For whatever reason, there are two activities/businesses that seem to attract an outsize amount of what feels like hate, especially in federal lands discussions.
In many states, though, these same activities- ranching and oil and gas production also occur entirely on private land. In the Denver Post business section over the past few weeks, there have been articles on the impacts of Coronavirus to these two activities, their employees, and others who benefit from what they produce/ their taxes/ and contributions to communities. Two are about ranchers and challenges they face (and also opportunities to decentralize). What I like about these is that the reporters (Judith Kohler and John Aguilar) interviewed the people impacted, so we get a much closer to the ground view of these communities and the challenges they (and others who depend on them) face today. They also put a face on the folks working in and around the “oil and gas industry” (many industries with different interests) and the “meat industry” (also different groups of people with different interests). Since most media today is generated from the Coasts, these are voices we might not otherwise hear. It’s harder to engage in “othering” when people are sitting across the table, and when you can hear their voices.
There are also people responding to the challenges as in this piece also in the Denver Post by Josie Sexton about local grocery stores, prices, processors, and ranchers.
We do try to be competitive and fair, but it has to be fair throughout the supply chain,” Marczyk says. “Not just fair to my customer, it has to be fair to my producer.”
Brunson agrees. He pays his farmer $2.50 per pound of beef as opposed to the commodity rate of 82 cents, he said. And what he’s getting is the difference between a “BMW or a Pinto” — all Colorado grass-fed, Black Angus beef.
Marczyk says people go to the grocery store and ask for any 80% ground beef, “and (those meats) are just not all created equal. They’re just not,” Marczyk said. “The average consumer out there, they have no idea.”
Marzcyk and Brunson think that consumers will come out of this period with a better appreciation for their food, and especially their meat — where it came from, what’s in it and who got sick while processing it along the way.
“A supply chain based on monoculture is very, very dangerous,” Marczyk said. “There’s all this economy in consolidation, but there’s risk in consolidation.”
Formerly an investment banker, Marczyk puts it this way: “We talk about diversity all the time… and then we do just the opposite in our food system. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. Bigger, bigger, bigger.”
Meanwhile, River Bear this year will expand its Denver facility by another 3,500 square feet. And Marczyk says the outpouring of support for his small grocery stores and their workers has been humbling.
The next step now, and something that’s close to both of their hearts, could be the creation of more regional and local USDA slaughter facilities, so that the same bottleneck in the system doesn’t happen again. But each processing plant can cost somewhere between $3 million to $8 million to build.
“So it’s a huge hurdle for small family farms to do that, but if we start thinking like a community…” Brunson said.
And until then, “We think we can keep our prices stable,” according to Marczyk. “If the (farmers’) costs of production increase, of course we’re going to have to charge more, but if they don’t, we’re going to hold that line.”
This one is about oil and gas declines in Weld County with associated impacts to other businesses, taxes, and charities.