President Donald Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico had some supporters among ranchers, who oppose allowing low-priced cattle into the U.S., the CEO of R-CALF says.
“We view these cheaper, undifferentiated Mexican cattle as substitutes for our domestic production (and) that’s actually causing us to displace our cow-calf operators,” R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said.
That limits or eliminates opportunities for younger ranchers to enter the business and for current ranchers to remain profitable, he said.
The tariffs have been indefinitely suspended, but could be brought back to the table if Mexico doesn’t live up to its promises of clamping down on immigration, Bullard said.
“These cattle are coming into the United States about $200 per head cheaper than what we can produce them for here,” he said.
Mexican beef standards are lower than U.S. standards, Bullard said, but the resulting beef is eligible for USDA labels.
“The importers are making a windfall — they’re buying these undifferentiated, cheaper cattle cheaper and selling it to unsuspecting consumers ... at the same price as if it were produced right here under the higher and most stringent production standards in the world,” Bullard said.
Bullard remains hopeful that Trump will implement the tariffs on imports from Mexico in the future.
R-CALF tried to have the tariffs included in the negotiation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, along with restoration of country-of-origin labeling for beef.
“The administration has ignored us,” Bullard said. “We continue to push, and we shall see.”
Ranchers have been frustrated watching Trump make the reforms they asked for applied to the automobile and textile industries, Bullard said.
“It’s clear that President Trump understands that we need to make fundamental changes to our trade policy,” he said. “If you’re going to support domestic supply chains, you have to be able to label the products and encourage U.S. consumers to buy American.”
Trump has “completely ignored” the cattle industry, Bullard said.
“He continues to listen to the old guard that has put us in this precarious position in the first place,” he said. “That’s been very frustrating trying to break through that, which we have not yet accomplished.”