ON YOUR SIDE: Cattle supply is good in Ozarks, despite meat restrictions

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- After a downturn in attendance due to social distancing concerns, Wednesday's auction at the Springfield Livestock market was showing signs of bouncing back.

Tom Kissee, one of the owners of the Springfield Livestock market, said, "We have plenty of cattle and plenty of market-ready cattle.”

For ranchers, there is supply and there is demand. What they are lacking is the middleman.

"The processing plants have gone to limited kill because of the virus in employees,” Kissee said.

COVID-19 outbreaks at large meat processors mean there are limited options for turning livestock into meat and for a fair price.

Joe Gammon, who has been a rancher all his life, said, "My customers are getting a dollar a pound for their fat cattle.

Gammon says at the stores, they are selling beef at $4 a pound. It is not the store's fault, but the meat processors raising prices. It's gotten to the point where grocery stores, including Hy-Vee in Springfield, are limiting how many packages customers can buy at one time.

"Missouri farmers told me they are desperate, desperate for more competition," Republican Senator Josh Hawley said.

Sen. Hawley launched an anti-trust probe into the meatpacking industry. He says there are a handful of huge processing plants out-muscling small businesses.

“It's really dangerous and we're seeing why. If one of these companies shuts down or idles production, then the farmers don't have anywhere to go,” Hawley said.

Hawley wants the USDA to buy millions of dollars worth of meat and other commodities and donate them to food pantries to help farmers out.

Ranchers around Springfield hope that help comes sooner than later.