Tuesday, March 29, 2016

If NCBA were a cow

By Trent Loos

As ridiculous as this may sound, I will say it anyway. Even with the past two years of record profits for cow/calf producers, the cattlemen of this nation are in trouble. I don’t care how you evaluate the current situation; it is going to be a hard pull. The water has broken, the feet are out and I can see the tail of the unborn calf and he is stuck. What is the correct move next?

...The mid 1970s were the heyday for beef consumption. It is reported that in 1976, our U.S. beef consumption per capita was 80.9 pounds per year. Since 2000, we have not been above 60 pounds per year and current estimates are about 56 pounds per year. I know my economist friends will tell me that per capita consumption is irrelevant to beef demand but no one can argue that the trend is vastly concerning. If people quit eating beef, that will kill demand!

In addition to lower beef consumption, unless you are living in the back room of the cave you know all cattle owners are drowning in regulations with the looming threat of even more to come. Owning enough cattle to achieve economies of scale is nearly a thing of the past because of labor availability, and now the Department of Labor is making it impossible for ranchers to use H2A workers. Combine that with the general work attitude of particularly young people in American culture today, it makes hiring people tough.

The continual erosion of property rights is taking a huge toll on everyone in the cattle business. In fact, I am reminded of the day in 2007 when law professor Eric Freyfogle spoke in North Platte, Nebraska. He said “land ownership by an individual is problematic and was a lousy idea.” And, my friends, every day since then the Obama administration has been working to eliminate property rights for deeded and federal lands ranchers alike.

Then, of course, you have this false notion as CNN just reported that, “Why beef is the new SUV.” I have not talked to single person in an airport in the past two years that doesn’t express some level of concern about planet health due to the cheeseburgers they love. Even the most hardened beef eaters are beginning to question this and how are we explaining that the cow is the best thing God gave us for planet health? Short answer: We aren’t!

In closing, it is not tough to make the case that the entire beef sector is in position for a hard pull. We recently had an opportunity to shake things up, bring in some new blood with a new vision that could head this ship away from the looming glacier with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive committee’s selection of a new CEO. Instead we opted to keep doing what we’ve always done and hope for a different outcome.

Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at trentloos@gmail.com

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