Cattle prices are uneconomical, Montanan tells Congress

Montana is losing a generation of ranchers to uneconomic cattle marketing conditions, Grass Range resident Gilles Stockton told the House Agriculture Committee lawmakers Wednesday.

Speaking as a witness about alleged unfair practices in cattle markets, Stockton said a rancher’s share of the profits from beef sales had diminished significantly as the number of meatpackers buying cattle narrowed to just four primary companies that Stockton said now process 87% of U.S. cattle.

With that market concentration, the number of people buying cattle has diminished, leaving little competition for the cattle rancher’s sale, Stockton explained. The hearing was livestreamed.

“In 1975, the concentration in the beef packing industry had four firms controlling 25% of the market,” Stockton said. “Today, they monopolize 85%. I lived and ranched through the entire period that has seen the beef industry become subservient to a monopoly cartel.”

One of only three ranchers invited to testify, Stockton got the committee’s attention following a New York Times feature on market concentration in the beef industry. He spoke as a representative of the Billings-based Northern Plains Resource Council.

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