The Planted Row: To create change, get involved

Stan Wise
Farm Forum

by Stan Wise

Farm Forum Editor

Kim Ulmer, CEO of Livestock-R-Us and co-owner of Huron Continental Marketing, has been working hard to make a big change in the cattle industry. He wants to change how the Chicago Mercantile Exchange handles cattle trading.That’s no easy feat, but the difficulty of the task only seems to give him energy.

Ulmer is concerned about the volatility of the prices in the cattle market and the drop in cattle prices over the last two years. He thinks the lack of an asset or delivery requirement along with the lack of a volume limit means speculators can trade as many feeder cattle as they want, perhaps even more than exists on farms. Ulmer believes this creates a valuation for cattle that isn’t tied to reality and the costs incurred by producers.

Ulmer wants to prevent the cattle industry from going the way of the hog industry in which most hogs raised in this country are corporate-owned, and the vast majority of family-owned hog farms in production 50 years ago are now out of business.

To combat the threat that Ulmer believes is posed by the CME and the way it trades cattle, he has been circulating a producer survey to gauge producers’ knowledge of and opinions about the CME. To date he has 622 responses, and it seems most respondents agree with Ulmer. Sixty-five percent did not know the feeder board had no delivery requirement, and 71 percent did not know there are no volume limits on the live and feeder boards. Ninety percent think there need to be changes to the CME delivery rules.

Our reporters have written about Ulmer in the Farm Forum before, and I have written previouslyabout his drive for change in this column. Last month, the Tri-State Livestock News published an informative article about his efforts. You can find it at I encourage you to read it and learn more about the responses to his survey.

Now that Ulmer has gathered his data, his next step is to get our representatives in Washington to consider it. Later this month, he is going to do just that.National Cattlemen’s Beef Association will hold legislative conferences from March 28 to March 30.South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association will be attending as an affiliated group. Ulmer is going with the SDCA and has plans to meet with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Dakota’s senators, Representative Kristi Noem’s office and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s office. He’s thankful the SDCA is letting him go with their groupand said these meetings wouldn’t be possible without their help.

Ever since I first spoke with him, I’ve been impressed by Ulmer’s devotion to making this change that he believes will be beneficial for the cattle industry. If you believe as he does, now is your chance to get involved and help him make a change. I spoke with Ulmer last week, and he said, “We would like people to phone in to the Washington offices to call attention to the conferences.” He wants people in the industry to encourage their elected officials to study the CME and make changes to it.

If you want to get involved and call before March 28, here are the numbers:

  • Rep. KristiNoem: 202-225-2801
  • Sen. John Thune: 202-224-5841
  • Sen. Mike Rounds: 202-224-5842
  • Sen. HeidiHeitkamp: 202-224-2043

Ulmer would like to take as many surveys with him to Washington as he can, and you’ve still got time to fill it out. He also said he was willing to take individual personal letters to senators and representatives. You can find the survey and his contact info

Stan Wise