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Missouri Ag News Headlines
United We Stand
By: Mike Deering, Misscouri Cattlemen's Association - 05/21/2020

We have all heard the phrase, "United we stand, divided we fall." It's a phrase with a bloody history as brave leaders were on a relentless pursuit to establish the United States of America. The phrase was first used by Founding Father John Dickinson just ahead of the Revolutionary War. Dickinson said, "Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!" The phrase has been used countless times since then and even appears on our state flag.

The phrase is also applicable in our industry as we face unprecedented challenges and many producers are forced to make difficult decisions. Following the fire at a Tyson facility in August and now COVID-19, we witnessed extreme market degradation followed by sharp increases in boxed beef prices and unseasonable profitability to the packing segment. The repeat nature of these market reactions absolutely emphasizes how the production sector of the industry is exposed to the highest potential for risk with little-to-no leverage to change that risk position.

In a very rare move, we did call for economic relief for cattle producers to be included in the COVID-19 stimulus package. While we are hopeful this will help producers, we are not naive enough to believe this is going to make people whole or that the pending structure of the payments is going to make everyone happy. That's why we need to continue our focus on long-term solutions over short-term relief.

Absent of robust cattle marketing policy, a state working group was formed to examine all options to provide long-term structural changes to the cattle markets. This is a work-in-progress. Our leaders understand the importance of moving quickly, but we do not want to do something full of unintended consequences.

The first outcome by this working group was to unite with other state cattle organizations to collectively call for the Department of Justice to investigate the extreme market shifts. Any evidence of fraudulent business practices within the meatpacking industry needs to be addressed by the highest level of government. A few associations previously sent letters, but enough with the piecemeal approach. We need to come together to send a powerful message. Along with 22 other state cattle groups, the message was sent on April 17.

Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting is up for re-authorization and now is the time to determine what can be modified to bring-forth meaningful change. MCA continues to be a leader in the conversation on requiring more details to be reported on formula trade. We are also diving into ways to increase negotiated cash trade. There are several proposals we are reviewing, including requiring processing facilities to purchase a minimum percentage of their fat cattle through negotiated cash trade. The struggle is price discovery and transparency. We remain laser focused on these objectives and will not be asleep at the wheel.

As proposals are presented, we see business-as-usual attacks by those who prefer divisiveness over unity. While we continue to review all ideas and move forward carefully and methodically for Missouri cattle producers, we will not have tolerance for those circling the wagons and shooting inward. The biggest losers in the game of potshots are producers and consumers. It needs to stop. As Mr. Dickinson proclaimed, "By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!"

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