Cattle market crash: saving American family farms

By Candace Barnette Posted: Tue 4:53 PM, Nov 29, 2016 Updated: Tue 7:23 PM, Nov 29, 2016

KEMPER CO., Miss. (WTOK) – It’s a crisis for the American family farmer.

“Rural America is slowly dying,” local cattleman Fred Stokes says.

Stokes has seen, firsthand, the effects that big corporations have had on farms and ranches. And it’s not just the farmers who are affected. Stokes says the repeal of Country of Origin Labeling mandates often mean you, the consumer, are paying more for cheaper beef that could be from anywhere – countries like Brazil have greatly increased production and exports.

“And that’s a region of the world that still has foot and mouth disease, a very contagious and deadly disease,” Stokes says.

Many small towns who thrived on agriculture haven’t been able to survive the market crash.

“We watch this money deteriorate out of our rural economy, destroying our way of life in rural America, and right here in Mississippi is a prime example,” Joe Maxwell with the Organization for Competitive Markets says.

So what does it take to fight this problem?

“One hand you fight the big guns on the other side of this debate,” Stokes says. “On the other hand, you fight apathy.”

Stokes says the first step should be re-instating Country of Origin Labeling. Without it, farmers say the future is grim.

“It’s all going to be controlled by big corporations instead of the farmers that should be doing it,” OCM president Mike Weaver says.

The next step, resurrecting anti-trust laws. Think Theodore Roosevelt in the late 1800s.

“Read the history book. This is not the first time this country has seen a power grab by large corporations,” Maxwell says.

“If they are the market, and they own their own cattle, they don’t have to bid for my cattle,” Stokes explains.

And finally, farmers say they want a fair and balanced trade agreement.

“With this new administration we need a fair opportunity for fair markets,” Maxwell says.

Many have hope in this incoming administration, but they say there’s plenty of work left to put these problems behind them.

See the video.

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Over 100 Mississippi Farmers and Ranchers Gather to Reclaim a Fair Food System

published November 16, 2016 on OCM

Cattle Producers Mad as Hell and Not Gonna Take It Anymore


BAY SPRINGS, MS – Yesterday evening, over 100 farmers and ranchers gathered in Bay Springs, Mississippi to say “enough is enough.” With this year’s calf prices dropping to about half of what they were a year ago and putting Mississippi cattle producers’ viability in question, cattle producers learned of actions they can take to win back a free and just market to regain their fair share of the retail beef prices.

The meeting was hosted by the Jasper County Farm Bureau with presentations by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). OCM’s mission is to ensure the marketplace works for everyone – especially the farmer and the consumer.

In the name of globalization, the United States government has allowed large multi-national corporations to take control of the market allowing as few as four corporations to control over 50% of the market. This heavy concentration prevents the market from working competitively and fairly. Rather, it allows the largest corporations to set prices at both ends of the food chain; below market prices for the farmer and above market prices for the retail consumer.

“With Mississippi losing 75% of their cattle producers since I got into the business, we cannot endure another drawdown due to this market crash; no one is going to just give us back a fair and open market,” stated OCM board member, Fred Stokes. “This meeting is just the start. To strengthen our efforts, OCM plans to have several meetings across the United States. OCM believes doing nothing is simply not an option unless we want the American cowboy to become extinct and Brazil to become our beef provider.”

Fred Stokes opened the presentation by outlining how the market has been hijacked and how it is organizations bearing farmers’ or ranchers’ names that are fronting for the multi-national corporations and packers. “With National Cattlemen’s Beef Association receiving the lion’s share of our beef checkoff funds and then working to end Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), we are simply funding our own demise,” he concluded.

Steaks served at Jasper County meeting cost the same as last year, while local calves are selling at prices one-half of a year ago.

Steaks served at Jasper County meeting cost the same as last year, while local calves are selling at prices one-half of a year ago.

Research shows a correlation between Congress’s repeal of COOL and this market downturn.
Through the advancement of their anti-Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) efforts and other anti-independent family farm policies, NCBA has played a major role in this market crash. Calf prices are half of what they were when COOL was in place. NCBA lobbied and litigated to abolish COOL on behalf of packers so that cheap imported South American beef could be substituted for US beef without notice. Unbiased observers need only look at what has happened to cattle prices here at home.

Past President of OCM Mike Callicrate’s presentation clearly established that the U.S. cattle producer’s share of the retail beef price has dwindled from 70% in the 1970’s to a low of only 40% today. “With so few packers left in the U.S., the price U.S. cattle producers are paid is dictated by the packer and not the marketplace,” explained Callicrate. “While the price cattle producers are paid has taken a dive to the bottom, consumers have not seen the cost of feeding their families drop. What more evidence do we need to know the marketplace is rigged and severely broken?”

