The association for independent cattle producers, known as R-CALF USA, has sent President Trump an “emergency letter,” saying the coronavirus upheaval has significantly worsened the financial and economic conditions of the U.S. cattle industry and the result will be that many cattlemen will not be able to make loan payment deadlines or survive the crisis without immediate intervention.
The Billings, MT-based organization representing about 5,500 cattle ranchers, mostly in the south and west, claims farmers and ranchers were already experiencing a catastrophic crisis before the virus became a national emergency. R-CALF ‘s letter says it needs five stopgap measures and two “real relief” actions to save the American cattle industry.
The letter explains that the coronavirus upheaval has significantly worsened the financial and economic conditions of the U.S. cattle industry and the result will be that many producers will not be able to make loan payment deadlines or survive the crisis without immediate intervention.
It also describes the work R-CALF USA has undertaken during the past two decades to prevent the current crisis. Included were its efforts to reform trade policy, restore Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL), restrict unfair and anticompetitive packer buying practices, preserve the industry’s price discovery market, and prevent imports from countries with highly contagious diseases, particularly Brazil that is affected by foot-and-mouth disease.
Many consumers see M-COOL as a food safety and transparency measure. It was eliminated by Congress in 2015.
The letter states, “Unfortunately, decision-makers have been disinclined to support any of these important reforms. So here we are. Mired in a catastrophic crisis. Our entire industry, along with all of Rural America it supports, needs your immediate attention.”
The group is asking the president to take five emergency stopgap measures:
- Direct lenders to grant emergency extensions of loan repayment deadlines and provide essential emergency operating funds.
- Grant federal capital gains tax relief for farmers selling land, cattle, and equipment to remedy their current financial plights.
- Eliminate the red tape that prevents state-inspected beef plants from selling beef across state lines to increase competition for cattle and eliminate the current bottleneck in beef distribution to consumers.
- Suspend the decision to allow raw beef from disease-affected Brazil.
- Direct the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately investigate the cause of this week’s inexplicable market volatility marked by severely depressed cattle prices and skyrocketing wholesale beef prices.
The letter also asks the president to take two additional measures that the group states are the real relief America’s cattle industry needs because, with Congress’ help, they will provide the means for cattle producers to remain successful – “a fully competitive marketplace and the tool they need to compete within it.”
That relief includes:
- Placing immediate limits on the percentage of cattle that packers can procure through arrangements that both circumvent and undermine the competitive cash market to preserve the integrity of industry’s nearly destroyed price discovery market, which, importantly, informs the industry’s futures market.
- Requiring all beef sold in America to be distinguished as to where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised, and harvested so American consumers can put American cattle producers “First” and choose to purchase safe, wholesome, exclusively American beef.
The letter concludes by asking the President for a brief face-to-face meeting “to concisely discuss the fundamental needs of the U.S. live cattle industry.”
R-CALF USA’s full name is the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stock growers of America.
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