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Cattle prices investigated

Burley--On the range, they want answers.

Ranchers and the US Department of Ag want to know why beef prices are high, and why ranchers are not seeing fair cattle prices.

Rancher Ted Blackstock of Owyhee County: "I think the Packers are making a killing still, and have for a couple of years now."

The USDA earlier this year released a report on the cattle markets. American Farm Bureau's Scott Bennett addressed the Idaho Farm Bureau’s Beef committee and said the report examines glaring market price disparities.

“In the report, USDA outlines exactly what has happened in the volatile cattle markets since the Holcomb fire in August of 2019, and the volatilities due to COVID-19. In addition to the report, there are some policy recommendations that USDA feels could be addressed both administratively and legislatively to further reduce the volatility in the cattle market,” said Bennett.

Bennett says Farm Bureau is reviewing the USDA policy recommendations.

“We are analyzing these policy recommendations and certainly hope to have a robust discussion not only with legislators but the administration on exactly what we can do to make sure that these markets are not as volatile and they are fair for our cattle producers,” said Bennett.

"I think we need to promote more ownership through the plants. The slaughter plants are the best-operated and very efficient. The meat needs to be marketed better," said Ted Blackstock.

The USDA investigation is ongoing, and Bennett says Farm Bureau is hopeful the investigation will lead to fair cattle markets.

“We understand that the meatpacking industry is consolidated into four major packers that represent 80 to 85 percent of the weekly kill. We understand that they are a part of our supply chain. However, we need to work for the producer and increase their leverage that they have in order to have fair cattle markets,” said Bennett.

Meanwhile, the cattle markets remain flat, meat prices up, feed prices up. While ranchers are breaking even.