According to R-CALF USA Board President Bryan Hanson, this action is necessary to preserve national food security interests that are threatened by a growing tide of underpriced and often undifferentiated imports.
“The growing tide of underpriced imports is displacing domestic cattle and sheep production and new tariffs are needed to offset the artificial price advantage that foreign countries gain through currency manipulation, cutting food safety corners, hidden subsidies, and lax environmental standards,” Hanson said.
Hanson explained that just as in the steel industry, new tariffs on imported cattle, beef, sheep and lamb will help rebalance trade flows in the livestock industry, which will stop the alarming decline in the number of livestock operations and feedlots in the United States.
“Since the implementation of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the largest segment of American agriculture, the U.S. cattle industry, has shrunk at an alarming rate: 20 percent of all U.S. cattle operations have exited the industry, the nation’s cow herd shriveled to the smallest size in over 70 years, and in 2014 and 2015 U.S. beef production fell to the lowest level in over two decades,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
He added that the number of U.S. cattle feedlots declined by another 1,010 businesses between 2016 and 2017. This means the U.S. lost nearly 84,000 or 75 percent of its feedlots since NAFTA. Bullard said most of those losses were smaller farmer-feeders that typically raise their own feed for their cattle and their continued exodus is weakening America’s rural economy.
“Losing nearly 84,000 farmer-feeders who once competed for the purchase of lighter cattle is having a huge, negative impact on the competitiveness of our industry,” he said.
Bullard also said that since the implementation of NAFTA, over half of U.S. lamb production has been displaced by imports, which he said has devastated the domestic sheep industry.”
He also said the large number of feedlot losses fueled by cheap imports represent a loss of competitive marketing channels for producers.
“What the hog and poultry industries learned is that once the competitive marketing channels in an industry are dismantled or destroyed, it’s game over because they won’t come back,” Bullard commented
Hanson said R-CALF USA will begin work to determine the appropriate level of tariffs that are needed to rebalance trade flows and halt the ongoing contraction of the U.S. cattle and sheep industries.
“Preserving self-sufficiency in domestic meat production is as much a national security issue as reversing the decline of our nation’s steel industry and the solution is the same – tariffs on underpriced imports,” Hanson concluded.