A Step in the Right Direction: Senate Ag Committee tackling the issues in hopes of fixing “broken” cattle industry
The U.S Senate holds important hearings on The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act. Producers on both sides of the issue were asked for their input on this bill. Minnesota Senator Jon Tester says this bill will help fix what they say is the ‘broken’ cattle industry.
“Today, we have an opportunity to do something. Why? Because we’ve seen a mass exodus of the land. Rural America is drying up. On the other side of the equation, we see consumers being treated unfairly in the marketplace because there is no competition. Today, we can address both of those issues with these bills. A citizenry that is well fed is essential if we are going to have a democracy to survive. With consolidation, we see the potential that food could become a serious problem in this country,” according to Sen Tester.
Nebraska Senator Deb Fisher read a letter from producers in her state, highlighting why most did not come to testify in person.
“I wish we could have had a Nebraska producer here, but as is noted in their letter, ‘none of our producer members, we encouraged to testify were willing to put themselves out front out of fear of possible retribution by other market participants,’ an unfortunate reality in today’s cattle industry.”
The highlights of Senator Fischer’s updated bill required the USDA to establish five to seven regions covering the continental United States that reasonably reflect similar fed cattle purchases, designates a set of approved pricing mechanisms for covered packers that contribute to price discovery and transparency, and requires USDA to set minimum levels of purchases through approved pricing mechanisms that covered packers, those controlling five percent or more of fed cattle slaughter.
William Muffin, a cattleman from Mississippi, explains how the updated bill could help.
“The problem all started taking place when we got consolidation of our packers and we got consolidation of our markets and the AMA’s came in. I’m an advocate of this bill, and I realize that it may not be perfect, but I do think we’ve go to do something because if we continue to do nothing, which most of the opponents of this bill say, we are going to keep getting the same results. This bill may not be a lifesaver but I think it might throw us a life raft anyway.”
Shawn Tiffany is a producer from Kansas and a member of the Kansas Livestock Association.
“Price discovery, market transparency, access to additional processing capacity, and proper oversight of cattle markets is important to me and all cattle producers. However, neither of these bills being discussed today represents the right approach to these issues. I’m opposed to these bills and ask the committee to not advance either. The vast majority of cattle producers oppose government mandating and minimum level of negotiated trade... I can tell you those members overwhelming believe that cattle producers should have the ability to market their cattle the way they see fit without arbitrary limitations imposed by the federal government.”
Andy Green, Senior Adviser of Fair and Competitive Markets at USDA was also asked to testify since they would be responsible for implementing the changes.
“We know that when four companies control 85% of the supply, that you don’t have a lot of choice. We were both out in Kansas hearing directly from producers around take it or leave it markets. Expanding the choice, expanding opportunities for local producers to serve local communities is good for those producers and good for the consumers.”
The bill also allows USDA to work with the cattle and beef industry to periodically review and modify regional minimums after a public notice and comment period.
The Senate Ag committee also discussed the Meat Packer Special Investigator Act. The bill would tackle anti-competitive practices in the meat and poultry industries that threaten the American food supply and U.S. national security.