An open letter to the cattlemen owners of National Beef – Will you help us save our industry?
December 18, 2008
We understand the big retailers and food service companies are making access to the marketplace very difficult, if not impossible. We understand the pressure you feel to sell your meat packing business to JBS. The fact that JBS is the biggest meat packer in the world and is Brazilian owned must concern you.
There has never been a time in our history that concentration and consolidation has been so high in the food packing, processing and retail markets. This concentrated power in the hands of a few companies has stolen much of our income. Distribution of dollars between the people who produce food and those who consume food has never been so unfair.
You invested in the beef packing business because the markets for your cattle were disappearing. You had hopes of improving your economic future in the cattle industry. Of course, we all want to save our farms, ranches and communities we live in. Unfortunately, like the markets for finished cattle, your market with big retailers and food service companies has now disappeared.
John Tyson, then CEO of Tyson Foods, said it well in describing Wal-Mart in 2002, “They tell us what they will pay and we have no choice but to pay you less.”
Our fight to restore competition has completely failed. The old organizations we once depended on to represent our interests have sold out, leaving us to be plucked clean like the chicken farmers before us. The USDA, our government agency responsible for maintaining fair markets, has been totally captured by the big packers, processors and retailers. Congress is controlled by U.S. and foreign based multinational food companies. What little legislation that has made it through Congress has been lost in rule making or to weak law enforcement. Our justice and court system, the last hope in restoring fair and competitive markets, has also been captured by the interests of big business – our justice system is now a system of injustice.
Overcoming the abusive market power of meat packers, now combined with the crushing power of big retailers and food service companies, appears insurmountable. We may be finished, our best days may be behind us, but joining with JBS in creating a foreign MEGA meat packer big enough to deal with Wal-Mart is not the answer. It is time to put the referees back into the game and the cops back on the street, giving everyone, large and small, the opportunity to compete fairly. We have been beaten badly enough by the market cheating bullies.
What if your JBS parachute doesn’t land you in a safe place, but in a devastated land, hungry and unable to feed itself, a place where the money they paid you isn’t worth much – a place where your children have no home and no food?
Will you consider standing with national organizations like R-CALF-USA, Organization for Competitive Markets and the Coalition for a Prosperous America? Many other cattlemen organizations, millions of consumers and other people who make and grow things have joined the effort to make America prosperous again.
One hundred years ago our country faced similar challenges. Producers and consumers were being exploited:
Wyoming Senator John B. Kendrick spoke the following words from the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1921, “It has been brought to such a high degree of concentration that it is dominated by few men. The big packers, so called, stand between hundreds of thousands of producers on one hand and millions of consumers on the other. They have their fingers on the pulse of both the producing and consuming markets and are in such a position of strategic advantage they have unrestrained power to manipulate both markets to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of over 99 percent of the people of the country. Such power is too great, Mr. President, to repose in the hands of any men.”
We overcame the crippling power of big business then. We broke up the big packers, breaking the death grip of monopoly. We can do it again!
Our industry needs many National Beef’s competing independently for cattle and delivering a great product to consumers. Your vision of a successful value-added meat business that returns a fair income for the livestock you produce deserves a fair chance. By working together, we will certainly improve our chances of saving our industry from foreign ownership and control while creating the possibility of a bright future for our children.
When we lose our markets, we lose our freedom.
St. Francis, Kansas
Every month 1,000 ranches go out of production.
It’s the national security issue no one is talking about.
Photograph from the book, Great Ranches of the West.
Read a sample chapter and order the book at www.greatrancheswest.com or call 800-363-5336.
Consider purchasing a copy for your legislators. After seeing the pictures and reading the stories, they will share our love for the cattle industry and hopefully join in our efforts to save it.
Keen Media, the publisher of Great Ranches of the West, has offered to send direct at his expense, any books you order for your senators and congressmen. Just put a note with your order, at check out, that you are purchasing these books for your elected officials and Keen Media will use your zip code to send to the correct people with a note saying who the book is from.