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"Big Meat" and Big Government

Written By: Paul Schwennesen  |  Posted: Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

            Ranchers are a fairly independent bunch.  We don't like overweening authority and prefer to fend for ourselves.  We also find few things more objectionable than sitting endlessly indoors.  Nevertheless, 2,000 of us did just that a few months ago in the ballroom of Colorado State University.  If the setting wasn't exactly invigorating, the topic was even less so: understanding why the family-scale cattle industry is going broke and why either Big Meat or Big Government is helping it down the drain.

            We had dragged ourselves from all over the country to provide testimony to Attorney General Eric Holder and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack about "Competition Issues Facing Farmers in Today's Agricultural Marketplaces."  Despite the extravagant title, the themes of the day were simple: Is the oncoming demise of a traditional way of life the result of malfeasance by multinational beef companies?  Is the 30-year trend of lower prices for the calves we produce the result of consolidation and conspiracy in the meatpacking industry?  Is the U.S. government complicit in this evolution or is it the kindly big brother, helping us take on the schoolyard bullies?

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