WASHINGTON D.C.—Kathleen Kelley, a Meeker, Colo., cattle producer, took her proposals to change the U.S. beef cattle market to the highest level when she met with President Bill Clinton on Wednesday. Kelley, who is vice chairman of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), was one of four R-CALF representatives to participate in the meeting with the president.
“We have a unique industry in that we have a lot of producers and a lot of consumers, with a bottleneck between them. That bottleneck is now so severe that we (producers) are not getting feedback from consumers,” Kelley said.
Kelley told the president existing U.S. trade laws prohibiting dumping of products onto the U.S. market need to be enforced and new laws regulating the concentration of ownership and control in commodity markets should be implemented.
President Clinton responded by telling the R-CALF group that he has appointed a special antitrust counsel to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate concentration issues.
Kelley is a long-time proponent of agricultural market reform and has published a number of reports documenting the unprecedented level of concentration in agricultural markets. She says the repeated visits and other communication with congressional and administration offices are finally beginning to pay off. “I believe there is now a very good opportunity for change,” Kelley said.
“A scant four companies process nearly 90 percent of our nation’s red meat supply,” said Kelley. “Their size and international standing give them the ability to push down producer prices through imports, the use of captive supplies and producer contracts. Cattle producers and feeders need a way to compete.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D accompanied the R-CALF group in its visit to the White House. Johnson has introduced legislation that would require imported meat to have country-of-origin labeling.
R-CALF was organized in 1998 to coordinate filing of a petition with the International Trade Commission to enforce trade laws concerning beef and cattle imports. R-CALF estimates that dumping and subsidized cattle imports cost U.S. producers up to $2 billion per year.