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Ranchers' Annual Convention in SD Will Focus on Trade

R-CALF represents cattle and sheep producers in 47 states. (Bob Nichols/U.S. Department of Agriculture)
R-CALF represents cattle and sheep producers in 47 states. (Bob Nichols/U.S. Department of Agriculture)
August 23, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Ranchers from across the nation will come to Rapid City this weekend for the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund annual convention. In its 18th year, the R-CALF convention sets policy for the ranching group.

The meetup on Friday and Saturday at the Ramkota Hotel comes as officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico head into a second round of talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement at the beginning of September. Bryan Hanson, an R-CALF member and owner of Fort Pierre Livestock in South Dakota, said NAFTA will be a topic of discussion at the convention.

"It's been a very bad agreement for cattle production, I can tell you that," Hanson said. "The country-of-origin labeling helped while it was in place. Also, there was a period of time where Canada had disease outbreaks, so the border was actually closed. If it wasn't for those two things, I think that the U.S. cattle producer would have been pretty well put out of business."

Country-of-origin labeling will be another big topic. The policy was repealed in 2015, but R-CALF has a lawsuit pending about it and hopes to see it come back. Hanson said country-of-origin labeling is important because it helps people understand where their meat comes from. It also plays a role in the balance of power between ranchers and meat packers, he said, because packers can buy cheaper products in other countries where health and labor standards may not be as high as in the United States.

"They can buy that meat at a huge discount and ship it in to help offset the U.S. beef production," Hanson said, "which not only puts a lesser-quality product on the shelves but it also gives them buying power to drive the U.S. market down because they can supplement the gaps with these imported products."

R-CALF represents cattle and sheep producers in 47 states.

Information on the R-CALF convention is online at r-calfusa.com.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD