Originally published by The Gazette

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Family cattle farmers are the lifeline of rural communities across Iowa and the country, Sen. Chuck Grassley told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but “they’re currently on life support” because of consolidation in the meatpacking industry.

Grassley, a farmer and ranking Republican on the committee, has been expressing concerns about consolidation in agriculture for years. Now four packers — JBS, Tyson, Cargill and National Beef — hold a tremendous amount of market power because they control more than 80 percent of the cattle market, he told the committee.

“Independent cattle producers in Iowa and across the country deserve a free and fair market,” Grassley said during a hearing, Beefing up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain. However, the share of cattle traded on the cash market has dropped from more than 50 percent in the early 2000s to about 20 percent today.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed problems in the food supply chain. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for every one dollar Americans spend on food, only 14.3 cents go to farmers even though the supermarket price of beef has increased.

“I want to make it clear that I’m not upset about paying more for my beef. I’m upset the farmer isn’t getting paid,” Grassley said.

“The market’s clearly not working fairly when demand is extraordinarily strong and supply is strong, but the packers are making record profits and ranchers are losing money.”

According to USDA data, Iowa had 3.71 million head of cattle in 1997. That grew to nearly 4 million, but has dropped to 3.65 million today. The number of Iowa farms that sold cattle decreased 41 percent to 23,400 between 1997 and 2017.

Read the rest here: https://www.thegazette.com/government-politics/iowans-want-congress-to-focus-on-meatpacker-control-of-cattle-market/