Download The Farmers Advocate – May 25 1905

Very frequently our correspondents, the past year or two, have spoken of the low price of beef cattle. The feeling seems to be general that the price of these cattle is not what it should be as compared with that of the corn that fattens them. Consumers have the same opinion when comparing the high costs of steaks and roasts with the quotations of cattle on foot. The reason for this strange condition has not been generally understood. It seemed to many that there must be an oversupply of cattle on the ranges, but that was not true. Until cattle men learned that the buyers all had one price to offer and seemed indifferent whether they got the cattle or the same at Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago, did they begin to understand that the beef trust had taken the whole business into their own hands, and were fixing prices to suit themselves. According to a very thorough and interesting discussion of this subject in the current number of Everybody’s Magazine, it appears that it matters not which of the great packing companies at any of the points named, buys up a carload or a trainload of cattle; each one gets a share in the packing and the profits. Formerly there was active bidding on a lot of cattle on arrival; now one buyer sets the price, and it matters not to which company the sale is made. A shipper, who has been long in the business in Nebraska, is quoted as saying “that since the trust was formed the producer has never been certain of his market. When the price drops so low that owners stop shipping, the packers push the price up a few points to induce them to begin shipping again. But they have their private and secret ways of keeping tab of the cattle coming into the market, and know to a carload how many will reach them on a certain day. When their bait has been taken and cattle are on their way, they put the price down, and the shipper finds that he must sell at cost, or perhaps often enough at an actual loss.”

    With this explanation it is easy to understand how the market runs so low and unsatisfactory to the shippers, and at the same time the prices of dressed meats are so high and unsatisfactory to consumers.

    Imagine for a moment what would be the result if all the products of the farm were under trust rule, so that the prices of corn, wheat, hay etc., were regulated, not by the law of supply and demand, but arbitrarily, or according to the notion of some individual. What an uncertain business farming would become. Perhaps it would be as near the truth to say that the business that ought to be, and naturally is, the most sure and independent would become exactly the opposite; for the farmer could never be sure that any crop he might care to grow would pay for the labor and expense he put upon it, and he would be dependent on the whim or notion of the agent of one great trust for what he received for all his products. What the beef trust has done for Iowa and South Dakota illustrates what such a trust as we refer to would do for the farming interests everywhere. In the former state a loss of $12,500,000 has been inflicted upon the cattle growers and feeders in the past four years, and in the latter $10,000,000. In Iowa more than thirty banks have failed directly because of the losses of farmers in the beef cattle industry, and ten or more suicides of bank officers and farmers have occurred as a result of these failures. The trust system is wrong, and must be overthrown. But how?

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