There are winners and losers in the most recent Farm Bill, and Congressman Lincoln Davis says Tennessee cattlemen are on the losing end right now. Subsidies for corn ethanol production continue to play a part in the elevated cost of grain. Davis met with farmers today in Columbia and yesterday in Crossville who said they are struggling to buy feed.
“With the prices of commodities – I’m talking about corn above $4 a bushel – it’s getting tougher and tougher for beef cattle operators to continue to actually feed grain to cattle to fatten those out.”
Davis says beef cattle farmers are getting lower prices for their feeder calves, which are sent west to eventually be slaughtered. He says the cost of grain – again due to the high commodities prices – is also keeping dairy farmers down. Without feeding dairy cows grain, Davis says farmers can’t get enough milk production to make a profit.
Davis says he found some interest in starting local slaughterhouses to allow beef cattle farmers to raise livestock to maturity.
“There are provisions in the Farm Bill that was passed last year that would authorize each state’s agriculture department to apply for the authority to actually inspect foods under the guidelines of USDA. And it would be grass fed.”
Davis says there’s a niche market for grass-fed beef that farmers want to fulfill. Right now, farmers in Tennessee typically raise feeder calves and send them out west to be fattened on grain and ultimately slaughtered. Small slaughtering operations in Tennessee aren’t currently allowed to sell the beef across state lines, but that would change if the state received USDA authority to oversee the operation.
Davis represents Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, which includes the Cumberland Plateau and areas south of Nashville in Williamson and Maury counties. He sits on the agriculture subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.