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Feenstra and Axne Lead Legislation Tackling Price Transparency in Cattle Market

November 17, 2021

“The current negotiating structure puts consumers and smaller cattle operations at a disadvantage”

WASHINGTON -- Today, Rep. Randy Feenstra (IA-04) and Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03), both members of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, introduced the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation aims to return fairness to the cattle marketplace dominated by four major meat packers.

“Although the cost of beef continues to rise, independent cattle producers have seen prices decrease or remain stagnant for too long. It is clear the current negotiating structure puts consumers and smaller cattle operations at a disadvantage, which is why I immediately began calling for hearings and voicing concerns on the Agriculture Committee. I am honored to lead this legislation alongside Congresswoman Axne, and I would like to thank my colleagues in the Senate, including Senator Grassley, for their persistence and hard work on this critical issue. I look forward to working together to get this bipartisan, bicameral compromise on the president’s desk,” said Rep. Feenstra.

“For years, Iowa’s independent cattle producers have been bearing the burden of price discovery and a lack of transparency when trying to market their cattle and make ends meet,” said Rep. Axne. “All they want is fairness and equal footing and that’s exactly what this legislation would do. The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act would provide meaningful and long overdue reform to the cattle industry to ensure producers in Iowa and across this country can continue their operations for generations to come. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Grassley and my bipartisan colleagues on this issue throughout my time in Congress and will work to advance it across the finish line.”

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act is also supported in the House by Iowa Reps. Ashley Hinson (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), as well as Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) and Vicky Hartzler (MO-04).

Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate today by Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst along with Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and is also supported by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act will:

  1. Establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trades based on each region’s 18-month average trade to enable price discovery in cattle marketing regions. In order to establish regionally sufficient levels of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trade, the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Chief Economist, would seek public comment on those levels, set the minimums, and then implement them. No regional minimum level can be more than three times that of the lowest regional minimum, and no regional minimum can be lower than the 18-month average trade at the time the bill is enacted.
  2. Require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create and maintain a publicly available library of marketing contracts between packers and producers in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  3. Prohibit the USDA from using confidentiality as a justification for not reporting and make clear that USDA must report all Livestock Mandatory Reporting information, and they must do so in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  4. Require more timely reporting of cattle carcass weights as well as requiring a packer to report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.

The following groups have endorsed the bill: American Farm Bureau, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Cattlemen's Association, National Farmers Union, and National Grange.

A one-pager summary of the bill is available HERE. A section-by-section summary is available HERE.

Background

Feenstra has met with independent cattle producers across the state who expressed frustration and concern that they are losing money while meatpackers continue making large profits. Some producers have lost $150 or more a head.

After he repeatedly demanded answers and called for a hearing on anticompetitive behavior in the cattle market, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack came before the Agriculture Committee to discuss the topic. During Feenstra’s questioning, Vilsack agreed greater transparency was needed.

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