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Zach Ducheneaux is optimistic now is the time to change the cattle industry

"We're having the conversation out in the open now. The Secretary (of Agriculture) is really taking a stand against the consolidation in the meatpacking industry and has put some resolutions toward addressing that, with the small and micro-scale processing facility funding that we're delivering," said Zach Ducheneaux, FSA administrator.

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FARGO, N.D. — The pandemic brought national attention to the power that meatpackers hold over producers. Ranchers and government officials are looking to take that power away from the four major meatpackers and give more power back to producers, and Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux says progress is being made.

"I think there's hope, and I think we're closer," said Ducheneaux, a former South Dakota cattle rancher. Ducheneaux was in Fargo for the Midwest Agriculture Summit late last month. "We're having the conversation out in the open now. The Secretary (of Agriculture) is really taking a stand against the consolidation in the meatpacking industry and has put some resolutions toward addressing that, with the small and micro-scale processing facility funding that we're delivering."

The four major meatpackers — Cargill, JBS USA, Tyson Foods and National Beef Packing — hold 85% of the market.

While cattle ranchers are seeing better market prices, inflation has made it hard to see a difference to their bottom line due to increased input costs.

"Costs are going up to, so we have to have prices so we're kinda status quo now. We will get higher prices and then you know the cost side is really getting us," explained Tim Petry, North Dakota State University Extension livestock marketing economist.

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But Ducheneaux is optimistic that this is the time to fix the problems in the cattle market.

"We're at a critical point, where we have producers aware, we've got both sides of the legislative branch aware, and we've got the executive branch working on it as well," he said. "We've just gotta empower our producers to have that opportunity to do something different with their product than to one of those four meatpackers."

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