A group of Oklahoma lawmakers and ranchers have formed a task force to address problems in the beef industry.
Some local ranchers and cattlemen said they’re suffering financially, and don’t feel protected by existing lobbying groups at the statehouse.
Brad Hutchinson, with Chain Ranch, said even at one of the largest Oklahoma operations, he’s struggling as major meatpacking companies cut costs or import product for cheap.
“They took advantage of the consumer. They’ve taken advantage of us,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson reports losing more than $1 million due to the overall marketing structure of the beef industry.
State Rep. Justin Humphrey, a cattleman himself, said problems have only become worse during the pandemic.
“If we’re not careful, we’re going to lose our cattle market which is a huge driving force in the agricultural market,” Humphrey said.
That’s why Humphrey reached out to Hutchinson, and others in the industry to form a new Oklahoma beef task force.
The group was designed to serve ranchers and consumers through influencing legislation.
“A lot of the lobbyists that are supposed to be representing the cattlemen the ranchers are actually representing the packers,” Humphrey said.
The taskforce’s first step is creating a plan for special labeling on Oklahoma beef, so consumers can support local producers.
“You’re able to put that kind of a label and it should tell where that beef came from, probably what kind of beef it is,” Humphrey said.
Until that becomes a possibility in the next legislative session, ranchers like Hutchinson ask consumers to read food labels closely, and purchase Oklahoma beef.
“That would be one thing that could help more than anything,” Hutchinson said.