Ranchers optimistic with calving season approaching, but say ‘fixing the markets’ t is more important than ever.
HERMOSA, S.D. — The ranching industry is not stopping for COVID-19, not with calving season starting. Though ranchers in the Black Hills may continue with business as usual, markets have plummeted, and now more than ever they ask for the U.S. Beef Integrity Act to be passed.
“We’ve tightened our belts and we got through,” says rancher, Tyler Robertson, talking about how the past few years have impacted the ranching industry.
Ranchers have had their challenges with storm Atlas, last year’s flooding and the current pandemic. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is different than what they’ve ever experienced before.
“The elders, they’ve lived through three different pandemics in their life,” Robertson says. “And this, this, is by far the scariest one, not to them, but it just happened so fast.”
Despite the pandemic, ranchers in the Black Hills are more concerned about the stock markets and how it affects the sale of beef. Right now, ranchers are not able to sell beef at the prices they need to, but consumers are paying more than normal. Cattle prices have plummeted in the markets over the past two months.
“When the markets are crashing like they are, and they’re going down every day, hopefully, when this all turns back around, it booms and skyrockets back up,” says Robertson. “But if it don’t it’s going to be tough on everybody.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has shared his gratitude for those a part of the food supply chain.
But rancher Rick Fox really wants something to be done about the markets, such as passing a law that would make U.S. beef labeling mandatory.
Fox says allowing producers -in places like Brazil– into the U.S. markets without proper country of origin labeling can confuse customers, deterring them from buying local beef.
“It’s going to devastate our market and we’ve asked for some relief, or not really relief, just not to do it,” said Fox. “I haven’t seen too many ranchers that have asked to have a handout. We want our markets fixed so that it’s long lasting.”
Legislation was introduced in October for ‘Product of the U.S.A.’ labeling to be used strictly for cattle raised and processed in the U.S, used voluntarily by producers.
But it has not since moved from Congress’ Committee of Agriculture.
Fox and Robertson hope that with this pandemic, people will have more of an appreciation for the industry and those who call it their livelihood.
“Some of the eye opening things that are going to happen with this coronavirus is that we’re more than just a flyover state,” says Fox. “We’re essential to this whole national economy, keeping the food protection going and it’s going to be an interesting time.”