What can you do?
By Lee Pitts
I think we were all surprised at how little time it took for independent pork to be transformed into hog house janitors for the big packers. After the piggish pork packers drove the price of live hogs down to eight cents it was only a matter of months before most pig producers became nothing more than chicken farmers in rubber boots. I am often asked by other cattlemen when the same thing will happen to us. I always answer–“What are you asking me for? You will decide the question.”
For those who want to stop cattlemen from becoming contractors for the Big Three I offer 10 things you can do to slow down the concentration of our industry.
1. Only when a significant portion of cattle producers forgo the competitive bidding price and sign on the dotted line to become part of the packer’s captive supply will we be owned by the pork and poultry cartels. If you hand your cattle over to a packer through a program, coop, contract, or feed your cattle and sell them on a grid or a formula through what the packers like to call a “strategic alliance,” you are not a part of the answer—YOU are the problem.
2. Join R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America. They are fighting for the rights and well being of cow-calf operators every day, and doing it effectively. Their membership is growing and their presence in Washington is being felt. R-CALF is not beholding to packers and they are not financed by drug companies or the checkoff.
3. Support those entities or organizations that are fighting our battles for us. Two examples are the Organizations for Competitive Markets and Range Magazine.
4. Quit organizations that are not representing your best interests. You won’t be able to change them by remaining a member— believe me I’ve tried.
5. Don’t subscribe to national livestock publications owned by conglomerates and financed mostly by drug companies that only preach about partnering with packers, Call on the carpet any editor who is
o afraid of losing his job that he lazily regurgitates NCBA press releases instead of doing his job in digging the truth.
6. Don’t arbitrarily adjust your breeding program or the operation of your ranch to fit the specs of a particular program, especially a new one. We have seen too many of these programs go out of business recently and the rancher is left with problems that will take years to fix.
7. Raise cattle that are attractive to the largest numbers of buyers. this means not using any hormones or antibiotics and, if you do, permanently identify those cattle. Natural beef companies have become major players at cattle auctions and these days a rancher can’t afford to exclude any buyer. I feel that the premium you get for not implanting will more than make up for any lost pounds.
8. Write letter to editors and to your Congressmen letting them know how you feel about concentration in the cattle business. Editors need to hear from people, not press releases, and Congressmen should hear from someone other than a paid lobbyist. You can’t believe the impact a single letter can have.
9. If a professor at your alma mater has become a mouthpiece for the packers let it be known in a letter or a phone call that you don’t appreciate it. Next time you receive a form letter asking for contributions use the return envelope to send a note as to why you aren’t enclosing any money.
10. Educate your neighbor. We can win this war but only if enough of you volunteer to become soldiers.