Farm News & Views - June 28, 2022
Last week, cattle producers got some attention in Washington. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed two bills on Wednesday dealing with the regulation of the cattle industry. The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act and the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act were approved by voice votes. The price discovery bill calls for the USDA to divide the nation into marketing regions and set a minimum level of purchases that must be made on the spot market, through a negotiated grid, at a stockyard, or through trading systems with multiple buyers and sellers. The meat investigator bill would create a new office, reporting directly to the agriculture secretary, with the task of enforcing competition law. But the legislation already has some head wind coming from the Senate Agriculture Committee and from livestock and farm-related organizations. While producers agree that the current marketing system isn’t working, a vision of a large sailing ship being directed by a group of helmsmen who can’t agree on where they’re going, attempting to steer the ship in a dozen different directions comes to mind. National Cattleman’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane stated that “Cattlemen and women deserve the freedom to market their cattle in whatever way they want.” While state chapters of the American Farm Bureau Federation reportedly opposed the bills, cattleman in some states are divided on what to do about issues concerning competition in markets and insuring that anticompetitive behavior by meat packers is curtailed. Hopefully, some rational rules will come from this legislation.
Earlier this month, I mentioned that when the government opens its checkbook, a deluge of cash often flows out. The Environmental Working Group, an activist organization specializing in research about agricultural subsides and other environmental issues, recently reported that the government paid a record $41.6 billion in a variety of subsidies to farmers in 2020, double the amount they received in 2018, and it calculated that farmers received a combined $91.6 billion in 2018, 2019, and 2020 from crop insurance, traditional crop supports, trade war assistance, and pandemic relief. They also contend that payments often compensated farmers for the same decrease in crop prices, which flowed to the largest subsidy recipients. For example, the organization found that the top 10% of recipients of the Market Facilitation Program, which was created to offset Trump’s trade war with China, received almost 60%of that program’s funding in 2018 and 2019 because the subsidies were linked to a farm’s production, so the largest operators got the most money.
Reintroduction of wolves in Colorado is a controversial topic with livestock producers in Colorado. So here is a story about a migrating wolf pack that have been harassing and killing Don Gittleson’s cattle on his ranch near Waldren in north central Colorado over the past six months. Gittleson and his ranch hands patrolled the area where cattle were wintering in pickups, using the truck lights and horns to drive the wolves off. Gittleson has also tried using wild burros, lights and cracker shells, but even with these methods, he lost six head of cattle since last December. The wolves were wary of vehicles only for about a month after patrols were started, so he believes that the non-lethal hazing methods, aren’t working because the wolves continue come close to the cattle even when range riders are present.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
Have a good 4th of July holiday.