Washington D.C.- U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi testified today at an International Trade Commission (ITC) hearing on behalf of the Wyoming livestock producers who are worried foreign beef imports are flooding the market and threatening their livelihood.
The hearing was the last of several in an extended investigation that the ITC is conducting to determine whether Canadian live cattle are being brought to and sold in the United States below market value, undercutting our own domestic producers. The ITC's decision is expected a few months from now.
The Department of Commerce (DOC) is expected to rule as soon as tomorrow on the same issue. An ITC ruling is contingent on the DOC's ruling that Canadian cattle dumping is indeed causing economic injury to the U.S. cattle industry. If the DOC rules that there is no cattle dumping, efforts to enact anti-dumping measures will be hampered. The DOC's decision was expected last week but was delayed.
Also testifying at the hearing in support of anti-dumping measures were U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., and Jim H. Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Fourteen members of congress testified in support of anti-dumping actions. Testifying against taking action to protect American producers was Ben Thorlakson, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, a number of meat packing companies, among others.
Sen. Enzi's statement is attached. See below.
UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION
INVESTIGATION NOS. 701-TA-386 AND 731-TA-812 (FINAL)
LIVE CATTLE FROM CANADA
Thank you, Commissioner Bragg and other members of the Commission, for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the people of Wyoming.
Wyoming's history is the story of our family ranchers and farmers. Our cattle producers are still an important part of our state economy and our nation's common culture. Agriculture accounts for $1.5 billion of our state's economy, and it provides 15 percent of our jobs. Wyoming's top agricultural product is cattle -- an industry that accounts for well over 50 percent of the state's agricultural cash receipts.
Today, as I testify before you, our ranchers are in a very precarious position. I was aware of this when I ran for the Senate in 1996. It was obvious then that cattlemen and women throughout the state were suffering due to low prices. That was three years ago. Back then, all the experts in the country predicted a turnaround. It never happened. In fact, many of Wyoming's cattle producers have yet to consistently profit from their labor.
My wife and I put 4,000 miles on our car driving throughout Wyoming in August. We stopped in dozens of towns and met with hundreds of my constituents. In our discussions with producers and residents of agricultural communities, it became clear that the situation for cattle producers could not be much worse. Many ranching families are barely hanging on. They are heavily in debt and find it difficult to make even the most necessary purchases.
Parts of my state that were once prime grazing land now lie dormant because ranchers can no longer afford to properly manage their most precious resource. Equipment is not being replaced when needed due to a lack of credit. As an accountant and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, it is particularly disturbing for me to see the loss of equity that has occurred to our ranchers, equity that was built up over lifetimes, and in some cases generations. Bankers in the state tell me that many ranchers are at risk financially.
When cattle producers fail to break even, the economic activity of Wyoming's cities and towns declines significantly. Almost all of Wyoming is comprised of ranching communities. Of the 263 communities in the state, 247 have less than 3,500 population. These small ranching communities that have been on the map for more than a century are at risk of disappearing.
Our domestic trade laws as well as international agreements permit us to take action to address unfair imports that are harming our industries. As chairman of the Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance of the Senate Banking Committee, I am well aware of the importance of international agreements, their effect on commerce and our need to abide by them.
U.S. trade laws provide our ranchers with a mechanism to address such unfair trade practices. If we look at the numbers, Canadian imports as a share of domestic consumption have been higher the past three years than at any time in history. At a time when our ranchers are downsizing their herds, we would expect higher prices to result. Prices aren't rebounding because those herd reductions are being absorbed by a flood of foreign imports. The dumping law ensures that the downturn in the cattle cycle is not unduly extended by unusually large volumes of dumped foreign cattle.
As is outlined in law, the ITC must find that dumped Canadian cattle are contributing to the injury being suffered by U.S. producers. I urge the Commission to find in the affirmative in these investigations and see that our ranchers begin receiving a fair price for their product.