Commission Poster Showing Cattle and Hog Prices
Description: This poster tells an interesting story of the beginning of the end for the Sioux City stockyards. The poster, issued by the Peterson, Helseth, & Brown Livestock Commission Company, illustrates how the price of hogs had been decreasing in recent years, especially in comparison to cattle. Hogs were a major part of the trade at the Sioux City stockyards, and this decreasing selling price of hogs was a major threat to the Sioux City meat trade. These falling prices, according to the poster, were due to the increased practice of producers selling directly to buyers without selling their goods at market. This had both positive and negative effects on producers. On one hand, by selling directly to buyers producers could keep more of their profit by taking out the middlemen commissioners and stockyard fees. On the other, producers have decreased selling power and control over the price of their livestock because buyers do not have to compete at a market. The direct selling practice was most dangerous for commission firms. Producers selling directly to buyers have no need for commission firms or their associated fees. However, commission agents are useful, as they have knowledge of the market and are more able to set up the right buyer with the right producer to sell livestock for the most profit.
This type of direct selling was happening more and more in the 1950s. World War II and the years immediately following were boom years for the stockyards and commission companies (especially 1946-47), as demand for meat was high. But with the development of the Interstate Highway System railroads were becoming obsolete, and Sioux City’s key location as a railroad hub became less important. Trucking became more profitable and more efficient than shipping by rail. Producers could simply hire private drivers and trucking companies to ship livestock directly to buyers, and the need for stockyards lessened. Buyers like meatpackers became the major players instead of commission firms, and largescale business like IBP (Iowa Beef Products) began to directly contract with buyers. The Sioux City Stock Yards Company and many of the commission firms closed for good in 2002, and many of the local meatpacking industries were bought by larger businesses like Tyson Foods.
Donor: Neal Shreve