August 18, 2000
By Mike Callicrate
It’s clear now that packer concentration vs. a free competitive cash market has divided the nation’s cattlemen. And the cattlemen are losing, big time. Nowhere was this deep division and capitulation more evident than at the recent NCBA Live Cattle Marketing Committee meeting in Denver, CO. Instead of the leadership that is so desperately needed today, with disastrously low $64 live cattle, in spite of record high consumer demand and prices for beef, we saw a sickening display of grown committeemen cowering and selling out the cattle industry to big meat packer pressure. At no time in the last one hundred years have the independent cattlemen been under such a dire threat of extinction than by the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut meat packer monopoly and in such desperate need of courageous leadership from its National organization.
“… we saw a sickening display of grown committeemen cowering and selling out the cattle industry to big meat packer pressure”
Many of those committee member cattle feeders, while still suffering the ill effects of the ‘open bar’ from the night before, argued against a much-needed resolution brought by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). CCA requested that the NCBA poll its membership (rather than take another bloody and futile run at the big packer-feeder NCBA policy stonewall) on whether the four big packers should be allowed to continue the illegal control they have over the live cattle market with captive supplies, or whether the big packers should be forced to compete and be banned from owning and/or controlling livestock for more than fourteen days prior to slaughter, as required by the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Standing up and speaking for independent cattle producers, were long time cattlemen and competitive market advocates: Tom Spencer, Pueblo, Colorado and Bill Haverlah, Santa Rosa, New Mexico – who are both old enough to remember a competitive market and are willing to fight to restore a fair market today. They were whipped soundly and shot down sixty-nine to nineteen by the virulent NCBA bloc of big-packer-feeding interests under the watchful eye of IBP procurement chief Bruce Bass.
“Only Bruce Bass and his NCBA member feeder friends know how highly profitable their preferential secret captive supply deals are … ”
Only Bruce Bass and his NCBA member feeder friends know how highly profitable their preferential secret captive supply deals are to those insider cattle feeders who collude with them. They were there because their monopoly and preferences must be protected at all costs.
This sharp dichotomy between those who care about the land, livestock, families on the land, and sound rural economies; and the shortsighted and the packer monopolists who care only about power, money, and control is on the brink of resulting in total victory for the packers if nothing is done to effect an immediate turnaround.
Yet, at this crucial moment in our history, we continue to hear and read about platitudes and soft-soap regarding the so-called “progress” being made by grassroots interests within NCBA. What this really amounts to is just a lot of hot air, designed to lull us into complacency while our economic heads are being chopped off.
Above all, cattlemen must remember that without solid steps to restore a free and competitive market nothing else that the NCBA leadership concocts matters.
Never has it been more clear that the influence of IBP and the other big packers over NCBA has to go—otherwise, the independent cattlemen is gone!