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Meatpacker bosses, ranchers called to Washington, legislative cattle market reforms on the table

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cattle markets and legislation to institute some reforms will be front and center on Capitol Hill at the end of April.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on April 26th to review two livestock bills. The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act has been heavily debated over the last year and has been touted as a compromise on legislation to improve competition in the cattle market.

Specifically, the bill would establish 5-7 regions in the U.S. that would have mandatory minimum levels of negotiated fed cattle purchases required by beef packers. The legislation sets penalties for covered packers for violations of the rule and creates a library at USDA of fed cattle marketing contracts.

Introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The bill currently has nine Republican cosponsors and nine Democratic cosponsors.

However, the bill has met pushback from major ag organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Both groups approved policy this year supporting efforts to improve transparency in the cattle industry but opposed the bill’s establishment of mandatory minimums for negotiated cash fed cattle purchases.

Also to be discussed in the Senate Ag Committee is the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act introduced by Senators Jon Tester D-Mont., Chuck Grassley R-Iowa and Mike Rounds R-S.D.

The legislation would create the Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters within the USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division. The new special investigator would have a team of investigators, with subpoena power, dedicated to preventing and addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforcing antitrust laws. They will coordinate and act in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and create a new bridge between the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the continuation of the food supply and national security.

The hearing will begin at 8:00am Mountain Time on the April 26th and can be viewed here.

The following day on April 27th, the House Agriculture Committee will hold its own hearing on Cattle Markets, that will include the participation of the CEOs of the four largest beef packers in the U.S. The CEOs of Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS and National Beef have all agreed to testify at the hearing to specifically discuss cattle markets and price increases for consumers.

Committee Chairman David Scott said in a news release, “It is very important, very vital, and very urgent that we hear the perspectives from the CEOs at these companies and get the full picture of why prices have gone up for consumers and down for ranchers.”

“In addition to this panel of CEOs,” Scott continued. “We will be convening a panel of ranchers to hear what consolidation in the beef industry has done to their bottom lines and viability. We look forward to the variety of perspectives we will receive at this hearing and the clarity it will provide to our ranchers, our consumers, and to our nation’s food security.”

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