New bill on cattle market transparency introduced

On Tuesday, March 2, the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021 was introduced in the U.S. Senate. In a bipartisan effort, U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore) introduced the bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The resolution was previously introduced in front of the 116th Congress but failed when the legislative body adjourned.

Fischer reintroduced the bill, stressing the importance of helping farmers determine price discovery when marketing their cattle. “I am reintroducing this bill with bipartisan support. It will help facilitate price discovery and provide cattle producers with the information they need to make informed marketing decisions. I am committed to working across the aisle to advance the bill forward this Congress,” she said.

In the beginning stages of the lockdowns, the gap between cash cattle prices and meat processor profits widened significantly. While large companies were comfortably collecting profits, farmers and ranchers were not the only groups paying for the losses. Consumers also experienced price hikes when retailers faced shortages from the mass stocking of meat products. 

The disproportional impact attracted criticism from senators. Taking to Twitter after many farmers called out large meatpackers such as Tyson Foods and Cargill, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) called for investigations by the USDA and DOJ.

The coronavirus pandemic revealed the need for more competition in the cattle industry. The goal of the Cattle Market Transparency Act is to restore competition and improve negotiation power for producers. Highlighted in the summary of the bill, the enactments will: 

  • Establish regional mandatory minimums of negotiated cash trades to achieve price discovery in cattle marketing regions. The Secretary of Agriculture will be the primary individual that ensures sufficient negotiation levels, working closely with the public. 
  • Mandate the creation and maintenance of a library of marketing contracts offered by packers to producers. 
  • Mandate that the packers report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.

The call for cattle market profits to reach the producer has escalated immensely, with producers and advocates becoming restless. Cattlemen are not calling for sympathy. Instead, they seek good business practices where everyone can win. The Cattle Marketing Transparency Act aims to answer that call. Producers should have more power when it comes to marketing their livestock. 

Agriculture groups are already showing their support for the legislation. “We appreciate Senator Fischer and Senator Wyden for introducing the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021 and look forward to working with members of the House on a companion bill introduction,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

Despite others showing praise, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association announced their opposition to the bill, saying there is no need for the Cattle Market Transparency Act because we already have states that have robust price discovery in the fed cattle market. 

“In Iowa, Minnesota and even Nebraska, we have really robust price discovery,” ICA director of government affairs Cora Fox told Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network. “We know the true value of our cattle and that’s because we have a strong cash market. In fact, we’re probably trading too much cash and a lot of that has to do with opportunities and the types of operations we have within the state.” Farmers in the Midwest do market their cattle heavily on a cash market, where other states, generally in the south, deal with the futures market when selling their cattle.

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