Cattle industry struggles

Oregon ranchers are facing a losing year as demand for cattle products falls.

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After investing record prices for corn, hay and feed in 2008, ranchers are struggling to survive in a time when people are buying less leather products, and lower-priced poultry and pork are creating stiff competition.

Summer is supposed to be beef’s best-selling season. But for many ranchers, the recession heaps pressure on an Old World industry trying to find a place in a new age. Cyclical downturns are the norm in agriculture. But this one exacerbates a fundamental shift unfolding in the beef cattle industry, moving toward tightened regulations, choosier consumers and heightened environmental concerns.

“There are many issues affecting the industry today,” says Brent Searle, an Oregon Department of Agriculture economist. “Some are environmental and social, some are microbial. … There are clear agendas and influences now on how food is produced and distributed.”

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