Rallying for Fair Markets

Fired-Up Producers Call on Trump Administration to Help Restore Balance in Cattle Markets


By Chris Clayton, Progressive Farmer/DTN



OMAHA (DTN) -- Cattle producers rallied Wednesday in a daylong event at an Omaha hotel, calling on President Donald Trump to bring more fairness to cattle markets and to reduce the influence of imported beef and cattle on U.S. market prices.


Organizers sought to capture some of the same fire they held in 1994 when a large packer at the time stopped buying cash cattle for several weeks, crashing the live cattle markets and sparking a similar rally at the same Omaha hotel.


"We did raise some hell back in '94," said Mike Callicrate, a Kansas cattle producer and advocate for independent cattle producers. "We didn't have any competition then for fat cattle, and we don't have any competition now for fat cattle."


Roughly 350 cattle producers attended Wednesday's event, and they were asked to take to social media with the hashtag #FairCattleMarkets and mention President Trump's Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, in their tweets.


"I'm fired up, I'm wound up and I want this administration to do something about it," Callicrate said. "They don't need an act of Congress."




Some of the key demands at the rally included restoring some of the changes to livestock marketing rules that were proposed late in the Obama administration then withdrawn by the Trump administration, especially clarification that a producer does not need to demonstrate harm to competition to bring a claim against a packer. Speakers also want USDA to reconstitute the Packers and Stockyards Administration, which now is under the umbrella of the Agricultural Marketing Service.


"We just want a fair shake, and I can tell you these cattle producers don't want a government check, they just want the markets to be fixed," said Wes Schoemyer, a row-crop farmer and cattle producer in northeast Missouri.


One of the biggest points of the rally runs directly counter to a key piece of the Trump administration's agenda on trade. They want the U.S. to withdraw from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) until country-of-origin labeling is included in the trade deal.


COOL was implemented in 2009 on meat labels, but Canada and Mexico sued the U.S. in the World Trade Organization and received a ruling that the way the U.S. implemented COOL discriminated against foreign livestock. At the behest of the packing industry and some livestock trade groups, Congress revoked COOL in late 2015.


"We produce the best product in the world, and we need to have it identified in the marketplace," said Fred Stokes, former executive director for the Organization of Competitive Markets, one of the lead organizers of the rally. His comments drew a round of applause.