North Dakota ranchers produce some of the highest quality beef in the world, but they are not getting paid a fair price for their cattle.
In this week’s KX Ag and Energy Insight, we look at what is being done to strengthen competition and boost processing capacity.
After successfully lobbying the state legislature, North Dakota Farmers Union is now pushing Congress and the USDA to expand meat processing capacity in the state. There are four companies that control more than 80-percent of cattle slaughter in the U.S., and that has led to market disparities.
The pandemic was just one crisis of many in recent years to drive cattle prices down and skyrocket prices for consumers. Citing lessons learned from COVID-19 and recent supply chain disruptions, the USDA announced last week plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative.
NDFU’s Matt Perdue says the investment will give small and midsize independent companies and producer Co-Ops the capital necessary to build new processors and expand existing processing facilities.
“Producers are making less money for what they produce, consumers are paying more money for what they consume. Somebody in the middle, in the beef industry case, the packers, are capturing massive profits. And, so that is not good for the producer, that is not good for the consumer, and that is the problem really that we are trying to solve,” said NDFU Government Relations Director Matt Perdue.
NDFU is also focusing on shoring up anti-trust laws that ensure that mergers and acquisitions don’t overly concentrate market power or form monopolies, as well as breaking up firms that have become monopolies.
NDFU IS also advocating for truth in labeling giving producers the opportunity to label their beef so that consumers know where their beef is coming from, which will work toward increasing competition and creating new opportunities in the livestock sector.
The ongoing drought has been particularly challenging for cattle producers because there is not enough water and feed to go around.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is an agency of the USDA that provides ranchers with a strong safety net through the administration of farm commodity and disaster programs. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a land conservation program administered by FSA.
In exchange for a yearly rental payment, ranchers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. In return, CRP land can be made available, to ranchers enrolled in the program, for emergency grazing.
This week, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is asking FSA for an earlier opening date for CRP land emergency grazing.
“If we have a spring and a year like this again, at least we can access some of those other forage areas in May or the beginning of June, but June 15th is pushing it out, it creates problems and uncertainty,” explained Goehring.
Ranchers need to know far in advance as to whether CRP land will be opened for emergency grazing, because they need time to get water sources and fencing to that land. KX has been reporting that water well drilling availability in North Dakota is backlogged.
Turning to energy, Basin Electric Power Cooperative is closer to successfully implementing carbon capture and sequestration at their newest power station.
Headquartered in Bismarck, Basin serves nine states including North Dakota. Launched in 2011, Dry Fork Power Station is Basin’s newest station located in Gillette, Wyoming.
Dry Forks only gives off C02, so it is an ideal candidate for carbon capture and sequestration. In collaboration with the University of Wyoming, Basin drilled 10,200 feet into the earth. They found porous space to capture C02, and also hard rock layers to cap it permanently underground.
“If we can figure out how to capture the carbon dioxide from that power plant, store it right near the dry forks station, we really think that would be a great way to continue to use coal in the future as a reliable as an electricity source. We believe in an all of the above energy strategy, so that includes coal, wind, solar, natural gas. All of those things to be able to provide reliable energy to our members,” explained Basin Electric Power Cooperative Senior Staff Writer/Editor Tracie Bettenhausen.
Bettenhausen says the CarbonSAFE project could be wrapped up by 2024.