Sen. Heitkamp Meets with ND Ranchers to Discuss Fair Cattle Prices

By  | 

Ranchers from across the western half of North Dakota descended on the Dickinson Stockmen's Livestock Exchange, but they weren't buying cattle.

After historic highs two years ago, cattle prices have crashed by about a third. However, that's not the biggest issue for ranchers.

Normally, it'd be cattle in the sale barn at the Stockmen's Livestock Exchange. Instead, a panel of ranching experts, joined by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., took center stage to discuss fair prices for cattle.

"You know, everybody wants to be treated fairly and I think that's what this is about today," said Larry Schnell, Stockmen's Livestock Exchange.

"You can't really be in the business of agriculture without risk mitigation and when you can't trust the system that provides that, or you feel that it's rigged against you, you're entitled to some answers," said Heitkamp.

Ranchers are hurting because prices have been down about 30 percent over the past two years. But just as important is the volatility in the market that is making it hard for both buyers and ranchers to prepare for the future.

Ranchers can manage their risk by choosing when to bring their livestock to market.

"At the end of the day, if you just ride the markets and you don't do any risk mitigation, you are risking your whole operation," said Heitkamp.

"We're used to seeing the market moving very little over the course of days or weeks and now it can move up the limit and down the limit all in one day and that costs people a pile of money if it goes in the wrong direction," said Schnell.

One proposed solution is to limit high-frequency trading from Wall Street which some say is causing the destabilization.

Heitkamp says she'll use the information she gathered during the forum to address rancher challenges in a Senate hearing next week.​