Speak Your Piece: From the Heart and Hip

[imgbelt img=jimfoster528.jpg]It used to be that farm communities in Missouri and Iowa were vibrant. That was back when farmers received a fair price for their products. The lack of a true market for farm goods is strangling rural America, according to Missouri hog farmer Jim Foster.

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go here. To see video from a meeting held the day before protesting business concentration in ag, go here.)

Thank you, Secretary Vilsack, Attorney General Holder, Assist. Attorney General Anti-Trust Christine Varney for inviting me speak about my concerns regarding the hog industry in America at this historic event.

I am convinced, Mr. Secretary, that this is not a dog and pony show and that you are serious and I appreciate that.  

I won’t bore you with the history of my 55 years of non-stop work in the hog business, but I will get to the message.  I plan to speak from the heart and shoot from the hip about the serious trend we are in.

My concern is not for me but for my kids and grandkids.  Making sure they can pursue the American Dream as my wife and I have.  Believe me, hog production is real close to the poultry model whereby you participate by invitation only!

As I drove up here yesterday I remembered back as to what I saw traveling that same highway in the early 1960s going to Austin, Minnesota, to show hogs.  I saw homebuilt hog shelters on lots of the rolling hills of Missouri and southern Iowa with sows having new litters.  I saw barns across Iowa with concrete pads out front and 50 to 100 calves on feed.  I saw veterinarians at work with their catch chute, feed trucks delivering feed, implement dealers delivering a new manure spreader or feed grinder.  I saw real economic growth all over north Missouri and southern Iowa.  

Fast-forward to today and I see weeds growing through the cracks in concrete lots where cattle and hogs were fed.  I see silos torn down or empty for years.  Remains of those portable hog houses are seen stacked, rotting in a back field.  Very little human activity in what was once a thriving economic model can be seen.  

What happened? Perhaps we were taken in by those pushing the theories of the Chicago School of economics. We were told that the biggest, toughest, boar at the trough deserved to be the last one standing.  No matter who got rooted out or even gashed, or killed economically by his tusks, he deserved to win because he would be the most efficient and that efficiency would be passed on to the consumer.  

BE BIG.

2. BE GOOD.

3. HAVE DEEP POCKETS.

There’s no way my grandkids can fulfill all three!  They probably can be real good!  This should allow them to compete. They should have market access with comparable prices. Size and deep pockets should have no bearing on their right to participate. Remember this America! 

Current hog and fat cattle market access is getting really limited.  No way should we be forced into the poultry grower model of contract growing by invitation only and by borrowing half a million dollars.  

I know our stockyards won’t reopen and everyone need not have chickens, pigs, and a milk cow on their farm, but I hope some creative ideas can come about to re-invent competitive markets so that my grandsons and daughters can sell their products at a profit.

I want to personally thank you, Mr. Secretary, for standing firm on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).  I want to thank the Packers & Stockyards enforcers for the changes already made and those forthcoming. And I especially want to thank you, Christine Varney, Anti-Trust Enforcer, for your success, along with the 17 state attorneys general, in preventing JBS Brazil from purchasing National Beef.  I personally see the results close to home in that my friends in adjoining counties have three packers bidding on their cattle instead of two.  Three is not nearly enough, but it is a whole lot better than two.  Again, I thank you all for these already historic steps taken and look forward to improvements in the future.  

A message from the Rural Assembly

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