WASHINGTON (May 26, 2016) – The Senate Agriculture Committee today convened a hearing to discuss opportunities and challenges in the livestock and poultry sectors, and National Farmers Union (NFU) encouraged Senators on the panel to hear from cow-calf producers as they grapple with the challenges facing the industry. In an independent statement submitted to the hearing record, NFU defended much-needed market relief efforts given the low prices and consolidated livestock market facing family farmers and ranchers.
“There are many challenges facing agriculture today. The livestock sector, like much of agriculture, is under economic stress with no near end in sight,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “I applaud the committee for exploring these challenges at today’s hearing, and I urge the members of this panel to take a comprehensive look at the livestock industry as they move forward with considerations of the farm economy.”
In 2015, producers faced a dramatic decrease in beef prices, despite predictions of several years of higher-than-average prices. Forecasts by the USDA point to a prolonged period of depressed prices, and projected beef production remains high for 2017 – a scenario, NFU explains, that will be detrimental for beef producers to recover financial losses that ensued from the recent price decline.
Additionally, a sharp decline in the number of family farmers and ranchers over the past decade due to a heavily concentrated cattle market makes the scenario more troubling for independent producers competing against the packers.
“The marketplace is tipped disproportionately against the family producer. Currently, four packers account for nearly 70 percent of the value of all U.S. livestock purchased for slaughter. Without protection from unfair, anti-competitive practices, independent producers face difficulty succeeding,” Johnson explained in his statement to the committee.
NFU urges ongoing support for mandatory price reporting rules that provide market transparency for producers large and small as well as the Packers and Stockyards Act, which ensures integrity and competitive fairness in the livestock market.
“NFU has advocated on behalf of farmers facing a lack of competition in meatpacking for all 114 years of our existence. We will continue to work with lawmakers and the administration to ensure the voice of independent producers is heard,” Johnson concluded.