Throughout the spring of 2020, the impacts of COVID-19 have had wide reaching impacts on American agriculture and producers. Within agriculture, livestock producers have been subject to particularly unique challenges as a result of the impact to labor at processing facilities. The resulting impact has been increasing volatility in livestock markets, in particular, cattle and beef markets. Producers saw the price they received for their animals decline by as much as 22% at times, while the wholesale price of beef skyrocketed, increasing by over 120% from earlier in the year. This discrepancy has frustrated producers and garnered the attention of regulators as USDA and DOJ have announced investigations into market activity by meat processors.
AFBF has been aggressively working on behalf of livestock producers during this time to make sure that there is no market manipulation and that livestock producers are fairly compensated for their cattle. American Farm Bureau:
- Has called for investigations by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) into questionable market practices;
- Has met with both CFTC and USDA officials to convey its strong interest in a robust, aggressive investigation of any market-distorting activities;
- Is supporting the Trump Administration’s initiative to have the Department of Agriculture investigate potential market-distorting tactics;
- Is working with governmental entities and other agricultural organizations to engage in aggressive oversight of cattle markets to assure that producers are not short-changed in receiving fair value for their livestock;
- Developed a white-paper document outlining current concerns on minimum negotiated cattle trade;
- Is strongly implementing AFBF Policy as written by our producer members to capture fair value for their products (see related AFBF Policy in the box below)
- Will oppose efforts that undermine producers’ ability to get the best price for their products
AFBF President, Zippy Duval proposes AFBF take an additional action to respond to the needs of our members and convene a Farm Bureau working group to:
- Thoroughly review this recent market activity;
- Review all factors and variables that led to the current disruption in markets and price disparity;
- Consider AFBF’s role in improving the current situation for producers;
Given the current environment caused by COVID-19 and the need to move swiftly, AFBF intends to host virtual meetings with this working group. AFBF staff and outside experts will be invited to present to the working group and to answer questions from the group.
The nominations to the working group are included below.
South Dakota: President Scott VanderWal, Chair of the working group
Arizona: President Stephanie Smallhouse; CEO Phil Bashaw
Kansas: President Richard Felts; NAC Ryan Flickner, Market Structures IAC Matt Hines
Kentucky: President Mark Haney; NAC Emily Buckman
Mississippi: President Mike McCormick; NAC Justin Ferguson
Montana: President Hans McPherson; NAC Nicole Rolf
Nebraska: President Steve Nelson; NAC Jordan Dux
New York: President David Fisher; NAC Lauren Williams
Texas: President Russell Boening; NAC Laramie Adams and Commodity and Regulatory Affairs Tracy Tomascik