Close Window & Return to ICON News




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 21, 2005

ICON Speaks Out at Husker Harvest Days

(Hyannis, NE) - Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) was well represented at the 2007 Farm Bill Forum recently held in Grand Island. Over 200 people attended, including many farmers and ranchers who lined up to express their concerns and opinions on the construction of the upcoming Farm Bill to Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns and Nebraska Governor, Dave Heineman.

Among those who spoke on behalf of producers were ICON President, Chris Abbott, from Hyannis, and Director, Jim Hanna, Brownlee. They expressed concern over the lack of profitability on independent farm and ranch operations, and urged USDA to consider limits on packer ownership of cattle. They also expressed a need for reforms of unfair practices in agricultural contracts. Also attending the meeting was ICON’s Secretary, Bob Rothwell, from Arthur County, and many ICON and R-Calf members from across the State.

“Our vision is quite simple; we intend to promote policies that will ensure that our members have the ability to remain independent businessmen and businesswomen in an economically and socially sustainable environment” said Hanna.

“Unless we come to grips with creating a business structure in which the sale of our farm and ranch products generates sufficient income to pay for the land, cover the operating debt, and provide a modest profit, we will never be able to retain young people in our communities and on the land. And, without youth, our rural communities will continue to decline.”

After waiting in a lengthy line to address Secretary Johanns, Abbott asked that a “Competition Title” be drafted into the new Farm Bill. “The Competition Title is needed in order to assure that the more concentrated segments of our industry do not unduly influence the independent business structure that is the hallmark of our farms and ranches.” Abbott stated.

“ICON firmly believes that the fate of family cattle production businesses lies in the ability to enhance competition for its products. Vertical integration and further concentration in agriculture will bring with it a diminishing interest in staying on the farm from the next generation, and will continue the decline of rural communities,” he reiterated.

Abbott also spoke for ICON members in urging the implementation of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws which were enacted in the 2002 farm bill but remain unenforced.

“Recent free trade agreements continue to expose the domestic live cattle industry to greater and greater threats from imports of cattle and beef products. US producers must be given a tool to delineate and differentiate their product from the foreign cattle supply. It is entirely unreasonable to imagine that we can compete with foreign cattle producers, who have access to vastly cheaper inputs, less regulation, and/or significant government subsidies," Abbott said.

Johanns listened to farmers and ranchers for nearly three hours before closing the forum with comments about specific concerns which had been addressed by almost every speaker.

Support for Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) was brought to the forefront by more than a few speakers. After saying that the law is bound to help some but could hurt others, Johanns told of events that took place in Japan and Taiwan after those nations banned US beef following the discovery of a BSE case in an imported Canadian cow. With limited supplies of US Beef, several meat markets and restaurants began advertising “US Beef” and raised prices for the dwindling item.

“It is said that the housewives lined up in the streets and bought up the whole inventory from the butcher in a matter of hours. People stood in line to eat Beef Bowls made with US Beef at restaurants. The consumers there want our product. They love our product and will pay whatever price to get it,” Johanns said.

As it stands, COOL legislation is scheduled to go into effect in September 2006, after Congress delayed implementation from September 2004. ICON believes that only with labeling will the American consumer be able to differentiate product and have the choice to buy USA-produced beef, fruits, and vegetables.

Johanns reminded the crowd that the 2007 Farm Bill would not be exempt from budgetary cuts. “Just like any other budget---whether city, county or state---the US Department of Agriculture will have to adjust to the enormous and accumulating deficit. It is very likely that many programs will suffer and the WTO talks will have a serious effect on the way we do business.”

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska is the newest and fastest growing agricultural organization in the state and an affiliate of R-Calf USA. The Office of the Organization is located in Hyannis, Nebraska and membership can be obtained by calling (308)282-2826 or log on to