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Wyoming Rancher Urges Congress To Support GIPSA

22 March 2011

US - Recently, R-CALF USA member Judy McCullough – also a cow/calf rancher from Moorcroft, Wyoming, and past president of the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming – provided Congress and the Administration with information demonstrating the need to expedite the finalisation of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) competition rule (GIPSA rule).

Ms McCullough represented the interests of the nation’s cow/calf producers by making formal presentations during two meetings attended by 20 congressional staffers serving on both the US House and US Senate agriculture committees regarding the need for Congress to support the swift finalisation of the GIPSA rule.br>
In her testimony, Ms McCullough explained that she runs about 400 mother cows on her Wyoming ranch and her fall steers are marketed to a feeder who places them in a certified beef programme, while her heifer calves are regularly purchased by a seed stockman.

“I consistently raise high quality calves that are eligible for value-added and branded beef programmes,” she said.

However, Ms McCullough described the uncertainty created in the marketplace because of ongoing market manipulation by major meatpackers that inhibits price transparency.

”Nobody but the packers know what they (the packers) are actually paying for fed cattle,” she continued. “It is a gamble beyond belief, to lay down hundreds of thousands of dollars, put the time and feed into the cattle, and then end up taking a beating in the calf market because the packers are controlling the fed cattle market, which ultimately dictates what feeders are willing to pay for my calves.”

Ms McCullough explained that the GIPSA rule will benefit cow/calf producers like her because it will bring about market price transparency and market fairness, which will reduce the packers’ ability to manipulate prices.

As an example of the packers’ ability to manage market prices, she provided the congressional staffers with a chart that shows the unprecedented, almost $8 per cwt (hundredweight) increase in fed cattle prices that occurred in the weeks leading up to the historical August 2010 Fort Collins, Colorado, workshop held by USDA and the US Department of Justice.

Ms McCullough said she believes the packers backed off from their practice of suppressing cattle prices prior to the Fort Collins event in an effort to draw attention away from their price manipulation practices.

“With the GIPSA rule in place, GIPSA will have the tools needed to begin addressing the manipulation of the market by the packers because the rule will require packers to report actual prices, and GIPSA will have access to those prices,” Ms McCullough concluded. “I feel badly that the GIPSA rule will arrive too late for the many producers who have been forced to exit our industry. But it is not too late for me and my ranching neighbors, and I urge you to give GIPSA the support it needs to quickly issue a strong, final rule.”

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