Breakdown of the four livestock bills currently in negotiations

We have all seen how the pandemic greatly impacted the nation’s supply chain, and livestock was hit particularly hard. A number of lawmakers have offered some solutions in recent months. In fact, four bills have been introduced.

South Dakota Republican, Dusty Johnson says that it is hard to hit a home run in Congress these days. So, he is taking a different approach with the PRICE Act.

“What I’ve done with the PRICE Act is gather twelve different legislative concepts, many from my team but also many from other members of Congress, these are singles and doubles, and for anybody who has ever played baseball...if you can put together an inning with eleven or twelve singles and double, you’re going to have a great inning” Johnson states. “I just think the PRICE Act is the right thing for us to do from a transparency perspective, from a small processor perspective, from a better use of our lands perspective. We have broad bipartisan support and I’ve been glad to see that.”

The PRICE Act is a comprehensive bill that rolls multiple previously introduced bills into one. It includes overtime relief for packers, interstate online sales of state inspected meat, research funding, farm management and safety education, emergency grazing for conservation reserve acres, a USDA feasibility study on reported cattle negotiated cash prices, and a USDA cattle and swine contract library.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports the billand its effort to increase processing capacity and hook space.

According to the association’s director of government affairs, Tanner Baymer, “One of the ways we’ve identified to do that is through this Basic Act concept, which would provide federally guaranteed loans or federal grants to those business entities that either want to construct new or expand existing processing capacity, and we think that’s going to go a long way, especially if there are producer groups out there that maybe formed a coop or another business entity that maybe interested in having packing facility of their own.”

Republican Senator Deb Fischer recently introduced her own bill, called the Cattle Market Transparency Act.

It sets mandatory minimum cash trades and price discovery. It would also mandate a USDA cattle and swine contract library.

The bill has support from Nebraska Farm Bureau, but during their most recent policy summit, NCBA said that it prefers a voluntary approach to price discovery and set price triggers.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Mike Rounds is calling on the Senate to include the New Markets For State Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in the next coronavirus relief package. It specifically would allow interstate sales of state inspected meat.

“Today, if you had meat or poultry processed at a South Dakota inspected facility in Hudson, South Dakota, you wouldn’t be able to sell it across the border, just a few miles away, in Iowa, but you could sell it several hundred miles away in Lemon, South Dakota,” Sen. Rounds notes. “It really doesn’t make much sense, especially since state meat and poultry inspection facilities are required by law to be at least equal to federally inspected processing facilities with regard to their food safety standards.”

Currently, 27 states have their own inspection programs that are equal to federal standards.

For the other 23 states, the RAMP Up Actcould be the answer. Introduced in July by House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, the bill would create a program to help smaller packing plants expand to federal inspection and be able to sell product across state lines. It too has received backing from NCBA.

AFBF economist on growing price gap in the meat industry.

Cattle bill obstructed by Ag Committee Chairman.

USDA releases report on boxed beef and fed cattle price spread.