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Western Livestock Journal Nov 6, 2020




More thrashing


The ink was hardly dry on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Taskforce’s Subcommittee framework for boosting fed negotiated cash marketing when a long list of associations—mostly but not all cow-calf and stocker operators—went around the framework and straight to Congress.


Some 17 cattlemen’s groups signed a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and House Agricultural Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), asking for hearings on a bill introduced by Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R).


The bill called for a contracts library, more marketing information and within one year, the “secretary shall establish regional mandatory minimums,” established by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, of the “quantity of cattle purchased for slaughter by a packer in that region each slaughter week, the minimum percentage of such cattle that is required to be purchased through negotiated cash purchases or negotiated grid purchases…” The requirements would apply to federally inspected plants processing as few as 482 head/day.


Of the associations signing, only four—Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota—would have a substantial contingent of cattlemen who regularly sell fed cattle directly to a packer. Is there a single member of Congress who has sold to packers directly?


Groups petitioning Congress are often asking Congress to do something to someone else. Yes, cow-calf and stocker operators are part of the industry and fed cattle marketing indirectly affects them. But they are asking Congress to do something to someone else—feeders and packers.


The associations explained that the industry was recovering from two “black swan” events: the Tyson fire in August of 2019 and the COVID-19 processing bottlenecks. The news release said,


“This legislation would assist producers as they fight to recover from residual consequences and provide long-term structural changes to the cattle markets.”


In one sentence, these groups pointed out a problem with how they were proceeding. The Tyson fire and the COVID-19 crisis were in the “acts of God” category. You can go to church and pray something like that doesn’t happen, but building in the industry redundancy to make such things not a problem are prohibitively expensive. The industry had never seen anything like either and we may never again...


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