Thoughts from a Central Oregon Rancher

Long-time HDFFA partner Ann Snyder of White Diamond Ranch, a pioneering member of the Niche Meat Processing Assistance Network (NMPAN), recently shared her thoughts with us about what it means to be a small-scale producer today, and she has given us her permission to pass them along. We share them here with you.

I am sitting here thinking that it has taken a pandemic for people to realize what supply trouble we as a nation and Central Oregon a poster child for what trouble we are in for supplies of any kind but especially food. Tyson Meats has shut down in Pasco along with Smithfield and whatever the name of the plant is near Denver. The
vegetable processing plant in Linn County has shut down I believe. I don’t know about the potato plants and such in the Columbia Basin.

Ranchers here have no place to go with the cattle. Our neighbors that are running cattle on our place right now said that if they had sold all their calves last fall they Would have made $100 per head more than they could now if they could sell them. With 200 head or more of calves, now yearlings, you can’t sell them all on the private, local market. For those of us that have been talking about and working on this for 20+ years now, it’s kind of an I told you so, but that doesn’t solve the problem. We still have two very old USDA plants owned by older folks, and no system to get any newer plants going, and likely few people that want to work in them, but that part might change. 

[I just left a comment on the NPAM listserv] about trying to eventually go back to having more smaller, commercial slaughter plants around the country, rather than relying on these big plants owned by multinational corporations like Smithfield and Tyson.  I am really dating myself, but I remember in the late ’50s and early ’60s when I believe there were three slaughterhouses in Portland that would bid on my Dad’s lambs and beef, so they went 30 miles to be slaughtered, from Molalla to Portland.  There were fruit and vegetable processing plants in almost every town up and down the middle of the valley.  Farms and ranches were also much more diversified.  Somehow we need to work on getting back to some of this.  I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m still out here, and my heart is still deep in this.


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