U.S. senators have introduced the bipartisan Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021, which would improve transparency in the cattle market by establishing regional cash minimums and equipping producers with more market information.
Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) reintroduced the legislation, initially proposed September 2020 in the 116th Congress.
“I am pleased to reintroduce this bill with bipartisan support. It will help facilitate price discovery and provide cattle producers with the information they need to make informed marketing decisions,” said Fischer in a press release.
Wyden said the difficulties faced by ranchers during the COVID-19 economic shutdown early in 2020 exposed the need for more market transparency and accountability to negotiate fair prices.
The bill would establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trades to enable price discovery in cattle marketing regions. It would require the U.S. secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with USDA’s chief economist, to establish regionally sufficient levels of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trade and then seek public comment on those levels.
It would also require the USDA to create and maintain a publicly available library of marketing contracts between packers and producers while ensuring confidentiality. USDA could not use confidentiality as a justification for not reporting and the agency must report all Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR) information in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
The bill also would require packers to report to USDA the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days and require USDA to report the information daily.
The legislation has garnered support from several agriculture organizations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). NCBA’s vice president of government affairs, Ethan Lane, said producers work hard to improve their product and increase profitability.
“Cattle producers continue to face serious obstacles when it comes to increasing profitability and gaining leverage in the marketplace,” said Lane in a press release.
“Leveling the playing field and putting more of the beef dollar in producer pockets remains the top priority of this association. NCBA shares Sen. Fischer’s objectives, as do its affiliates and, indeed, the entire industry. The best way to achieve those objectives, however, continues to be hotly debated by the very cattle producers this legislation would directly impact,” said Lane.
Last fall, 17 state affiliates of NCBA and other livestock groups supported nearly identical legislation introduced by Fischer.
“We sincerely thank Sen. Fischer for her work on this important issue to Nebraska Cattlemen members,” said William Rhea III, president of Nebraska Cattlemen. “Price discovery and market transparency are complex issues that take complex solutions.”
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) also support the legislation.
“America’s ranchers don’t control the prices they are paid for their products, and those raising livestock have legitimate questions about pricing,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.
USCA President Brooke Miller stated the organization has been working on market transparency and price discovery since their 2020 Winter Thaw in Billings, MT, and welcomes the legislation. USCA Vice President and Marketing Committee Chair Justin Tupper stated he appreciates “the countless hours of research and industry consultation by Sen. Fischer and her staff that went into the development of this bill.”
Fischer said in a statement she would work across the aisle to advance the bill. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor