I entered the livestock marketing scene at approximately the same time the National Farmers Organization did. It was the early 60’s, and hogs were selling in the $15.00 to $18.00/cwt. range, so it was clearly a time of unrest and desperation for hog farmers.
It was a time when just a nickel per hundred weigh would make or break a deal, and the producers didn’t have much skin in the game. The packer was definitely in the driver’s seat, so is it any wonder that hog producers were up in arms and willing to try most anything to bring some parity to the marketing game?
Thus was born the concept of collective bargaining — where hog producers would pool their production and bargain for better prices.
The first such movement was done in the heartland of Iowa, right on the door step of Oscar Mayer & Co. Obviously, their actions were stirring up a lot of interest by my then employer. So, as one of my first official duties, they sent me to spy on this activity that was perceived to be an unscrupulous plan to overthrow the meat packing industry.
They sent me as an undercover agent to report back numbers, names, and market destinations. After all, who would betray their market loyalty? And what packer would participate in such a belligerent act of betrayal – almost comparable to that of treason?
The lines in the sand had been drawn, and would never be tolerated by Oscar Mayer or any other reputable company – an attitude that was pervasive throughout the industry. But catch a packer short of making his kill, and their unbending principals can always be compromised. So it was, as the NFO began to make some inroads searching out a packer that was vulnerable. However, their uncompromising demands were never acceptable to the main stream major packers.
Though the NFO was never successful in establishing themselves as a major player in the marketing arena, they did raise the level of producer influence in the marketplace – the irony of which established my destiny in livestock marketing involvement.
Since leaving the inner circle of the meat packing industry, I’ve dedicated my life to the representation of the livestock producer. I credit this first encounter with the NFO as the premise of opening my eyes to the plight of the American farmer.
And I will be forever grateful I had the opportunity of serving this segment of the livestock marketing industry.
"PONY TALES by" Ponty is written by Ken E. Knight, the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in the "Farm And Livestock Directory" every month.
…BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND ONE OL’ MAN PROCESSING MEMORIES!