Senator Marshall is focused on cattle market reform
The 2018 fire at a Tyson plant in Kansas started a conversation about the need for cattle market reforms. That discussion grew louder during the pandemic.
Sen. Roger Marshall, an outspoken member of the ag committee, shares his top priorities to put producers in the driver’s seat.
On the hill, there are several legislative efforts underway to support the livestock industry. Kansas Senator Roger Marshall says that he is working to address transparency in the cattle market.
According to Sen. Marshall, “What we have to be careful about is overcorrecting. What I don’t want to do is drive the prices down, and I’m afraid if we overcorrect if we get the government too involved, if we rely upon the USDA to set prices and quotas, it could end up having a negative impact. So, that’s the last thing I want to happen. I think we need to keep emphasizing transparency, and I think we need to keep emphasizing growing the businesses, those small businesses to do more packing plant, and do more meat processing.”
Marshall says that he has not seen a “silver bullet” piece of legislation yet but says that the ag committee plans to hold a hearing.
The Kansas delegation also reached out to the Justice Department to follow up on its investigation into potential market manipulation by the big four packers, but so far, no response.
“We’re waiting anxiously for those results, but we all know that there’s a problem, there’s a problem here that so much of the meatpacking is really controlled by four industries, and then they’re complemented by other problems,” the Senator explains. “There’s a labor shortage for several reasons. COVID impacted them; the current labor shortage is being exacerbated by states, like Kansas, unwilling to turn away the extra $300 dollars a week for unemployment. I know the packing plants in Kansas have significantly raised their wages, but it’s unfortunate the federal government is paying people as much or more to stay home than to go to work.”
In the meantime, Sen. Marshall says that he is focused on creating more options for producers: “We certainly need more capacity and it seems like online over the next two years, we’re going to increase the capacity, maybe 3-4 percent. So, that’s the good news! We want it to continue to be consolidated with just four factory plants, so that’s the bad news. So, my job is to do everything I can to help lower those barriers to market for some of those small packing plants and make it more feasible for them to do business and get my producers more options.”
He also applauded USDA’s plan to invest in small packing plants as part of the agency’s “Build Back Better” initiative.
“These funds hopefully will help some of packing plants or smaller packing plants grow, but they still have lots of challenges. One of the issues that I’m working on is making small packing plants have the ability to sell meat across state lines. I really think that’s what it’s going to take to have some of those small packing plants survive,” he adds.
Sen. Marshall also plans to work with ranking member John Bozeman on efforts to slow the court ruling that would reduce pork processing line speeds at the end of the month.
For the full interview, click HERE