Senate committee to hold hearing on US livestock, poultry sectors

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WASHINGTON – US Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) recently announced a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee hearing to gather testimony on conditions in the livestock and poultry markets. “A Review of the US Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges” is scheduled for May 26.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) 

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) requested the hearing in a letter to Roberts, chairman of the committee, and Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). The group cited several factors USCA believes contributed to the collapse of the livestock cattle market in late 2015, including algorithmic and anti-competitive buying practices and lack of funding for a final GIPSA rule.

“The countryside called on Congress, and Congress answered. USCA looks forward to working with Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow and Committee staff in preparation for the hearing,” USCA President Danni Beer said in a statement.  “As we identify and address the multiple issues contributing to today’s market volatility, USCA is confident that concrete solutions can be reached to once again achieve and maintain market stability.”

Lawmakers at the state and federal level have expressed concerns about competition in a meat processing industry that continues to consolidate, and, some say, squeeze out independent meat producers. Sen. Chuck Grassley recently reintroduced legislation that would bar meatpackers from owning and feeding livestock, and groups representing poultry growers argue that their contracts with large meatpackers aren’t fair.

In April, members of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary requested an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into the sudden drop in cattle prices during the latter half of 2015. R-CALF, which represents independent cattle feeders, requested the investigation. Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF, said at the time that a GAO investigation represented the industry’s best chance at stopping the “chickenization” of the cattle industry, referring to the vertically integrated structure of the poultry industry.

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