AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is dedicated to protecting Iowa’s beef business. Over the past two years, we’ve made a concerted effort to respond to extreme market disruptions that impact the legacies of Iowa cattlemen and our rural communities. We’ve elevated priorities of our members by:
- Calling for concurrent investigations of meatpackers by USDA and the DOJ;
- Leading the introduction of legislation to provide more price discovery to the fed cattle market; and
- Pioneering thought and discussion regarding reportable information to the entire beef supply chain through Livestock Mandatory Reporting.
Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing to discuss the vulnerabilities within the food supply chain. The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association strongly urged committee members to include a producer witness on the panel. Jon Schaben, an Iowa Cattlemen’s Association member-leader and owner of Dunlap Livestock Auction, in Dunlap, Iowa, and West Point Livestock, in West Point, Neb., testified on behalf of independent cattlemen.
Schaben kicked off the hearing by drawing attention to primary challenges in the cattle industry. Key areas of focus included: lack of price discovery and transparency, meatpacking concentration and competition, captive supply, and price manipulation and exercise of market power.
“Most recently, we’ve seen live values of cattle in the $1,500 to $1,700 range, but carcass values in the $2,500 to $2,700 range, a $1,000 difference between what the producer is getting and the end product coming out. If we process more than half a million cattle a week in the fed cattle industry, that is half a billion dollars a week that is eroded out of our rural economy. If we can bring a functioning cattle market back and bring the spread narrow down, that’s a way we can infuse more cash into our rural sector,” Schaben says.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) once again urged the Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, and Federal Trade Commission to aggressively police anticompetitive activity, as concerns remain surrounding packers making profits and producers struggling to break even. “As the first link in our food supply chain, farmers and ranchers assume incredible risk for each crop and animal raised. Their livelihoods depend on receiving a fair price,” Senator Grassley says.
“Even before the pandemic, farmers and ranchers witnessed the prices of their cattle fall while the price of boxed beef from the processor increased. The market is clearly not working fairly when demand is extraordinarily strong and supply, at the same time, is strong.”
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association recognizes the importance of producer involvement in supply chain discussions. Market disruptions pose risks to our food supply, threaten producer livelihood, and create serious concern for rural communities.
We appreciate the attention the Senate Judiciary Committee has provided on this matter. We expect members to direct the Department of Justice to provide a swift update regarding the ongoing antitrust investigation of the four largest meatpackers.
— Iowa Cattlemen’s Association
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