WASHINGTON- Stakeholders in the meat industry met with the House Agriculture Committee on Oct. 7 at a hearing to review the standing of the livestock industry in the United States.

The first panel featured Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a major figure for moving agriculture policy through Congress. 

Grassley discussed what the Senate has been working on, including his bill, referred to as 50/14, which would create price transparency needed for the cattle market. 

“I’m in front of you today to ask that you join with me and other Senators on the Senate Agriculture Committee to include real reform in Mandatory Price Reporting,” Grassley said. “Cattlemen across the country are counting on us.”

Next was Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who addressed the committee on a variety of issues involving livestock including price discovery, expanding capacity and increasing competition.

Earlier this week, the US Department of Agriculture announced an additional $100 million in loan guarantees for supply chain financing to assist companies in the meat and poultry processing sector.

Several other representatives from the industry were represented as part of  the third panel of the day, including Todd Wilkinson, vice president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He asked the committee and Congress to listen to the struggling ranchers and producers while other segments in the food supply chain are thriving, specifically processors and packers.

“As producers struggle to get by, large meatpackers have realized record-breaking windfall profits,” Wilkinson said in his testimony. “These profits have not been shared equitability with cattle producers. Because the challenges facing our industry are so diverse, it is imperative that policy makers at all levels of government remain focused on viable and tenable solutions with vast industry buy-in.”

He said Congress should resist a one-size-fits-all policy which may have disastrous unintended consequences and instead adopt a multi-pronged approach to the beef supply chain.

François Léger, owner of Augusta, Ga.-based FPL Food, testified on behalf of members of the North American Meat Institute. He said COVID-19 has been a significant factor in the recent supply-demand dynamic.

“The cattle and beef industry are driven by the supply and demand fundamentals of the free market, and the cattle industry is cyclical,” Léger stated in his testimony. “Not that long ago the cattle market was the reverse of today – in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the herd was small, and producers were making record profits while packers were losing money. During the pandemic, with packing capacity operationally reduced and the cattle herd large, cattle prices dropped. FPL worked with the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association to help support the cattle industry: we need cattle producers. And cattle producers need packers.”

Other panelists that addressed the committee included Scott Hays, vice president of the National Pork Producers Council, Scott Blubaugh president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, representing the National Farmers Union and Brad Boner, vice president of the American Sheep Industry Association.

The entire hearing can be seen here.