DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Like other ranchers across the country, Rusty Kemp for years grumbled about rock-bottom prices paid for the cattle he raised in central Nebraska, even as the cost of beef at grocery stores kept climbing.
He and his neighbors blamed it on consolidation in the beef industry stretching back to the 1970s that resulted in four companies slaughtering over 80% of the nation’s cattle, giving the processors more power to set prices while ranchers struggled to make a living. Federal data show that for every dollar spent on food, the share that went to ranchers and farmers dropped from 35 cents in the 1970s to 14 cents recently.
It led Kemp to launch an audacious plan: Raise more than $300 million from ranchers to build a plant themselves, putting their future in their own hands.
“We’ve been complaining about it for 30 years,” Kemp said. “It’s probably time somebody does something about it.”