Friday, September 09, 2016

Ranchers huddle to solve cattle price crisis

The U.S. cattle industry is circling its wagons in Billings, Mont., today in an effort to bring a halt to what has been a wild but mostly depressing ride for futures prices. As many as 200 ranchers are expected to be joined by USDA officials, market analysts and others for two days at the Big Horn Resort to discuss a spectrum of possible changes, ranging anywhere from moderate transparency measures to moving cattle futures to a whole new market, reports Pro Agriculture’s Ian Kullgren, who will be filing from the scene. Not on the guest list: Meatpackers and their allies, who critics say are benefiting from the low prices and therefore have little interest in changing the status quo. Some cattle rancher groups have even suggested processors are exerting too much control over the market, a charge the processors strongly reject. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate, though the GAO hasn’t said when it will release its findings. Others in Congress are taking an interest, too. Montana Sens. Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D) have sent staff to the Billings event, and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) is also keeping tabs. If the market doesn’t correct itself, “we’ll have to take more directive action,” Heitkamp says. Pro readers should stay tuned for Kullgren’s dispatches from Montana later today...more

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