beef fille photo

Sizzling prices for beef has lawmakers talking at the Capitol.

Consumers are paying inflated prices for beef in the grocery store while the nation’s cattle ranchers and farmers are going broke, a cattle ranching group says.

They want Congress and the Attorney General to do something about it, and are urging Congressmen to join a bipartisan letter by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and U.S. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota that calls for action on the crisis.

But the North American Meat Institute, which claims it is the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry, circulated a document discouraging Congress from joining the Rounds-Smith letter and claiming that cattle prices are simply responding to normal supply-demand signals.

R-CALF USA is crying foul. NAMI has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the national beef checkoff program over the past four years, the group says, yet is now lobbying against the interests of both cattle producers and consumers who desire meaningful reform in the cattle and beef markets.

“If cattle prices were responding to supply/demand signals, the exceptional beef demand for the past several years along with the record exports would have driven cattle prices upward,” R-CALF President CEO Bullard said. “Instead, cattle prices have been driven down and consumer beef prices have been driven up.”

COVID-19 subsidies boosted cattle producers incomes in 2020 to levels higher than any time since 2016, according to NAMI’s letter.

But, R-CALF countered, the subsidies were not close to making up for the losses caused by a dysfunctional market.

“Cattle producers lost in excess of $600 per head in 2020 compared to 2014, yet retail beef prices increased significantly during that period,” Bullard said. “The COVID payments did not make up that loss even though consumers were paying more than enough for beef to have done so. The cattle and beef markets are broken and the NAMI is trying to fool Congress into complacency so they don’t do anything about it.”

Cramer calls for Congressional review of proposals to improve meatpacking industry

Sen. Kevin Cramer has sent letters to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI and Ranking Member John Boozman, R-AR, urging they convene a committee to examine legislative proposals to improve transparency and competition in the meatpacking industry.

“Four companies, two of which are foreign-owned, control ~85 percent of the beef processed in the United States,” said Senator Cramer. “These companies are uniquely situated to control the input of cattle they buy from ranchers through the four primary transaction types, and based on those controlled inputs, control the supply available to downstream purchasers. Put simply, when adequate price discovery is not present, packers have the ability to suppress the value of cattle while increasing the price downstream to the consumer.”

Cramer said in his letter it is clear that increased competition is needed to address ongoing problems, and he highlighted a recent Executive Order by the President directing federal departments, including USDA, to find ways to strengthen American supply chains.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed serious gaps in our supply chain, leaving customers with higher costs and less choice. Reforms are needed now. It is a disservice to both producers and consumers for Congress to become entrenched in preferred policy positions while no solutions are actually pursued,” concluded Senator Cramer. “I respectfully ask you hold a hearing so we can start making meaningful progress on this critical issue.”

Hoeven presses DOJ to continue meatpackers investigation

Sen. John Hoeven is among a group of senators urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to continue investigating the nation’s four largest meatpackers. The inquiry was begun last year, amid allegations of price manipulation and anticompetitive behavior in the cattle industry.

“We pressed for this investigation to help improve transparency and competition in the cattle market,” said Hoeven. “The Biden administration should keep advancing this important effort. At the same time, we will continue working to prevent anticompetitive behavior and ensure our ranchers are treated fairly.”

North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines, and Representatives Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, also signed onto the letter.

The letter is part of ongoing efforts to ensure market transparency and competition among meat packers. To that end, Hoeven also introduced bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley R-Iowa and Jon Tester D- Montana to require a minimum 50 percent of a meat packer’s weekly volume of beef slaughter to be purchased on the open or spot market.

Hoeven joins group of Senators pressing for details on estate tax changes

The Biden administration has proposed changes inn capital gains tax rates and modifications to stepped-up basis that it says will not affect 98 percent of America’s family farms and ranches.

Sen. John Hoeven has signed onto a letter that asks the USDA secretary John Vilsack to make public a detailed explanation, with supporting economic data, on the proposal.

“The proposed tax impacts are dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to appreciation in farmland assets prior to a property owner’s death, size of the farm operation and associated assets, income of the heirs, and the farm’s ownership structure. Given these factors, we are writing to seek a detailed explanation and supporting economic analysis clarifying how these tax provisions will affect farm estates, including specifically how USDA arrived at the conclusion that fewer than 2% of farm estates will be impacted by the proposed tax changes,” the senators wrote in their letter.

Dicamba has new label requirements

Engenia, XtendiMax, and Tavium have new label requirements in North Dakota since being re-registered by the EPA after a federal court ruling last year invalidated the 2018 registration.

