Farmers Union Disappointed with ITC Decision on Canadian Cattle Imports

(Denver) The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) expressed deep disappointment today with an International Trade Commission (ITC) decision not to impose anti-dumping duties on Canadian cattle imports. RMFU said that U.S. producers have suffered from steadily decreasing cattle prices due to low-priced imports flooding the U.S. market. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that producers lost $445.66 per bred cow in 1996 and $364.66 in 1997. “The ITC decision is extremely disappointing, especially following Commerce’s earlier determination that dumping had occurred,” said RMFU President Dave Carter. “Ranchers have seen their income eroded by a steady supply of low-priced Canadian cattle flowing into the U.S. market. There is growing anger in the countryside over our trade laws and the lack of recourse for producers affected by unfair trade practices. We had expected a more positive outcome.” Farmers Union recently testified before the ITC on this issue and had urged the panel to take immediate action by imposing antidumping duties. “We commend the grassroots effort by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund that brought this case before the ITC,” said Carter. “Their work has been crucial in calling attention to dumping issues.” Kathleen Kelley, vice president of R-CALF and RMFU and a rancher from Meeker, Colo., observed, “It’s unfortunate that the Commission apparently was unable to see the connection between imports of one million head of cattle at dumped prices each year and harm to an industry that, as confirmed by the U.S. government, has incurred staggering losses for more than four years. It’s especially difficult to understand how the Commission arrived at its decision when you consider the facts that were never seriously contested. “First, cattle are a perishable agricultural commodity product that are sold on a national market. Second, once fed cattle are ready to go, the feedlot operators must sell them within a two-week time frame, or incur additional feeding costs while the value of their cattle decline as they put on too much fat. Third, market prices, which are highly sensitive to changes in supply, are transmitted nationally. “Most of the cash market transactions don’t occur until late in the week, and then within a matter of a few hours. Given those conditions, imports of Canadian cattle that are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Tier states depress domestic prices in those regions. Those prices are transmitted to other regions and thus depress prices elsewhere as well. And, when the price for fat cattle goes down, so does the price for feeders and calves.” RMFU expressed disappointment that there is no mechanism in place to compensate producers for damages caused by past dumping. Farmers Union has advocated a measure, passed by the Senate Nov. 4, to expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to pay producers who lose income due to unfair imports. The final determination by the ITC follows a preliminary decision by the panel earlier this year that Canadian cattle imports were unfairly damaging U.S. cattle producers. The case is the result of a petition filed by the R-CALF in 1998.