Cattle groups spar over Tester-Grassley spot prices bill
Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Wednesday introduced a bill to require each U.S. meat processing facility that slaughters more than 125,000 head of cattle yearly to purchase 50% of their weekly volume of beef slaughter on the open or “spot” market.
Other co-sponsors of the bill include Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; and Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“The lack of transparency in cattle pricing isn’t a new problem. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the need for additional price transparency measures to ensure producers are getting a fair price for the hard work of raising cattle,” Grassley said in a news release. “Food doesn’t come from the grocery store, it comes from tens of thousands of farmers and independent producers who work day and night to ensure families across the country have an abundant supply of food. Independent producers deserve to be paid what their beef is worth.”
“Montana livestock producers have made it clear: There needs to be more transparency in the cattle market to ensure ranchers get a fair shake, especially as market consolidation continues to rise,” Tester said in the joint release with Grassley. “This bill is about putting Montana family ranchers first, instead of tying their bottom lines to the whims of multi-national corporations.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Brooke Miller commended Grassley for continuing to champion the legislation and said USCA also supports the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021 introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.
“As Congress looks to the reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Program (LMR) prior to its expiration on Sept. 30, 2021, USCA appreciates any and all efforts to reform the program,” Miller said. “LMR must be better utilized as a mechanism for accurate and transparent reporting in order to advance price discovery and shore up the fundamentals of the CME cattle futures contracts.”
But the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said the Tester-Grassley bill is the wrong answer for the industry.
“NCBA has and will continue to work alongside our affiliates, Congress, and USDA to increase price discovery and improve the business climate for producers across the country,” NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said in a news release.
“However, simply put, Sen. Grassley’s bill misses the mark. The industry – from leading livestock economists to NCBA state affiliates – agrees that any legislative solution to increased price discovery must account for the unique dynamics within each geographic region. As we have seen in other sectors, a one-size-fits-all government mandate rarely achieves the intended goal. Per our grassroots policy, NCBA supports a voluntary approach first to increased negotiated trade. If a voluntary approach is unsuccessful, that same policy provides guidance toward a legislative solution that more closely resembles Sen. Fischer’s Cattle Market Transparency Act. We will continue to work toward a more level playing field for producers, and we invite Sen. Grassley to join the majority of stakeholders in reaching a collaborative solution.”
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