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S.D. Farmers Union President Calls on Leadership to Look into Price Fixing

Posted on: March 17, 2020   |   Category: News Releases
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After Friday the 13th saw a dramatic drop in cattle prices at Ft. Pierre Livestock Market, South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke called on Leadership to investigate the possibility of price fixing among the nation’s four meat packers.

“I’m asking you on behalf of all our cattle producers in South Dakota whom you represent, to get answers from the Justice Department and USDA’s GIPSA to why laws already on the books are not being enforced,” Sombke’s letter reads.

Addressed to Governor Kristi Noem and our state’s Congressional leaders: Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson, Sombke hopes they can influence stricter enforcement of anti-trust laws to aid the hemorrhaging cattle market prices.

“Finished cattle selling for $521 per head – that is a loss of about $900 per head. We thought it was bad in December when, after expenses, finishers only received $70 per head. But to lose $900, this situation is dire,” Sombke says.

Feeders lose $900. Packers bring in $136.79 per head.

Sombke’s complete letter is below:

Honorable U.S Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and U.S Representative Dusty Johnson and Governor Kristi Noem,

I’m sure you are aware of the dire situation our family farmers and ranchers are facing due to oversupply and undervalued farm-gate prices over the past several years. The recent slump to the NYSE has added even more distress. I don’t need to tell you things are not getting any better with the recent national emergency due to coronavirus.

However, this last week I have visited numerous members of our 19,000 SDFU membership and I want to pass on to you what I think summarizes the visits I had with cattle producers.

This week’s report from Ft. Pierre Livestock says it all;

Ft. Pierre Livestock Report-

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Had a much smaller run of cattle, due to miserable market conditions.

Had a good crowd of buyers, and everything considered, a fairly active market. Packers gross revenue live equivalent Friday morning was $136.79. The only bids I could find out about on fat cattle were approximately $102.00 live. That’s $34.79 per hundred on a 1500 lb. steer, which equals $521.00 per head gross profit.

In my opinion, these packers are using this Coronavirus ordeal as an excuse to suck the life blood out of the cattle industry through criminal activity. After all, price fixing is against the law.

Senator’s Thune and Rounds and Congressman Johnson and Governor Kristi Noem, as president of South Dakota Farmers Union I’m asking you on behalf of all our cattle producers in South Dakota whom you represent, to get answers from the Justice department and USDA’s GIPSA to why laws already on the books are not being enforced!

The livelihood of South Dakota cattlemen and women depends on YOU! For many who are beginning or younger, this abuse will be the end of their young agricultural careers, unless something is done real soon. You know as well as I we can NOT afford to lose the most valuable resource, our young people, willing to take on the challenges of farming and ranching in our great state of South Dakota. Our more seasoned farmers and ranchers are losing an extreme amount of hard fought for equity they may never get back if something isn’t done very soon.

Thank you for your work on our behalf and I look forward to your prompt response to our request.

Respectfully, 

​​Doug Sombke

President