I had briefly written about the joint meeting of the cattle and sheep men in an earlier blog and said I would address it later. While much was said among the two organizations it would be impossible to retell it all here. I will just highlight some of the items that were reported in the newspapers.
One of the biggest items as the second joint meeting of the Cattlemen and Sheepmen took place in Flagstaff during July 1921, was the new resolve to work together on common issues. The economic depression that had set in following WWI and the ending of the Spanish Flu, the livestock industry had been particularly hard hit and situation had only been made worse with the drought conditions of the Southwest.
Both organizations believe they could “reduce the price to the consumer and increase their own share of the profits.” Cost and governmental regulations affecting livestock owners include the tariff, freight rates, grazing fees, and cost of supplies were reducing their profits. It was believed that a “elimination or, at least strong regulation of the commission men and packers now battening on both” parts of the industry. (Sound familiar?)
The organizations adopted 18 resolutions. There was one for each: pleasantries of thanking those who helped organize the joint meeting; thanking the railroad for reduction in freight rates during the emergency; service of the railroad livestock agent; asking for postponement of congress during this crisis; to determine where the bankers will be from who will oversee the allocation of Arizona’s portion of the $50,000,000 livestock pool; endorsement of the French-Capper “Truth in Fabrics” bill (more will be forthcoming on this topic) and asking that the fund requested by the U.S. biological survey for eradication of predatory animals and rodents be allocated. Some of the other resolutions included:
To ask congress to change the present tariff bill to protect the American industry on hides, pelts, dressed meats and wool. This was an ongoing battle with foreign competition that was not in the favor of American growers. It had not been resolved at the time of the meeting. (Sound familiar?)
To ask the Arizona Tax commission at its next meeting “to reduce the tax valuations of livestock at least 50 percent and on grazing lands 25 percent.” The meeting was to take place at the end of July and updated information will be added once it has been reported. During WWI sheep were valued at $2.50 a head, then raised to $3.00. Now the rate was $8 a head (more than double what the valuation was a year ago) and with the current depression, sheepmen can not afford to pay that on their sheep. President Campbell of the Wool Growers suggested a return to $3 would be reasonable. No valuation was given for cattle!
“As prices of livestock on foot have declined approximately 60 per cent in 12 months, consumers of the state are to be asked through chambers of commerce, and other civic bodies to demand a corresponding reduction in retail prices of meat and meat products and to insist that Arizona products, all things being equal, be given preference so that the industry will benefit and the money be kept in circulation in the state.” This is an interesting resolution and one that can be compared to 2021 and the livestock industry. Drought had affected the state and many livestock had been lost, leaving the owners with less cash but the same number of bills to pay. Prices of meat have skyrocketed during the pandemic as well as other grocery items with the ranchers and farmers still not being paid enough to carry out their livelihood. While farm relief has been given, many of the farmers and ranchers I have talked to tell me that other costs are still going up and what they can get from the government will have to be paid back. This was the same with the portion of the $50,000,000 livestock pool that was available to Arizona’s farmers and ranchers back in 1921: it was a loan with interest. While drought insurance can help alleviate the situation in the short term, many times, other entities will raise their costs to the farmers/ranchers and the insurance really does little good in either the long or short term.
Two resolutions dealt with railroad freight rates: knowing in advance the rate so contracts could be made and asking that with all the livestock to be moved in the fall that the present emergency rates remain; and agreed that the freight rates were prohibitively high and asked that the interstate commerce commission revoke the recent 35 per cent increase on western growers and the 25 percent on Mountain Pacific growers. This is a portion of the livestock business I know very little about today and do not know what freight costs are. Railroads no longer haul livestock and the trucking industry moves many of the animals between summer and winter grazing pastures, to feed lots and to slaughterhouses. How much truckers get paid for hauling livestock will be an interesting subject to investigate. Stay tuned!
The final resolution asked for a reduction in grazing fees on all national forests for all livestock with the forest in unfortunate conditions for grazing animals. This had been addressed in an earlier blog. Today the Arizona forests are doing better than they were at the beginning of the year with the recent rains received in the mountain country of the north and east. Pastures in the southern portion of the state is beginning to recover. While the summer monsoon has arrived, it will help grown the grasses in the short term but will not eliminate the drought in one season. Rivers are running dry with some have been dry for a few years: Little Colorado River is a good example of running dry this year and previous years in the Holbrook area. Dams are empty or have a limited capacity of water for using for farming. It will take successive years of winter receiving heavy snowfall in the mountains to begin to fill our reservoirs. Forests need that winter precipitation as well as the summer rains to be healthy. A side issue to grazing fees was the usage of the trails by non-residents and how that affected the ability of sheep to have adequate grazing as they trailed for the more sheep on the trail reduced the overall quality and quantity of the grasses for those who followed on the trails.
The last commonality of the two organizations was the question of the commission rates for the sale of sheep, lambs and cattle. The sheep men have formed their own commission house, the Wool Growers’ Commission Co., to reduce the cost to them. There were several localities for the company. While the formation of the commission company did lower the cost other commission houses were charging it was asked by President Campbell to frequent the Wool Growers’ Commission Company. Wool commission houses also charge exorbitant rates and it was suggested that a committee be formed to investigate a warehouse facility where the wool could be collected from all wool growers for the strict purpose to sell wool when the conditions would be in their favor. Until that time, the wool could be stored.
One of the last issues addressed dealt with wages paid for the herder and camp tender for the sheep men. This is not a topic that I have investigated with only three families still in the business today in Arizona. It is a subject that I do not believe is fair to ask these families and write about. If I ever can pursue this topic without getting into particulars of the families, I will write about it.
Over the course of the two days many spoke but their comments came back to those highlighted above. The meeting was not all business either; there was entertainment from wives of some of the attendees, dinner, dancing, and vocal music performed. Officers were elected for both organizations in separate meetings.
Some of these issues presented here are still of concern of both organizations especially with the usage of the forest for grazing and grazing fees paid each year. The livestock are a helpful solution to our forest burning each year as does logging of them. The foreign importation of wool, cotton, etc., does not help the American producer competing against government subsidies in these other countries. Another issue still present today is the producer not receiving a fair share of his hard work with packing houses making the larger profit. The consumer is paying more but the producer is getting paid less and less and still has his same expenses as before. A movement is beginning to have consumers buy directly from the producer through farmer markets, roadside stands, and stores established by the producer that operate like a grocery store with their products available: milk, cheese, lamb, and beef. This cuts the middleman from the equation and is a win-win situation for the producers. I would rather buy locally which reduces my carbon footprint and help those in my community. And that ends what was happening July 1921.
Until next time!