The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened consumer interest in what is happening at the grocery store.

Getting our favorite brand or cut of meat is now hit or miss, as some consumers face meat shortages and limitations. At the same time, some of the items we regularly buy might have an increased price tag.

In parallel with this, cattle farmers, like us here in Eastern Iowa, have cattle we can’t even sell and are nearing financial collapse.

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It just doesn’t add up.

The pandemic has caused a devastating disruption for all of us. Agriculture and cattle farmers are not immune. One of the most satisfying aspects about being a cattle farmer is knowing you are providing healthy, high-quality, affordable protein options for consumers. But consumers and producers need to be confident that our processing and distributions systems are being fair to all of us.

Unfortunately, during times of crisis it is difficult to have any confidence in the complex system we depend upon. Processing plants are highly concentrated, with four major companies currently supplying around 80% of meat products. Retail market prices are also influenced heavily by high-volume outlets, where a large percentage of consumers shop.

That’s why we are grateful to Sen. Chuck Grassley for asking federal authorities to investigate “serious allegations” about possible illegal practices due to consolidation of the meat packing industry.

Grassley has said that the allegations stem from a decline in cattle prices paid to farmers at the same time packers saw a sharp rise in boxed beef prices after a surge in consumer demand at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. In a Spokesman article, Grassley said: “The spike in meat demand has caused higher beef values for packers and a decrease in the value for Iowa farmers. That may be understandable in a normal situation, but this is happening when American consumers bought 77% more meat year over year in the month of March.”

Please be assured that until these issues are resolved, we remain committed to providing the best care we can for our animals and we appreciate the continued support we’ve received from our local communities during these extraordinarily difficult times.

We will continue to support you in the best way we know how — by providing you with the highest-quality, best-tasting beef to enjoy as we all slow down for a bit and share more family meals together.

Submitted on behalf of the Dubuque County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.