WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill was introduced into the House of Representatives, which plans to create a library of cattle contracts for the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agriculture Marketing Service to report terms of agreement between cattlemen and packers in the beef industry.

The Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021 is sponsored by Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), which would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. The proposed legislation passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on Oct. 21. 

The bill, which currently has 16 co-sponsors, would help cattlemen gather more data needed to make market decisions when negotiating with large meatpackers around the country. USDA already maintains a similar pork contract library.

“Producers have been asking for increased transparency and leverage in the cattle market for years, the Cattle Contract Library Act will provide granular data in near real time, ensuring producers understand the value of marketing agreements,” Johnson said. “Data drives marketing decisions and a contract library will provide much-needed leverage for independent producers.”

Several cattle industry groups have shown major support for the bill including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the American Farm Bureau Federation, US Cattlemen’s Association, the Livestock Marketing Association and the National Farmers Union.

“After more than a year of upheaval, facing everything from extreme drought to supply chain disruptions, many cattle producers have been backed against a wall. We need to act urgently to provide them with relief,” said Jerry Bohn, president of the NCBA. “There is no single, silver bullet solution to the wide variety of needs among our diverse membership, but lawmakers can start by focusing on viable solutions that have broad-base support across the industry. The cattle contract library is one such solution, and it will help our producers command more leverage in negotiations with the packers. We appreciate the work of Congressman Johnson and Congressman Cuellar to move the ball forward on this urgent issue.” 

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) issued a statement regarding the bill saying its members needed more time to look it over after the bill left the committee.

“Members of the Meat Institute are still analyzing the bill and how it might affect their operations,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and chief executive officer of NAMI. “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.”

Congresspeople that serve cattle areas have been discussing legislation for the cattle market since AMS released its Boxed Beef & Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report in July 2020.

Major players in the cattle industry also testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee on Oct. 7 that reviewed the standing of the industry.