Group Urges Rural Americans to Form Largest Crowd in U.S. History on Aug. 27 in Fort Collins, Colo., for USDA/DoJ Competition Workshop
Billings, Mont.In meetings held last week in Omaha, Neb., and in Burlington, Hugo, La Junta, and Lyman, Colo., R-CALFUSA urged area cattle producers to encourage everyone in Rural America to attend the upcoming Aug. 27, 2010, competition workshop jointly hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice (Justice) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Attendance is free and open to the public. The public and media interested in attending this event on the campus of ColoradoStateUniversity in Fort Collins, Colo., should register at http://www.conferences.colostate.edu/LiveStockWorkshop.
"On August 27, we need the largest gathering of Rural Americans in the history of the United States to arrive on the CSU campus at 8 a.m. local time to help us mark a new beginning for Rural America," R-CALFUSA CEO Bill Bullard told the approximately 200 area producers who attended the meetings. "USDA has proposed a new competition rule that would require accountability on the part of the dominant meatpackers by increasing transparency in the marketplace and prohibiting known anticompetitive practices. However, this proposed rule is being strenuously opposed by the meatpacking industry and the trade associations that have meatpackers seated on their governing boards."
Bullard began the week speaking at an Omaha, Neb. meeting sponsored by the Organization of Competitive Markets and then finished the week doing meetings across eastern Colorado that were sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Famers Union and the Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association. The purpose of the tour was to explore the opportunity to restore the economic viability of rural communities by restoring competition to the largest segment of American Agriculture the U.S. cattle industry, which Bullard said holds the key to rebuilding economic opportunities in communities that have been in decline over the past several decades. He said the U.S. cattle industry and the hollowed-out communities where cattle producers live look the way they do because that is exactly how the more powerful meatpacker lobby wants the industry and Rural America to look.
"The way your cattle industry looks today and the direction it is heading is not the result of any natural phenomenon," Bullard told the audiences. "The meatpacker lobby claims the U.S. no longer needs as many cattle producers or as many cattle to continue producing enough beef to satisfy beef demand. The meatpackers have been most influential in lobbying for laws and regulations that have enabled them to shrink the U.S. cattle industry, which has devastated much of Rural America."
Bullard provided his audiences with charts based on USDA data that show not only has the number of cattle operations and the number of cattle declined at an alarming rate the smallest U.S. herd since the 1950s but also the production of beef from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. has been stagnant over the past 13 years. Yet, the U.S. cattle industry has been unable to take advantage of the market opportunity created by the growth in domestic beef consumption that has occurred since the mid-'90s due to the United States' population growth.
"The fact that our industry is shrinking and our production remains stagnant in the face of increased consumption is a sure sign of an unhealthy industry and industry in crisis," he said. "The same packer lobby that guided the cattle industry to where it is today also pulled rural communities down the same path by eliminating economic opportunities. The packer lobby is now fighting to prevent Rural Americans from striking off in a new direction.
"We can't outspend them, nor can we out lobby them they are among the most powerful economic and political forces known in Washington, D.C.," Bullard continued. "But, we can outnumber them, and when 25,000 Rural Americans attend the workshop on Aug. 27 we can overcome the packer lobby and send a resounding message to Washington that the single most important thing Congress can do is to restore economic opportunities in Rural America by restoring competition within the U.S. livestock industry."
Bullard urged the audiences to bring their city mayor, city council members, county commissioners, local business owners and everyone else in their rural communities to the Fort Collins event.
"We've never had this opportunity before and we'll never have it again," he emphasized. "We must rise to this historic occasion and mark a new beginning, one that will help us restore the lost economic opportunities in Rural America. All we have to do is show up."
Note: The workshop will begin with opening remarks from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. After opening remarks, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack will participate in a roundtable discussion with Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Christine Varney. Federal and state officials from Colorado have been invited to participate in the workshop. There will be public testimony from those attending the workshop and panels will feature ranchers, academics, processors and other industry representatives. Additional details on the schedule and panelists will be provided at a later date. For further information, including submitted public comments and transcripts for past workshops, please visit the Antitrust Division's agriculture workshop Web site at www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.htm or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALFUSA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALFUSA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALFUSA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.