OKLAHOMA CITY—More than 140 members of Congress sent a letter April 1 to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue urging immediate assistance for America’s cattle producers. The AFR/OFU Cooperative leadership is pleased to see all seven members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation had signed their support to the letter.
“Oklahoma’s cattle producers are navigating unprecedented market conditions due to COVID-19,” said AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh. “Without prompt emergency funding, many of our state’s producers face an uncertain future. It is reassuring to see that our congressmen recognize this issue and have joined in the push for immediate relief from USDA Secretary Perdue.”
The requested assistance would be provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act. The CARES Act provides $14 billion toward replenishment of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and an additional $9.5 billion to support farmers and ranchers as they weather the financial storm caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The bipartisan letter acknowledged the market turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and calls on USDA to quickly provide “targeted, temporary, equitable relief to cattle producers in a manner that limits market distortion and negative effects on price discovery.”
“We hope Secretary Perdue takes notice of the bipartisan support for our nation’s cattle producers shown in this letter,” said Blubaugh. “Lawmakers from across the country and across the aisle want swift and effective monetary relief for those who grow America’s beef.”
Some lawmakers have been specific about how they think support for cattle producers should take shape. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced standalone legislation (S.3552) prior to passage of the CARES Act that, if passed, would direct USDA to use CCC funds to offset losses in the live and feeder cattle markets by using Economic Research Service 2020 projections as a baseline.
AFR/OFU is supportive of Sen. Rounds’ legislation and encourages Oklahoma’s senators to sign on to the bill.
“Additional market disruption is the last thing Oklahoma’s cattlemen and cattlewomen need and they could use all the support they can get on Capitol Hill right now,” said Blubaugh. “I urge Sens. Lankford and Inhofe to support Sen. Rounds legislation that can bring much needed stability to the nation’s cattle market and our state’s producers.”
AFR/OFU is also supportive of the increasing calls to investigate antitrust issues in the beef packing industry. Record packer profit margins stand in sharp contrast to producers’ losses and have continued to be a source of irritation to cattle producers nationwide.
“Our cattlemen and cattlewomen have endured incredible adversity over the past few years,” said Blubaugh. “Continual market volatility has taken a toll on our industry and producers need to see action on this issue. Whether or not wrongdoing is discovered, our producers deserve to have their concerns answered. A cattle market antitrust investigation is more than welcome and, in my opinion, it can’t come soon enough.”
AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.