To help cattle producers with the cattle market crisis, which has been magnified by the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) announced a three-part plan to media in a conference call on Thursday, Mar. 19.
The plan includes steps to provide immediate relief to cattle producers who are being “unfairly harmed” due to COVID-19 market disruption, supporting efforts to reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) and urging a federal investigation into allegations of anti-trust violations by meatpackers.
Rounds began by emphasizing the need for investigation into the allegations brought against the packers. Rounds, along with Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging it to investigate allegations of price fixing within the cattle market.
“Last summer, we saw the most recent allegation that resulted in the Department of Agriculture investigating the packers. That investigation is still underway. Additionally, we are asking the Department of Justice to definitively answer, whether a packer oligopoly exists within the cattle market and inherently creates an anti-competitive marketplace that unfairly disadvantages the cattle producer and the consumer. Cattle producers are seeing record losses at this point, and meanwhile, the shelf price of meat is at record highs and box beef prices are increasing as well,” he says.
The reality, Rounds says, is that there’s an inverse correlation between the producer’s price and the consumer’s price. If the Department of Justice finds no violations, then the statutory environment of the industry must be reconsidered, because the status quo isn’t working.
Rounds also sent a letter to President Trump supporting efforts to reinstate MCOOL. He’s asking the President to help pass the legislation, given his interest in working with farmers and ranchers.
“What we're asking the President to do is to get involved and to help us get past this point. We know that it would require his direct participation and renegotiating certain areas to allow us to get that done but we're convinced this was the right thing for producers to do,” Rounds says.
Rounds worked with Sen. Gary Cammack (R-S.D.), James Halverson of South Dakota Stock Growers, as well as civilian producers and a South Dakota sale barn, to come up with ways to help producers at this time, he says.
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