Fort Pierre Livestock shared their business site on Friday, May 18, with R-CALF USA and the South Dakota Stock Growers to host J. Dudley Butler, the former administrator for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.
The theme of the presentation was The Future of Competition in the U.S. Livestock Industry.
Bill Bullard, CEO for R-CALF USA, reported that it was 90 years ago that Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) to ensure that no markets could be taken away. The law was implemented to make sure feeder and packer markets remain competitive.
Butler, a Mississippi farmer and appointee of President Barack Obama, left his administrative position in Washington when the GIPSA rule failed to be funded and he was needed back at the family farm. He said he felt he could better carry his message as a private citizen.
Butler emphasized that the National Cattlemen's beef Association (NCBA) is carrying water for the meat packers. The leadership for NCBA, not the NCBA membership, with access to check-off dollars is siding with the meat packing industry on regulatory issues, according to Butler, along with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) leadership. The organizations helped form the Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an organization used to sell industrialized agriculture, he said.
This vertically integrated plan is beginning to take shape as independent poultry and pork producers have lost all competitiveness for their markets, he said. As contract growers, these families have very limited rights to any contract complaints.
Butler noted that one poultry grower wanted to see his chickens weighed, and his contract was terminated.
Mandatory Price Reporting indicated recently where there were no independently raised live hog prices to be reported on a particular day as all hogs being marketed were under contract marketing.
As cow calf producers, we need to be very vigilant as to the importance of continued competitive marketing for the feeder finisher to the packer. The time will come when genetics
from a bull must be used to market cattle through the production feeding chain.
The political side of the equation found Butler saying that voters should be very careful how one votes and watch out for those candidates who are very supportive of corporations.
Some judges have never met a corporation they didn't like, Butler said. We as voters don't need any more politicians in Washington, we need statesmen.
When Butler came to Washington there was a waiting time of at least 1,000 days for USDA to pursue producer injury cases. When Butler left that time frame was down to 90 days.
Under the original PSA it was mandated that any producer must be paid within one full working day for product sold.
Butler encouraged producers to join and support R-CALF USA and state organizations like the South Dakota Stock Growers Association and call members of Congress and ask them to support the GIPSA Rule and Packer Ban as introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley R-Iowa and Sen. Kent Conrad D-N.D.
The most bankrupt humiliating situation for any producer-grower is standing on the steps of a county courthouse and having their property sold. When any organization or entity comes to Washington with money, they are somebody. Rural producers cannot compete with the American Meat Institute, one of the most effective lobbying groups in Washington against legislation that would protect independent producers from marketing fraud, Butler pointed out.
There is strength in producer numbers, and, with some monetary support, independent producers could have a definite influence with legislation, he said.
Butler concluded by saying that only .7 of 1 one percent of the U.S. population makes a living from the farm, and with the move toward vertical integration by multi-national companies like JBS, the world's largest meat packer, producers will become share croppers, and the consumer will be held hostage to what they are willing to pay for food at the supermarket.
Butler also asked producers to learn to work with animal welfare groups (not animal rights) on the choice of food to be eaten and what production health supplements will be used.
Robert Thullner is a Herreid, S.D., farmer and rancher who is active in R-CALF USA.
See Marketing, Page 8F