Facing a bleak outlook for the livestock industry, delegates in Washington, D.C., are making a point of helping Midwestern producers.

Congressmen Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., introduced a bill Oct. 23 called the Livestock Risk Management and Education Act that seeks to secure funding to better educate livestock producers on best management approaches.

The goal of the bill, Johnson said in a press conference call, is to get ranchers comfortable with risk management tools that row crop farmers have been accustomed to for much longer.

“It has less been part of the ranching culture, but moving forward it needs to be,” Johnson said.

Beyond providing resources for ranchers through local universities, the bill would push for investigations into the cattle market. Johnson said he hopes that bills like his and a few others circling Washington right now can help get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do an in-depth investigation into the cattle market and prices that don’t seem to be adding up.

“We do need an in-depth investigation into the cattle markets,” he said. “I don’t believe all the market participants have been playing fair.”

The education portion of the bill would give $5 million in extra resources to land grant universities for providing information and education specifically on livestock risk management.

Matthew Diersen, a risk and business management specialist with South Dakota State University, said that any additional funding and resources can help improve their offerings.

Producers have specialized in more specific markets, and it’s been harder for SDSU and other education services to provide general risk management information, Diersen said. Because of Johnson’s bill, he hopes more focus is placed on every aspect of agriculture, not just livestock.

“One size just doesn’t fit all when managing production risk on a farm operation,” Diersen said.

Crop producers have more comprehensive insurance programs, but it really has come down to pricing cycles that have put livestock producers at a disadvantage, he added.

Cattle prices remained high when crop prices dropped off the map, and many producers kept doing what they were doing instead of seeking out additional risk management like crop producers had to do, he said. As more livestock producers start to struggle, it’s only natural that they will catch up in risk management education, according to Diersen.

“The types of risk tend to be much different,” he said.

The only thing that applies to everyone anymore is land value assessments, he said, and even that is splintering based on pasture or row crop value.

From the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s perspective, Eric Jennings said that this bill can help provide funding toward helping producers identify the right risk management approaches for helping them.

“It’s certainly not a new concept, but there is a lot of new techniques and strategies we can utilize,” he said.

Jennings is the vice president of the cattlemen’s association. He said Johnson’s bill is a good step forward to get momentum and money behind the idea that the cattle market is not secure. He expects that more and more producers will begin to ask for help.

“It’s unfortunate that it comes down to that, but we all tend to change when we’re forced to,” he said.

Above all, Jennings said he is happy to see legislators attempting to help South Dakotans.

“They are paying attention to South Dakota producers and thinking about how to help,” he said, adding that he also appreciates the bill provides an avenue for producers to help themselves.

Johnson spoke at length about the bill but also touched on other agricultural issues in Washington, D.C., including country of origin and “product of the U.S.A” labeling that has been a sticking point for many producers. Johnson said both of those topics would not be included in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement like many producers were hoping.

“It’s been 327 days since the administration has completed their negotiations,” he said.

The RFS Integrity Act that he introduced a few months ago deals with the Renewable Fuel Standard and waivers for blending biofuels like ethanol in gasoline.

“There has been widespread disappointment with how the EPA has helped biofuel folks,” he said. “I think the EPA is in violation of congressional intent and we all need more transparency and fairness.”

Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 800-888-1380, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.

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