Ranchers struggle to process meat; U.S. continues to import cattle

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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Shortages and rising prices in stores show beef is a valuable commodity.

Yet there's an oversupply of live cattle left on ranches.

Many meat processing facilities have slowed down or completely closed due to COVID-19, leaving many producers with nowhere to process and further leading to price discrepancies.

Last week, President Donald Trump said his administration wanted to look into terminating trade deal provisions that allow cattle to be imported into the U.S. With an oversupply of cattle in the U.S. already, some producers are concerned further imports of cattle from other countries could strain the market more.

But agricultural leaders say reworking trade deals is not an easy task.

“We have enough product here that we could actually supply pretty much all of our domestic market if we so chose. But that would mean reworking nearly every trade agreement you've got on meat products...that's likely not to happen,” said North Dakota Farmer’s Union President Mark Watne.

Watne says there shouldn't be additional products imported while American ranchers can't sell.

But he added the administration needs to tread lightly to ensure there's not a repeat of the last trade war.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's direct assistance application launched Tuesday.

Producers who are looking for assistance can contact their local Farm Service Agency or go online to

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