Around 2,000 family farmers, ranchers, and others from all over the country gathered last Friday on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, to have their say regarding unfair competition and consolidation in the livestock industry. (See my post here for more information.) I have never seen so many fired up ranchers—or cowboy hats—in one room!
Farm Aid was in Fort Collins in support of struggling cow/calf and sheep ranchers, cattle feeders, hog farmers, dairy farmers, contract poultry producers, and industry laborers. Most importantly, we took part to help bring attention to the need for swift implementation and enforcement of the USDA’s proposed GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration) livestock rule, which would be a crucial first step in restoring genuine fairness and competition to a livestock industry that is all but monopolized by just a few dominant, multi-national processors, packers, and retailers.
At the workshop I sat next to and visited with Vaughn Meyer (on the right, in this photo), a kind, soft-spoken rancher from Reva, South Dakota, who raises purebred Angus and chairs the South Dakota Stockgrowers Marketing Committee. Vaughn’s pro-GIPSA public comment, offered during the lunchtime break between panel discussions, was a beautifully articulated example of why antitrust enforcement is so crucial. You can read it in full below.
Vaughn’s stirring words were one of many dozens of two-minute, pro-GIPSA public comments offered during the workshop itself and at the Thursday night town meeting. In the days to come, we’ll post more commentary, photos, and short videos from the events in Fort Collins. For now, please send the USDA and the Department of Justice your own public comment (to firstname.lastname@example.org) in support of the GIPSA rule. Together we can begin to break through the silence descending over the countryside and start to restore family agriculture, vitality, and well being across rural America.
Secretary Vilsack, USDA APHIS personnel and fellow agriculture enthusiasts, I am Vaughn Meyer, a rancher from Reva, SD and Chairman of the SD Stockgrowers Marketing Committee. On behalf of South Dakota’s largest cattle producer organization, I would like to thank everyone here today for the great input into this controversial issue. Through today’s democratic discussion we are initiating the initial steps required for rebuilding our industry.
An overwhelming amount of facts and figures have been presented here today. However, I would like to [refer] briefly to that which will not be said here today. That which is as bone chilling and sobering as an Arctic Northerly in mid-December. The silence here today that is representative of the 370,000 producers who through the past 16 years have lost their hopes and dreams in production Agriculture. The silence of over half a million family members whose last view of their livelihood was in their rear view mirrors. A silence that is relative to the loss of 215,000 rural main street businesses throughout the past decade.
I witness this silence, only broken by the wind, as I pass daily through my home town of Sorum, SD, now zip code zero. Recently that silence has echoed again through the closure of two nearby family feedlots. An eerie silence broken only by the wind blowing through empty pipe corrals. Again this silence is present as one turns into the abandoned parking lot of Black Hills Packing Co. in Rapid City, SD. A parking lot that once accommodated autos of nearly 200 employees.
My point here today is this issue is not about organizations against organizations or producers versus feeders versus packers and retailers. We are here today to strengthen previous rules in order to rebuild America’s largest industry, Family Agriculture. A rebuilding which once again will instill voices, laughter and prosperity in our rural towns. A prosperity that will transcend to our cities and the steps of our nation’s capitol. A prosperity which will rebuild the agriculture foundation of this great country. An agricultural foundation which is prerequisite for the national security and industrial superiority of the United States of America.
Mr. Secretary Vilsack and Mr. J.W. Butler on behalf of my Grandfather and late Father, I thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to be present today and witness this rebirth of family agriculture. On behalf of the South Dakota Stockgrowers, thank you and we proudly support your endeavors.