Calving season is the time of the year our South Dakota ranchers look forward to until: they have headlights out in the pasture at two in the morning; they are trying to tag 1202’s calf without finding out if she’s bluffing; or they are bringing heifers to the barn and out of the blizzard. There are a lot of variables in this industry. Whether you know a rancher or you are one, one thing is for sure – it’s tough work.
Most people wouldn’t work a job without knowing what their paycheck will be at the end of the month. They probably wouldn’t take a job without any vacation or sick days, either. There are no days off for our local producers. Despite not knowing how many calves they will have come sale day or what the markets will do, they continue to get the job done just as they have for decades. It’s a job of integrity. It’s a way of life that has been and will continue in the family for generations.
Every generation of ranchers face challenges, and this generation has been especially tested. But one of these challenges should not be government bureaucrats telling them what’s best for their operation. Suits and ties don’t feed the world – ranchers do.
As it stands today, the four largest meat packers control over 80 percent of the cattle market. We have to increase competition for local producers if we want our small towns and operations to survive. For years, ranchers have seen immense price discrepancies between the price they receive per head of cattle and the price of beef on the shelf at the grocery store. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light that reform is necessary. I am working for our independent South Dakota ranch families, not the packers who continue pushing the bureaucrats around. Their grip on government has been going on for years, weakening and preventing policies that help ranchers.
Last month, I reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) known as the “50-14” bill. The bill would require that a minimum of 50 percent of a meat packer’s weekly volume of cattle purchases take place on the open or spot market. It would apply to meat-packing facilities that slaughter more than 125,000 head annually. These facilities would also be required to slaughter cattle purchased under this requirement within 14 days.
South Dakota ranchers produce some of the highest-quality beef in the world. Without a mandated amount of cash trade, our ranchers don’t have a level playing field. We won’t give up trying to get our ranchers a fair price in a competitive market.
Regardless of what happens in Washington, our ranchers will continue facing the variables head on and with grit. They will finish out calving season and do the work it takes to get ready for it all over again next year. Some years are harder than others, but they always show up. I am grateful for the work our ranchers do every day, and I am proud to represent them.
And, if you haven’t already, thank a rancher.