Economists to Cattle Ranchers: Stop Being So Emotional About the Monopolies Devouring Your Family Businesses | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Economists to Cattle Ranchers: Stop Being So Emotional About the Monopolies Devouring Your Family Businesses

Last week, there was what should have been a historic hearing in the House Agriculture Committee, with the goal of reforming America’s cattle ranching system. The first witness was a Republican Senator trying to persuade the House members to adopt his legislative initiative. “My name is Chuck Grassley,” he said, “And I’m a farmer from Butler County, Iowa.” Grassley’s homespun rhetoric disguised a sophisticated and longstanding campaign to address a crisis in the beef industry, and more broadly, our food system at large.

To consumers, this crisis appears as high meat prices, with costs for beef up 12% this year alone. “I've never seen it like this in all the years I've been doing this," said Bob Strupeni, a butcher in San Francisco who has been working in the industry for 44 years. Higher meat prices are responsible for roughly half the annual increase in food prices, and food inflation is not only stretching household budgets, but has created a serious political problem for the White House. In September, the Biden administration attacked the industry over high prices, calling for an end to “pandemic profiteering.”

To cattle ranchers, who actually sell the cows to packers that are turned into beef, the crisis is not high prices, but low prices. They aren’t getting very much for their cattle. This is weird, because, normally, beef and cattle prices move in tandem - the current high beef prices should result in high cattle prices. But since 2015, the ‘meat margin’, or the spread between the prices ranchers get for their cows and the prices consumers pay at the supermarket, has widened dramatically. Despite high consumer prices, independent ranchers are losing money, and going out of business. “If we don’t get some of these problems fixed quickly, we won’t have any independent ranchers in this country,” explained Oklahoma Farmers Union president Scott Blubaugh.

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