The U.S. wing of JBS, one of the so-called “big four” beef packers has opted to part ways with the nation’s largest beef industry trade association.
A JBS spokesperson confirmed the news in a statement to Agri-Pulse, saying its membership in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association had been suspended about a year ago, but the company has since decided to “suspend our dues as part of our annual review process to determine the benefit and effectiveness of our trade association investments.”
The news was first reported by Politico.
A spokesperson for NCBA confirmed to Agri-Pulse JBS was no longer a member of the organization. JBS is not listed on NCBA’s online roster of Product Council members; the other three “big four” packers – Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef – are among the 15 companies displayed.
The move comes as various cattle industry stakeholders grapple with how to best address the concentration of processing held by four companies given recent pricing swings and broadened gaps between packer and producer paychecks.
A cadre of producer leaders – including members of NCBA – met last week to discuss a path forward and produced a set of action items to address the concern. Among those items was a push for a more diversified processing sector including more smaller, regional plants and local locker processing.
The producer contingent is also pushing for a contract library in the beef sector – similar to the existing pork industry mechanism – and like treatment of cash and formula pricing in cattle transactions.
In an interview after that meeting but before the JBS news becoming public, NCBA CEO Colin Woodall told Agri-Pulse the industry hadn’t yet “found that one (solution) that completely changes everything, but all of these help us … hopefully take some of that leverage away from the packers and return it to the producers.
“Ultimately our goal, and it should be the goal of everybody within the chain, is to save the cattle producer,” he added. “This truly is a save the cattle producer campaign, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re Wendy’s, it doesn’t matter if you’re the North American Meat Institute or their members, it doesn’t matter where you are; if we don’t have that cattle producer that’s providing that steer that then goes into the chain, then we’ve lost. We’ve got nothing. So everybody should be looking at this as a campaign to save the cattle producer.”
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The push for more diversified processing was amplified a year ago during the COVID-19 pandemic when several major processing facilities – including the JBS plant in Greeley, Colo. – were offline due to virus outbreaks among staff. While many recognize the larger plants offer efficiencies that would be harder to duplicate at smaller facilities, there’s also hope that more plants would address the twin concerns of ownership and processing concentration.
The JBS spokesperson said the company has “taken no position on any of the proposals offered by producers or Congress as we believe any changes to how cattle are marketed or sold in the U.S. should be determined solely by producers.”
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