R CALF USA, the cattle producer group, has sent a letter to President Obama titled “A Desperate Call to Action from the U.S. Cattle Industry.” R CALF (and a host of other cattle raiser groups) write, “While absolutely no one was watching, $6.4 billion has been stolen since Jan. 1, 2007, from the U.S. live cattle industry in the U.S. fed cattle market alone.” The group says this estimate is based on USDA data showing consistent losses from the sale of 49 million head of cattle. The group says this amount was “stolen directly from the hands of the nation’s 82,170 remaining cattle feeders and transferred into the hands of just a few mega meatpackers, only four of which control over 85 percent of the fed cattle market in the nation’s $50 billion live cattle industry.”
R CALF notes that while cattle producers have been losing money, meat prices for consumers have gone up and meatpackers have “prospered greatly.” The result has been a decline in the number of independent cattle producers — and decreasing competition in the meat market.
Of the nearly three quarters of a million cattle operators, R CALF writes: “Their numbers also are shrinking at an alarming rate, and Rural America is reeling from the consequential, rapid loss of its economic base. We may already have reached the point of no return: the point where it no longer matters if competition is restored because the industry may already lack the critical mass of independent cattle farmers and ranchers necessary to sustain a competitive industry.”