Secretary Vilsack – stop cattle market corruption

For decades, family ranchers and beef consumers have been harmed by corruption within the cattle market system. The problem is that a small handful of multinational corporations – the “Big Four” meatpackers – control 85% of the beef supply in the United States. These monopoly corporations use their wealth, political influence, and illegal market manipulations to drive up the price of beef while paying ranchers pennies on the dollar for meat later sold by the packers at hugely inflated profit margins. These underhanded tactics have become so widespread and so brazen that family ranchers are losing their operations at alarming rates. A recent front page article in The New York Times, featuring several Northern Plains ranching members, helps expose and explain the problem. 

Soon, the USDA will create new rules for the Packers and Stockyards Act, giving us the best chance in generations to reform and repair this broken system!

Please take a moment to add your name to our letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to restore fairness, transparency, and competition to cattle markets during this rulemaking period:

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack:

Cattle producers are shutting down operations because a handful of corporations are manipulating markets and fixing prices. As a result, ranchers can no longer make a viable living. When our ranches are gone, rural communities suffer a ripple effect with our wealth and our labor extracted by these multinational corporations. The excessively low prices that ranchers consistently receive for cattle should lead to lower prices for beef at the grocery store, but consumers are paying more while ranchers are going out of business. Only the corporate meatpackers are reaping the record-breaking profits due to to this broken system.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to engage in a rulemaking of the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act to address competition in livestock markets. We demand and deserve a truly fair and competitive cattle market.
Under the first proposed rule for Packers and Stockyards Act rulemaking, we are asking for the following to ensure competition and a fair market for family ranchers:

  1. No packer shall procure cattle for slaughter through the use of formula or basis price forward contracts. All forward contracts used by packers for purchase of cattle slaughter supplies shall contain a firm base price that can be equated to a specific dollar amount at the time the contract is entered into and be offered or bid in an open public manner.  
  2. No packer shall own and feed cattle unless those cattle are sold for slaughter in an open public market.
The above provisions reduce the ability of packers to manipulate prices and secure transparency for all contracts and purchases of cattle.
The future of family ranching and the economic viability of rural communities are at stake. We are trusting you and your agency to reform this broken system that is harming communities in Montana and beyond.