R-CALF USA President Brett Kenzy represented the thousands of farmer/rancher members of his organization at a food and agriculture stakeholders roundtable at the White House to discuss competition priorities in the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
The event was co-hosted by the White House National Economic Council, White House Office of Public Engagement, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NEC, OPE, and USDA officials provided a briefing on the administration’s competition agenda followed by briefings from Kenzy and other invited participants.
Kenzy, a cattle feeder and cow/calf producer from Gregory, South Dakota, told the officials that he was participating in the event because he’s tired of seeing cattlemen leave the industry. He explained that the U.S. cow herd had shrunk to a 60-year low, and the industry has lost over 40% of its cow/calf producers and over 70% of its independent feedlots.
He also briefed officials on the difference between the cattle producers he represents that sell live cattle and the beef producers represented by other organizations that purchase those live cattle and sell beef. Kenzy said there is an inherent business conflict between those that sell cattle and those that purchase cattle to produce beef.
As a result of this difference between cattle producers and beef producers, Kenzy said their representative organizations have differing perspectives.
He said while cattle producers strongly support mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef, the beef industry opposes it because they earn immense profits from importing beef and repackaging it as a product of the USA.
Kenzy said that cattle producers need the protections Congress offered in the Packers and Stockyards Act because the marketplace is out of balance, with the beef industry possessing market power that has made markets brittle, unreliable, and unattractive to new entrants. He urged officials to put an end to the unpriced formula contracts that contribute to the ongoing disparity in market power between cattle producers and beef producers.
In providing a perspective to the harm arising from the four largest beef packers now controlling 85% of the fed cattle, Kenzy quoted Sen. John Sherman’s statement made in the late 1800s: “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life.”
Kenzy also pointed out why cattle producers support the reforms to the beef checkoff program in the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act and the beef industries oppose it. He said that some checkoffs have evolved into complicated lobbying slush funds that benefit huge processors and meatpackers.
Kenzy closed by saying his organization strives to restore integrity and transparency to the industry and a competitive marketplace for producers. He explained that these elements are essential to provide a separation of power in the market that will reward producers on merit, which in turn will encourage new producers to enter the industry so that America and the world can be well fed.
Kenzy provided the officials with copies of R-CALF USA’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform.