A-PLUS updates regs, potentially ups shackle space
The Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act, introduced April 7 by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture. The act would clarify regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act to allow livestock market owners to maintain an ownership interest in small and mid-sized meatpacking facilities with a slaughter capacity of less than 2,000 head per day or 700,000 head per year.
Hartzler said the act will level the playing field for livestock auctions and small packers alike.
“For decades, livestock auction markets have played by an outdated and restrictive book of rules which limited capacity and created a system where large meatpacker behemoths literally and figuratively slaughtered the competition,” she said.
This act represents not only an update to a portion of the P&SA, but the potential for additional shackle space and competition. Chelsea Good, Livestock Marketing Association’s vice president of industry affairs, said the restriction dates back to the days of terminal stockyards and an environment prior to the transparency offered today at livestock markets where it no longer makes sense.
“It’s dual purpose,” Good said. “I do think we have talked to enough livestock auction owners across the U.S. who have reached out and had some interest in doing something in the processing space that I think it could make an actual difference in a more resilient processing sector in a couple of ways. We want additional shackle space and additional capacity, but we also really like additional competitors in the packing space.
Good said the wishes that top the lists of livestock market owners is often additional buyers and bidders in the crowd to help push prices for producers. If this were enacted, that could come in the form of either a new facility or expansion of an existing one to increase competition in the packing space.
Good said that livestock market owners across the country have reached out to LMA and the interest doesn’t seem to be regionally limited, but interest could be piqued in areas with fewer packing facilities.
The largest of the packers, she said, don’t appear to be taking a stance in opposition through the North American Meat Institute.
“It wouldn’t be a great look for an entity that is that big to say they don’t want to compete with a local or regional packing facility that is invested in by people in our industry. I’m hopeful it won’t receive a lot of push back from those large entities.”
Good said LMA has been in contact with a number of Senate offices, and she’s hopeful that a Senate companion bill will be forthcoming. The House co-sponsor list is growing with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa; Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., in addition to Hartzler.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports the act.
“The need for new packing facilities has become a critical issue for the cattle industry. Huge amounts of capital are required to get new facilities up and running,” said Clint Berry, chairman of NCBA’s Livestock Marketing Council. “Understanding the need for these new facilities, producers themselves have invested in these efforts but outdated regulations still prevent livestock markets from having ownership in packing facilities. The A-PLUS Act paves the way for the marketing segment of the cattle industry to be included as investors in these facilities, helping reduce dependence on major packers and improving the competitiveness of the live cattle market.”
Congressman Panetta is the original co-sponsor, making the act bipartisan. Panetta said the supply chain disruptions are barriers that continue to plague the livestock industry that must be removed to allow producers to compete in the global marketplace.
“This bipartisan legislation will remove outdated regulations from the early 1900s and better reflect the needs of our modern-day livestock producers,” he said. “Allowing for livestock auction market investments in regional packing facilities will support small businesses, increase competition, and drive down costs for consumers.”
Congressman Feenstra said outdated regulations do more harm than good and calls the act commonsense legislation.
“Expediting the safe processing of beef and allowing livestock auction market owners to invest in small packing facilities will help lower meat prices for families and cut red tape for Iowa cattle producers.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Livestock Market Council Chairman Clint Berry said the need for new packing facilities has become a critical issue for the cattle industry.
“Huge amounts of capital are required to get new facilities up and running,” he said. “Understanding the need for these new facilities, producers themselves have invested in these efforts but outdated regulations still prevent livestock markets from having ownership in packing facilities. The A-PLUS Act paves the way for the marketing segment of the cattle industry to be included as investors in these facilities, helping reduce dependence on major packers and improving the competitiveness of the live cattle market.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association President Brooke Miller said removing barriers to adding competition is a regulatory fix driven by commonsense.
“The Packers & Stockyards Act is over 100 years old — it’s time to modernize parts of this historic legislation that no longer make sense in the modern world,” Miller said. “Today’s livestock auctions are often family-owned and regionally based. If one of these entities wanted to invest in a local processing facility to increase processing capacity for producers in their area, there shouldn’t be an outdated regulation holding them back from doing so.”
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