Leaders seek relief for cattle producers
HUTCHINSON — Commodity markets are plummeting, including beef prices. Uncertainty for Kansas ranchers is causing loss of income and anxiety for the future.
U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall, Republican from the Kansas 1st District, and Dusty Johnson, R-SD, asked U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to ensure relief for rural America, specifically cattle ranchers, is included in any Phase III COVID-19 stimulus agreement.
“Ranchers are resilient. They can handle the uncertainty of weather, the free market and other challenges that come their way,” the representatives said in a release. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we’ve seen before, and the cattle market has been in a free fall as a result.”
Although the price of beef the consumer pays remains the same — or higher — the price ranchers are getting for their cattle has decreased dramatically.
“It’s been extremely volatile and unstable with uncharted loss,” said John McCurry, a rancher in Burrton. “It makes for insecure times. You just can’t hold onto the cattle like you could grain. They are on a clock. They’re consuming water and food every day.”
Scarlett Hagins, vice president at the Kansas Livestock Association, said COVID-19 has affected just about everything, and the cattle market has not been immune.
“As the virus has spread, it involves a great deal of uncertainty regarding overall economic impact, and that uncertainty has caused a large turn in the cattle market,” Hagins said. “That consistent downturn in cattle prices that we’ve seen has really impacted Kansas producers.”
Reps. Marshall and Johnson wrote, “We’ve seen the box beef- live cattle spread widen, leaving no margin for struggling producers as beef flies off grocery store shelves.”
Marshall and Johnson said they believe ranchers need short-term relief. The representatives are requesting that livestock ranchers are eligible for assistance due to the impact from the virus.
With just less than 6 million cattle in Kansas and almost 4 million in South Dakota, the market volatility in beef affects many ranchers in both states. In addition to watching the prices plummet, many ranchers had to change their market plans for the year.
“It’s been a rough year. The volatility of the markets have been crazy,” said Jay Bohnenblust, who raises Angus in Clay Center. “There’s lessons to be learned. Going forward we’ll have more wisdom.”