- Jan 19, 2004
- Reaction score
- Northeast Montana
iRanch advocates talk policy, blame NAFTA
By TOM LUTEY
Of The Gazette Staff
Livestock markets are uncompetitive and the North American Free Trade Agreement is to blame, say the ranch advocates from the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in Billings this week.
The groups, meeting to discuss markets and trade policies, called on the leaders of their countries to renegotiate the 16-year-old, tri-lateral trade agreement.
NAFTA is considered one of the world's more powerful treaties. It eliminated tariffs that made trade between the three North American Countries cost-prohibitive. It also created a way to appeal trade disputes and granted each country most-favored-nation trade status with the others.
The trade agreement also made it possible for large corporations to create cross-border supply and sale lines that hurt consumers and producers, said the ranch advocates gathered in Billings. Alejandro Ramirez Gonzalez, speaking for the Confederation of Mexican Hog Farmers, said by eliminating tariffs, NAFTA has allowed U.S. pork processors to flood Mexican markets with pork. He advocated that Mexico create programs like the newly created Country of Origin Labeling in the U.S., which is intended to identify American products from those imported from Mexico or Canada.
Canadian Neil Peacock said his country would benefit from a labeling program similar to the U.S. one known as COOL. Peacock said they came to the NAFTA meeting, to which the Western Organization of Resource Councils, or WORC, played host, to work on beef policy.
Namely, Peacock and others said they would like to prohibit packing plants from owning the feedlots from which they buy cattle for slaughter. Feedlot owners buy young cattle from ranches and then fatten them up before selling them to slaughterhouses.
The concern about processor ownership of feedlots is that in areas of the country where processors own large feedlots, they're able to set take-it-or-leave-it prices for the cattle they buy. In the West, the concern is growing as Brazilian-based meat processor JBS SA acquires American meat processing facilities and feedlots. Last year, JBS bought feedlots in Texas, Kansas, Idaho and Colorado, which handle about 800,000 cattle at a time. Colorado feedlots are crucial to Montana's cattle industry, which exports 900,000 feeder cattle to feedlots annually for fattening.
President Barack Obama has spoken against processor ownership of feedlots. The groups gathered Friday are hopeful the United States will soon pass laws banning processor feedlot ownership.
Gilles Stockton, speaking for WORC, called on Obama to fix NAFTA and help the beef industry.
"President Obama, renegotiate NAFTA now," Stockton said. "President Obama, JBS must not be allowed to buy more U.S. packers. Stop the mergers now."
http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles ... -nafta.txt