Following a somewhat delayed steak dinner on Saturday, Monroe County Cattlemen held their annual program, naming three to the Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame, presenting scholarships, electing officers and hearing from district and state people on the state of the beef industry.
John Lawless and Dean Bettis were inducted into the Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame and the family of Kenneth Shepard received his Hall of Fame award posthumously. Those stories will appear in the Spring Ag Edition later this month.
The Cattlemen will be led this year by Jerry Findley as president, Curt Houk as vice president, Stephanie Haywood as treasurer and Sarah Henderson as secretary. Board members include Dan Yule, Bryan Reed, Tim Kaldenberg, Justin Huber, Jordan Haywood, Aaron Henderson, Andy Henderson, Kylie Peterson, Curt Houk and Tyler Orman.
Recipients of the 2022 Monroe County Cattlemen scholarships included Lauren Bayer, Stephanie Beary, Jenna Gronewold, Jayce Reed and Shelby Rozenboom.
The group also heard from Brayton Striegel, National and Iowa Maine-Anjou Queen, Jorryn Crall, who showed in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show and from Ashlyn Reed, who is participating in a new 4-H heifer buying program. That story will also appear in the spring Ag section.
Jason Summers also spoke briefly to thank the Cattlemen for partnering with KIIC Radio in the spring of 2020 to create a very popular drive-by event to combat the growing anxiety over Covid-19.
Bryan Reed, Iowa Cattlemen District 19 Director, spoke briefly about his lobbying work at the state capital on behalf of beef producers and then introduced Cora Fox, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Director of Government Relations.
The western Iowa cow-calf and row crop producer has served two years on the ICA staff and discussed in detail the Cattle Prices and Transportation Act, co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Charles Grassley and supported by Iowa’s entire D.C. delegation. There are currently 17 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and wide bi-partisan support in the House.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing to pass and be signed,” said Fox. At issue is the near monopoly hold on the transportation and slaughter of beef by four huge beef packing corporations.
“Beef producers and big feedlots in Texas and Oklahoma are getting $40-$50 a head more from the big packers because they can guarantee quantity,” said Fox. “Iowa producers don’t get anything for producing the nation’s highest quality beef.”
The major problem is that the four big packers don’t participate in the “cash trade” that most of Iowa’s 25,000 smaller locally owned feedlots use to market their steers. Because of that, Iowa producers often times can’t find buyers, can’t access slaughter time and can’t get timely delivery.
“We’re lucky to have two buyers our livestock markets,” said Fox. “The lack of competition is starving out our cattlemen.” Grassley’s bill would reserve 50 percent of the slaughter capacity for cash trade cattle producers and require steers come to slaughter within 14 days.
“There’s a lot of push back by heavy hitting lobbyists for the big packers,” said Fox. “At this point, Sen. Grassley’s bill is our only answer.”
She also addressed the Biden Administration reengaging the Waters of the U.S. Act (WOTUS) that has long been the bane of farmers and rural America in general. “Under President Obama there was a clear over reach of the act,” she said. “Under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency was forced to address the act to its original intent, which says navigable streams and waterways could be regulated by the federal government.
“Under Obama and now again Biden, the EPA has been unleashed to regulate every puddle, pond, tile line and ditch during a heavy rain,” she said. “We are working with the Army Corps of Engineers and Soil and Water Conservation to bring some sanity to the EPA.”
Fox also addressed Product of the USA labeling as well as labeling and defining petri dish and plant based fake meat. “This started with the dairy industry and the USDA allowing companies to use the term ‘milk’ in non-dairy products like almond milk. We can’t stop the development of cultured cell proteins and plant based proteins, but we can do something about how they are labeled.
“The good news,” she added, “is that Americans overwhelmingly prefer the meat we produce in our cattle and hog herds.”
Fox also touched on the Iowa Cattlemen being against further purchase of Iowa farmland to add to the state’s ownership of around 400,000 acres. Fox said the main problem was a competitive fairness issue. She said the average price of state purchased land was around $3 per acre, compared to the $5,000-$15,000 an acre farmers are forced to pay.
The ICA is supporting significant funding to update the Iowa State University Diagnostic Laboratory to improve foreign animal disease prevention. ICA is also pushing to provide $750,000 in state grant money to increase and improve local meat lockers. Part of the plan is to implement a one-year junior college program to develop more local butchers.