An Oklahoma beef task force designed to analyze problems in marketing and processing beef has been organized by State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, and State Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant.

The two legislators have invited independent ranchers, meat buyers, meat processors, livestock auction owners and meat inspectors to convene and identify financial obstacles and structured solutions that will provide a process for long-term financial gain for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.

“Four major meat packers, Tyson Foods, Cargill, JBS (Brazilian owned) and National Beef are controlling about 87 percent of beef processing and sales,” Humphrey said. “They have considerable control over what ranchers are paid for cattle and what consumers pay for meat. The beef price is very low for ranchers and extremely high for consumers while meat packers are making millions of dollars. This is not acceptable.”

The lawmakers said Oklahoma ranchers are feeling the financial squeeze as production costs continue to climb along with farm debt. Chapter 12 bankruptcies are up 24 percent over last year, and the beef supply chain has been challenged nationwide because of the closure of 75 percent of American feedlots and 48 packing plants, they said. The COVID-19 pandemic also has had an impact.

“We are extremely pleased that practitioners in Oklahoma agriculture have agreed to participate in the examination of problems in raising and selling cattle,” Bullard said, adding that Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, and Rep. Ty Burns, R-Pawnee, have agreed to join the task force.

Ranchers to serve on the task force are Evan Rowland, Durant; Pamela Livingston, Seiling; Jim Robinson, Boswell; Brad Hutchinson, Canton; and Tim Bryant, Ardmore. Meat processors (representing packing plant concerns) are Bill Johnston, Clarita and Steve Swigert, Durant.

William Payne, Saint Louis, will explain the packing plant to consumer issues. Steve Combs, Chester, is a federal meat inspector and will outline slaughter regulations. Meat buyer Paul Cochran, Crowley, Texas, will provide information and data relating to the packaging and marketing process. Stockyards owners Jerry Nine, Woodward, and Jeff Hazaleus, Durant, will outline the spot-buying process, cattle futures and pricing cattle. Consultants to the task force are rancher Andy Chain Hutchinson, Canton; lobbyist Rex Duncan, Pawnee; and rancher Gary Greene, Tishomingo.

The task force will file its final report with the Oklahoma Senate and House Agriculture committees, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ranchers with concerns may call (580) 371-6677 to express opinions.

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