Cattle producers tend to take pride in stating their industry isn't subsidized. While that's technically true, it would be hard to argue with the grain producer who argues the beef industry is indeed richly subsidized by government programs that serve to keep feedgrain prices low.
Yet, for the most part, the free market is largely still alive and well in U.S. ag. The market does an amazing job of rationing demand by raising prices when supplies are tight, and dropping prices when supplies exceed demand. Certainly this free-market approach can be painful because it uses pain to signal the changes that need to occur.
Argentina is a whole different beast. It's battled inflation for a long time, and beef -- a staple of the Argentine diet -- has been a major cause of domestic inflationary pressure. Argentina responded to that pressure by halting beef exports in an effort to increase domestic supplies in March.
Last week, Argentina announced it had reached an agreement with the beef industry to freeze beef prices on 11 of the most popular cuts. This freeze, which runs until the end of the year, may enable Argentina to allow exports again and rejoin the global beef market.
The bottom line is the government can force someone to guarantee they'll provide a certain amount of product at a certain price in order to stabilize prices and inflation. But it does not rationalize supply and demand.
Admittedly beef prices in Argentina rose 9% in March alone, but that's taking government intervention into the marketplace into an entirely different realm. History has lots of examples on how poorly such government intervention in the marketplace works. The outcome isn't expected to be any different in Argentina. -- Troy Marshall