OCM outlined the actions the group is pursuing to restore justice for the American farmer and rancher:

• To stop NCBA’s illegal influence and to get to the truth on how U.S. cattle producers’ beef checkoff funds are being spent, OCM is pursuing an ongoing Freedom of Information complaint in federal district court.
• Following a yearlong effort, OCM has secured two U.S. Senators’ support to end checkoff abuses. Senator Lee (R) Utah has filed SB 3200, which would make all checkoff programs voluntary, and Senator Booker (D) New Jersey has joined Senator Lee in filing SB 3201, which if adopted would provide meaningful reform to all checkoff programs, including banning lobbying organizations such as NCBA from receiving any checkoff funds, providing further transparency and strengthening the market disparagement and anti-competitive provisions within current law.
• OCM has begun a research project to outline the actions that need to be taken to end the heavy market concentration of both packers and retailers. They are encouraged by recent hearings which have been held in Washington DC on this topic.
• Through its national collaboration, OCM is pushing for changes in the Packers and Stockyards Act, which would end packers’ predatory practices in the market and would provide meaningful protection for contract growers.

At the conclusion of the meeting, OCM president Mike Weaver asked every farmer to join the fight to ensure economic justice for independent farmers and ranchers. “We need your help, and we can’t do it alone,” stated Weaver. “If we are going to take on the world’s largest corporations, all independent farmers and ranchers must be organized and speaking as one voice.”

Check out the meeting video here:

We are excited to share the first video in our three-part series on WTOK-TV News. Join us as we discuss our search for answers and our work to keep rural communities alive in a system that is rigged against the independent family farmer and rancher.Part 1On The Record, Part 1: Family Farmers Under Siege
Struggling for answers and a competitive market, OCM is on the front line

Check out part two in our series with WTOK-TV News. In this segment, we discuss the dangers we are facing in this country when agriculture is no longer community-based, but is instead controlled by multi-national corporations.
Part 2On The Record, Part 2: Crisis in Rural America
Struggling for answers and a competitive market, OCM is on the front line

In part three of our series with WTOK-TV News, we discuss the need to reinstate Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). The loss of COOL not only diminishes U.S. producers’ ability to access the market with their own agricultural goods, but also flies in the face of consumer demands for transparency in our food system.Part 3On The Record, Part 3: Country of Origin Labeling
Struggling for answers and a competitive market, OCM is on the front line

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Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Innovation Fair – Fall 2016

To download the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Innovation Fair presentation, click here.

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How Can You Help Men Who Won’t Help Themselves?


Writing of Senator Burton, in the Pittsburg Kansan, W. H. T. Wakefield says that for six years he officed next room to Burton and that the door between their offices was seldom closed, and that Burton spent much of his time at Wakefield’s editorial desk. He said that Burton came to Kansas as a democrat, but joined the republican party because it was the only way to get into politics; that he was a great student and understood economics well, being a great reader and investigator of radical books, and in private conversation expressed the most radical sentiments, saying that they were necessary parts of honest government and the people should have them enacted into law. Then he would fall into a meditative mood and say:

“But how in —- and —- nation are you going to give it to them? The gibbering idiots don’t know a thing on earth correctly, and forget it in a month if they do. To try to help the common people is to sign your political death warrant and I am not in the Jesus Christ business. When the people quit voting for their enemies and stop crucifying their saviors I will be with them to the bitter end, but how can you help men who won’t help themselves?” –Appeal to Reason

From the Tom Giessel Archives

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Are Corporations Too Big to Control?

The Farmers Advocate
May 25, 1905

We think the farmer is altogether too slow to recognize his interests, and especially attacks on his interests by other classes; that he is too slow to fight for his rights; that he is too slow to organize; and that he is too much disposed to be content with pay for his labor that is altogether too small, and with condition that are altogether unjust to him and his interests, says the Farmers’ Call.

Nevertheless, we must say that we consider farming the best occupation for all. If we thought otherwise we would sell our farm land and engage in something else. Furthermore, we believe that on the average the agricultural classes of this country have more intelligence, ability and stamina and staying qualities than any other class, and we will not except bankers or preachers or anybody else. The great fault of the farmer is that he works too hard and thinks too little of the farm and of what others are scheming and doing.

But when the farmer once does get aroused and gets into action, he certainly does make things move. It has long been known that the best man to avoid in a fight is the man that is slow to get mad. When he does get mad, it means something. That can be depended upon. As we pointed out a short time ago, nothing was done to curb the power of corporations; in fact, it was accepted as a truth that the state could not control them, until the ‘70s the Grangers showed the corporations a thing or two, and wrote it into the fundamental corporation law of the world that the government, state or national, which creates a corporation, can control it.

Some of these days the farmers, notwithstanding their quiet and lack of talk, will be aroused, and then there will be a quiet, but none the less effective, revolution in conditions, and the big combinations, directed by unscrupulous and dishonest men, will, when they have picked themselves up and got their scattered senses together, realize that it was the farmers that hit them. –The Northwest Review

From the Archives of Tom Giessel, Larned, Kansas

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