House Ag passes cattle contract library bill, others

The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday passed five bills including the Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021.

The cattle contract bill, H.R. 5609, passed by voice vote.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union all endorsed the cattle bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

“The bipartisan bill would establish a cattle contract library within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, equipping cattle producers with the market data they need to make informed business decisions and exert greater leverage in negotiations with major meatpackers,” NCBA said in a news release.

United States Cattlemen’s Association Vice President Justin Tupper, a South Dakotan, said, “USCA would like to thank Reps. Johnson, Cuellar, and the many others involved in continuing to push forward with meaningful changes to the Livestock Mandatory Reporting program that will increase transparency in the cattle marketplace. A cattle contract library is sorely needed, and this bill is one step closer to bringing that concept to fruition.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said a cattle contract library could be “an important tool that will help producers negotiate more favorable terms for their cattle. Instituting this new policy will be a helpful step in bringing greater fairness and competition to cattle markets.”

But R-CALF USA, another cattle group, said its board of directors “reviewed the bill and determined it does not address the competition-disrupting leverage the highly concentrated beef packers now hold over the cattle market and that new methods of cattle procurement in use today by the largest beef packers may fall outside the scope of the bill.”

“The problem with our broken market is not that we don’t know the details of the contracts that confer market leverage to the packers, the problem is there are too many contracts and because of that, our price discovery market is being destroyed,” said Iowa cattle feeder and R-CALF USA Director Eric Nelson.

After the vote, Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said, “A contract library would help cattle producers better understand the value of their product and ensure they are not taken advantage of by large corporate processors.”

“But the bill we’ve passed today is just one piece of what is needed — because Iowa’s producers are not getting a fair shake. There’s more that we can do to support transparency and increase competition in our cattle markets.”

Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, which represents processors, said, “Members of the Meat Institute are still analyzing the bill and how it might affect their operations.”

“More time is needed to consider how the bill will affect livestock producers, feedlot operators and packers and processors. And due to the limited time allowed to consider the legislation, we ask the House to pause and include packers in the conversation, since the packers would bear the burden of complying with this new government mandate.”


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