of cattlemen raising their voices against low cattle prices and excessive profits by beef packers, the biggest cheers and applause came when it was suggested President Donald Trump fire Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue.
At Wednesday’s “Rally to Stop the Stealin” in Omaha, coordinated by the Organization for Competitive Markets, nearly 400 cattlemen heard various speakers describe events that have damaged America’s cattle markets.
Corbitt Wall, whose Feeder Flash appears daily online and who is a former Agricultural Marketing Service employee reporting cattle prices, said the biggest issue with current markets is that formula sales “is eating up our trade.”
“Is there a competitive market for feeder cattle,” Wall asked? After a pause, he said, “Yes, of course there is. Feeder cattle are traded daily with bidders at sales across the country.”
Wall next asked, “Is there a competitive market for fed cattle?” Attendees answered with a resounding “No.”
“You are at the mercy of packers,” Wall said. “Packers will wait you out – cowboys can’t compete with packers (when most of their needs are filled with formula cattle).”
OCM board member Mike Callicrate told cattlemen they are “buying (feeder cattle) in a more competitive market than you are selling into. That doesn’t work.”
Other speakers suggested that the federal government must take action to “breakup” the Big Four packers. However, OCM board member Fred Stokes suggested such a breakup would be difficult because of Ag Secretary Perdue’s actions.
“What’s the first thing (Perdue) did? He reorganized the USDA and abolished the agency that was supposed to administer the Packers & Stockyards Act,” Stokes said. “He needs to go.”
Anti-Perdue sentiments were high just a day after the Ag Secretary told reporters at the World Dairy Expo, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
The main objective of the rally, however, was to gain the attention of President Trump. Attendees were encouraged to send messages to the President’s Twitter account with the hashtag #FairCattleMarkets.
“There are six actions President Trump can take today to save the U.S. cattle market,” said Vaughn Meyer, OCM vice president. He listed the following:
- Stop foreign meat from being labeled “Product of U.S.A.” by ruling in favor of the OCM and American Grassfed Association petition to USDA’s Federal Safety Inspection Service.
- Withdraw the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) until such time as Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is included in the USMCA.
- Reduce the amount of foreign beef imported into the United States and cease all efforts to reopen the U.S. to Brazilian beef.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Protect the rights of farmers to join together in producer associations to advocate for themselves, free from retribution.
- Grower payment systems (tournament) should be objective, transparent, and reward growers for their management skills, not penalize them for factors outside of their control.
- 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.
- 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.