Among these changes, over-the-top application of Dicamba on soybeans is prohibited after June 30, only approved tank partners can be used, more records must be kept, and a downwind buffer of at least 240 feet for sensitive areas is required. Some counties, including Burke, Bottineau, Ward, McHenry, McLean, Stustman, Sargent, and Richland counties require a 310 foot buffer.

“Applicators are required to identify all nearby sensitive areas prior to application and are advised to closely monitor atmospheric conditions when planning applications. It is also a good idea to consider forecasted changes in wind direction for the next 48 hours following a planned application that may have an impact on adjacent sensitive areas,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “Many of the off-target incidents we’ve investigated over the last several years have concluded that proper applications were made; however, wind shifts that occurred after the application caused damage to neighboring crops. Good communication between applicators and neighboring landowners is also crucial to help prevent damage.”

North Dakota’s Meadowlark Initiative gets funding

The Meadowlark Initiative combines the efforts of conservation, agriculture and industry partners to enhance, restore and sustain native grasslands across North Dakota.

The program was one of 85 successful projects nationwide selected for $10 million in grant funding from the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Proposal, leveraging more than $12 million in contributions by 13 partners on the project.

The collaborative has two man goals. The first is to improve, increase, and connect existing wildlife habitat and the second is to support the sustainability of new and existing livestock ranches by offering programs and incentives that promote holistic grazing with grass-based livestock operations.

Foxtail millet for emergency hay

With the drought many producers may be thinking of options for emergency hay. Foxtail millet is often grown as a short season emergency hay, because you can wait until mid-June into July. Other millets include include German, Siberian, Pearl, and Japanese. Millet should be cut inn the late boot to early bloom growth stage, otherwise bristles become too hard and may cause mouth sores for livestock. For more information about annual forage crops, visit online at tinyurl.com/rntf29eh.

Pea leaf weevils waking

Producers in western areas of North Dakota should be looking for pea leaf weevils, which have probably already begun emerging.

First observed in Golden Valley inn 2016, this significant economic pest has been increasing its distribution across pea-growing regions ever since.

The adults are greyish brown and around 3/16th of an inch long, with a distinguishing broad snout, and begin emerging once temperatures exceed 63.

The adults typically don’t hurt plants enough to cause loss in yield. The larvae, however, feeding below the soil surface on nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root nodules, can cause poor plant growth and yield loss.

Timing is key to integrated pest management strategies for this pest. Growers can delay seeding fields by about 10 days, until after peak emergence of adult pea leaf weevil. Foliar insecticides, meanwhile, should be applied before the female gets a chance to lay eggs. Read more about integrated pest management for PLW online at tinyurl.com/h6xpfkfs.

Flea beetles are out

Canola flea beetles overwinter in leaf litter in grass areas and shelterbelts, then emerge when temperatures are between 57 to 59 degrees. They can survive on weeds like wild mustard and volunteer canola, but will quickly move into spring-planted canola when it is available. IPM for this pest is available online at tinyurl.com/4urp75hh.

Cutworms not so cute

If you happen to see plants that have been cut off, dig down around the plant about 2 inches to search for cutworms. They will curl up into a characteristic c-shape when disturbed.

Soybean, canola, lentils, field peas, and sunflowers are particularly susceptible to cutworm damage, since these plants generally cannnot grow back. Action levels for cutworms vary by crop. Learn more about integrated pest management strategies online at tinyurl.com/4c5z8s54.

Crop Management School

NDSU Extension’s annual Crop Management School is June 10 at CREC. Topics include weed identification, herbicide injury identification, late season wheat disease management, and strategies for managing low and high soil pH. Preregistration required as space is limited to the first 50 participants. Certified crop advisors get four continuing education units. Fee is $100, due June 4. Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/CarringtonREC/events to register, or contact CREC at 701-652-2951.

Extension hosting manure workshops

NDSU Extension, in conjunction with Minnesota Extension, will be hosting two, in-person composting workshops

The NDSU workshop is at the Carrington Research Center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. July 21 and the other is at UMN West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minnesota at the same time.

Topics include site selection, temperature management, moisture management, turning the compost, spreader calibration demonstration, sampling demonstration, understanding analysis reports, economics, regulations, and Q & A.

This hands-on workshop will include opportunities to practice various techniques, as well as a chance to ask questions of the experts.

Registration is required for this free event. Visit https://z.umn.edu/Compost2021to register. Direct questions to mary.keena@ndsu.edu or cmodderm@umn.edu.

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