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Sharp and critical words flowed from the recent Oklahoma Independent Stock Growers Association board meeting.
Board members are cautioning, “Meat buyer beware”. The United States is importing three billion pounds of beef and two million head of cattle per year or 20 percent of beef consumed by American households.
Very little of the imported beef is inspected before it receives the USDA inspection stamp and is shipped to various parts of the county.
Tim Bryant, Ardmore rancher, said, “We will fight the USDA recommendation for traceability. We understand the need to trace cattle with disease, but how can you ask American ranchers to place traceable Radio Frequency Identification (RIFD) tags on our cattle when billions of pounds of foreign beef is imported from countries like Namibia? “
R-CALF, the national representative for Oklahoma Independent Stock Growers Association (OISGA) filed a lawsuit alleging the USDA RFID mandate was unlawful.
In response, USDA withdrew their mandate, yet shortly thereafter, USDA contracted with three cattle ear tag companies for millions of RFID tags.
The board was also critical of Senator Lankford and Senator Inhofe for not assisting and being more public about the Country of Origin Label (COOL) legislation.
Several U.S. Senators from northern states are pushing legislation to implement a law to label American produced beef so the consumer will know what they are buying. Presently, consumers are buying beef with no way to identify county of origin.
Clenbuterol, an anabolic steroid was recently found in Mexican beef which made people sick in Mexico. The US imports a large quantity of Mexican beef. OISGA guest, Representative Justin Humphrey, R-Lane who co-authored House Bill 2008 which allows Oklahoma ranchers to label Oklahoma beef said, “Consumers are looking for quality and they will buy beef that is labeled Oklahoma Beef. Our beef should have labels so consumers can judge quality.”
The big four packers, Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill and Marfrig are slaughtering about 650,000 head of cattle per week.
Some estimates indicate that the Big Four are making profits in the range of $500 per head. JBS reported a profit margin in the second quarter of 2020 of 1.2 billion dollars.
Brad Hutchinson, Canton rancher and president of OIGSA , stated, “Ranchers have no leverage whatsoever. We pay what is asked for machinery, feed and supplies and we take whatever is offered when we sell our cattle. Ranchers are in a destructive downward financial trend and the Big Four packers totally control our pocketbooks”.
Senator Grassely, R Iowa is promoting a bill to require packers to buy 50 percent of cattle on spot markets to provide more price discovery in cattle markets.
The final discussion at the meeting was a recommendation for the 50,000 Oklahoma ranchers to sign a petition against the continuation of the Beef Checkoff program.
The OISGA annual meeting will be held at 9 am, October 10, 2020 at the Chain Ranch, Canton, Oklahoma.