WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A recently-signed presidential executive order is giving cattle farmers hope that their operations could become more profitable.
The executive order aims to increase competitiveness in the industry, which supporters say will help to drive up the price of cattle and lower the price for consumers.
“This is an effort to level the playing field,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-Calf USA. “Unfortunately, we’re in a crisis right now, we’re losing cattle producers every day and cattle feeders every day.”
Keeping the industry out of balance he said are meatpackers. 85% of all cattle are slaughtered by 4 companies, said Brooke Miller, the President of the United States Cattlemen’s Association.
“The price that ranchers sell their cattle to meatpackers has decreased even as the price of beef to consumers has soared,” Miller said. “People don’t want to go into this because it’s not profitable for them.”
Miller said the financial realities of raising cattle has meant that he hasn’t been able to encourage his children to follow in his footsteps. He is worried he will be the last in the line of cattle ranchers.
Even when he was young, his father made clear to him that if he wanted to pursue a life as a rancher, that he better find a very good job to support himself financially.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” Miller said emphatically. “It should not be that way. Along with ranching, Miller is now a doctor in Virginia.
Organization for Competitive Markets Executive Director Mike Ebay agreed, placing blame on meatpacking companies.
“The real problem is the concentration, the consolidation, the lack of competition,” Eby said.
Biden’s Executive order will help to prevent meatpackers from engaging in “abusive practices,” Bullard said.
It also invests 500 million dollars in meat and poultry processing with the aim of increasing competitiveness.
Meat packer trade association the North American Meat Institute said the executive order will have the unintended consequence of increasing consumer meat prices.
“I disagree,” Miller said. “I think anytime you restore market competition and free-market capitalism, the consumer will always benefit.”
Miller is now optimistic that the executive order, along with new legislation being introduced in Congress, could finally turn the market around.