April 1 2020 10:35 AM

Livestock Marketing Association brings boots-on-the-ground effort to D.C. in the pre-dawn of the nation’s COVID crisis.

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COVID-19 and its associated economic destruction sent livestock markets into a nosedive in recent days. As auction market owners and producers scramble to adjust, federal and state government officials craft support measures.

The Livestock Marketing Association says now, more than ever, it’s important for lawmakers to understand the issues faced at livestock auction markets.

In this report from LMA, we go to Washington, D.C., where — just before the arrival of COVID — a constituency of market owners arrived to share their story.

On March 8, Washington, D.C. — like the rest of the country — was a much different place.

Days before COVID-19 halted the nation, a group of nearly 30 auction market owners from places like Elk City, Oklahoma, gathered in the capital as part of the Livestock Marketing Association’s annual DC Fly-In.

Larry Schnell : “The Livestock Marketing Association started the DC Fly-In, and it’s just a time where we can gather individual members as well as some staff and the executive committee to come here and lobby. I think our senators and congressmen want to hear from the individuals that are involved in the industry. It’s one thing to hear from an organization, it’s another to hear from a constituent.”

The goal for participants is to represent the auction market system by sharing their stories — and important industry issues — with their respective congressional representatives and senators. No one would anticipate just how imperative that would become in the subsequent days.

Erin Hickey: “I just think it’s important to be a face for some of these representatives and Congressmen to put with an issue. They can also give us a chance in these meetings to ask questions, and we can present what issues are problematic for us at this time.

Erin and her husband, Brandon Hickey, own and operate Elk City Livestock Auction in western Oklahoma, a few miles from the state line.

Brandon Hickey: “This is always a little eye-opening to get out and understand that there really are a lot of people out there that don’t understand what you’re doing. We have to tell our story. We have to let people know that we are out here in the best interests of our livestock that we are handling, day in and day out, and we are really trying to do that in a safe and humane way. And by the same token try to achieve the highest market value for those people who have raised them.”

Schnell, along with the Hickeys and other market owners across the country are back home — doing what they can to ensure markets remain open and available to livestock buyers and sellers.

Meanwhile, they trust that some of the groundwork laid in Washington will have some impact in challenging times.

Schnell: “Not only do our congressmen and senators learn what we’re talking about or what we may be hoping for, but we can hear how they learn what they feel about what’s going on in the industry, whether it’s the packing industry or the prices for cattle and how the farmers and ranchers are doing.”

Schnell: “We’re always stronger when we’re working together. Livestock markets are a very important part of the cattle industry. In that, we deal with the greatest share of all the producers in the nation. So, if you really want to find out what they’re doing or how they’re thinking, an auction market operator is about as good a person to go to because we have many, many of those people that we deal with on a daily basis.”

Visit lmaweb.com for the latest from the Livestock Marketing Association.

About the Livestock Marketing Association

The Livestock Marketing Association, headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., is North America’s largest membership organization dedicated to supporting, representing and communicating with and for the entire livestock marketing sector. LMA has more than 800 member businesses across the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.LMAWeb.com.