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Last week, Jon Hill, president of our Rio Blanco Stockgrowers Association, in a letter to the editor on these pages, challenged “every rancher — to join the association,” in order, he suggested, to have more political clout. This is a noble call with which I wholeheartedly agree.
He went beyond this, however, in making statements I know were not approved by the organization. He insulted the federal administration in its attempts to correct our economy and to improve and protect the quality of our lifeblood here in the West — water, especially in the face of intense energy resource development. He extended these insults to state government and the governor.
Hill also claimed Congress is doing its best “to force us into serfdom.” Further, again to improve political numbers, he urged the county’s ranchers to join the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Ironically, these two organizations support policies that are, in fact, heading U.S. live cattle producers toward the “serfdom” Hill fears.
NCBA and its affiliate, the CCA, support entirely open, unfettered borders with Canada for the movement of beef and live cattle, despite the BSE-affected status (Mad Cow Disease) of the Canadian cow herd and their feeding regimes. At this year’s National Western Stock Show, leadership of both the CCA and NCBA, at the show’s Canada-U.S. cattle industry roundtable, sided with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, supporting allowing cattle born and raised in Canada, but fed and/or processed in the U.S., being eligible for a U.S. Country of Origin Label (Current law requires that “product of U.S.” be born, raised and processed in the U.S.) Both of these organizations promote a North American cattle industry over the U.S. cattle industry.
The policies of NCBA and CCA also support the control of price on the cash market by big packers, allowing them to own and/or control their supply chain through preferential treatment of certain feeders via forwarding contracts, i.e., captive supply. Now that three or four major packers do approximately 85 percent of the steer and heifer processing in the U.S., they are able to use their monopolistic power to manipulate prices paid to live cattle producers. This can be changed.
The Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), passed in 1921, forbids “undue and unreasonable preference or advantage” in the action of the packers. After 89 years of careful vigilance by the packers and their lackeys, however, the terms “undue preference or advantage” have never been defined in rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, thus allowing the enforcement of this aspect of the 1921 law to be virtually non-existent. The very administration that Hill castigates is now on the verge of issuing rules that will define these terms and make other portions of the PSA enforceable as well, to the benefit of the independent producer.
To make an otherwise long story short, Rio Blanco County ranchers should reject the policies of CCA and NCBA, and become members, if they’re not already, of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF, USA) at www.r-calfusa.com and/or our Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association (CICA) at www.coloica.com, as these two outfits are working hard to overcome the “chickenization” of the cattle business about which Mr. Hill is so concerned.
I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it to our county stockgrowers meeting and dinner on Saturday.
Reed Kelley, member,
Rio Blanco Stockgrowers Association