Montana rancher says cattle worth 40% less than before coronavirus

A Montana rancher says cattle prices are 40% lower now than they were before coronavirus.

With workers at meat processing facilities in 19 states contracting the coronavirus, the Northern Ag Network said those facilities are currently operating at 60-70% of normal. That is creating a bottleneck and driving cattle prices down.

CEO of Vermilion Ranch Joe Goggins said, "The biggest change we've had is our commodity that we're raising is worth about 40% less than it was before it all started."

Goggins said people in the ag industry are not panicking.

He said, "That's the people in agriculture. I mean, they've got generations of hard times bred in them. We've all seen dying calves, scoured calves, blizzards and hailed out crops. It's not like we haven't seen some disasters. It's just, you go on. You still have to get up. You've got to feed, you've got to take care of them. The people in the ag sector, you've got to admire them."

Senator Daines and Senator Tester have joined in supporting bipartisan legislation to help Montana ranchers get better prices. This week, they joined in supporting a bill for better price transparency in cattle sales according to Northern Ag Network.

Both Montana senators also support country of origin labeling for meat. They are also working together in an effort to allow state inspected meat processors to sell across state lines.

Also, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox joined with 10 other states in calling for an antitrust investigation of the beef processing industry.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr they said, “The U.S. beef processing market is highly concentrated, with the four largest beef processors controlling 80 percent of U.S. beef processing. In this highly concentrated industry, meat packers have achieved sizeable profit margins. Cattle ranchers, however, who for generations have supplied our nation’s beef, are squeezed and often struggle to survive. Consumers, moreover, do not realize the benefits from a competitive market.”

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