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Montana Ag Network report for April 8

Posted at 12:39 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 18:52:31-04

Lane Nordlund has the Montana Ag Network report for Wednesday, April 8, 2020:


#1 Wednesday morning, rancher Marty Smith, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) sent a letter directly to President Trump requesting the government act quickly to investigate the striking disparity in the cattle markets amid the current COVID-19 crisis and following the packing plant fire in Holcomb, Kan., last August.

“We are asking the President to support the rest of the administration, from USDA and the Department of Justice, to look at the disparity in cattle prices,” said Smith told the Montana AG Network. “We are seeing very low prices for cattle at the same time we're seeing higher prices for boxed beef.”

NCBA is calling for not only an investigation into the disparity between boxed beef prices and but also into the futures and cash markets as well.

“The cattle futures have not been reflective of real market conditions,” Smith added. “We’re seeing prices that have dropped significantly, even though a lot of times the cash market has stayed quite a bit higher. That's a market, that today, is controlled more by almost entirely by speculators and doesn't have any real bearing on the cattle market. Yet, it's affecting what we as producers are getting for our cattle.”

In his letter, Smith asked President Trump to direct USDA to expand the ongoing investigation into market activity after last fall's fire that occurred at a Holcomb, Kansas Tyson Beef Processing Plant and to also include current market volatility in the wake of COVID-19.

“We're just really trying to push for this investigation to move toward a conclusion,” Smith said. “Hopefully with this, the process will speed up and we'll see something relatively soon from USDA and perhaps even out of the Justice Department.”

Smith is hopeful what information comes from the market investigation will be used to work towards updating cattle markets to ensure they are equipped to function within today’s market realities to benefit the nations cattle producers.

#2 Now that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is law, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is urging USDA to ensure struggling cattle producers receive enough assistance to help make up for the significant losses they have endured do to COVID-19.

MFBF President Hans McPherson explained more on the allocated funds for agriculture producers.

“The CARES act fully refunded the Commodity Credit Corporation with about 14 billion dollars,” said McPherson. “They have the ability to borrow some money. So that gives them about $23 billion dollars to use for the class one commodities. Then they set aside $9.5 billion dollars for livestock producers and farmers market type of things. But primarily livestock which normally doesn't qualify for any of the commodity relief plans.”

Farm Bureau is working directly with the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to figure out just how exactly that funding will be distributed and how much to livestock producers.

“He's (Sec. Perdue) well aware of what's hurting on the farm,” McPherson explained. “We just look forward to that money coming. Of course, we just want markets that are fair. We don't necessarily need government money, but we do need some help right now because things are so upside down.”

Farm Bureau also is asking USDA to investigate any price manipulation that may be occurring in the cattle industry.