USDA investigating Kansas fire aftermath that Iowa farmers say cost them thousands

WYOMING, Iowa (KCRG) - A fire caused the market to face a surplus of live cattle, and high demand for beef going into the Labor Day holiday, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

A family cattle farm in Wyoming, Iowa (Jackie Kennon/KCRG).

Dillon Streets grew up on a farm, and now, wants his children to have the same experience.

“We've had this farm here since 1948, my dad's farmed his whole life, we've always been cattle farmers,” Streets said.

Five years ago, he moved back to Iowa, to return to the family cattle business. But, Streets thinks he could be the last generation to work on the farm.

“I have two young sons, they love being out on the farm, but I don't see them ever being able to farm because of the challenges we have today,” Streets said.

One of those challenges started with a fire at a Tyson Foods processing center in Kansas in August that caused a disruption to cattle markets at just the wrong time.

“There's a tremendous amount of frustration, especially when you see market fluctuation like this that results in people losing money,” Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Washington D.C, said. “There's no doubt, we have firsthand knowledge that members of the NCBA have lost money, we also know that the packers have been able to make money.”

Money that Streets doesn't know if he'll get back.

“As a beginning farmer, I've lost up to $140,000 dollars in value after the fire,” Streets said.

That's why the US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has asked the USDA to look into if there were any unfair practices, including price manipulation, collusion, or restrictions of competition, during that time.

“As an industry, we are asking for all the oversight we can to give answers to cattle producers across the country,” Woodall said.

Streets said he's at the mercy of what packers pay.

“The top four packers do control 80 percent of the packing capacity here in the United States,” Woodall said.

Streets said he just wants a fair price for his work. Despite the challenges, he still enjoys it.

“I think it's just in your blood,” Streets said. “I don't know if anybody wants to work this hard and make this minimal amount of money, and have this many things out of their control, but you're raised in it, and it's something you love to do.”