WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators agreed to reintroduce the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2023.
Similar to the proposed legislation introduced in March 2022, the bill would try to bring transparency and accountability to the cattle market by establishing regional cash minimums and equipping products with more market information. This includes permanently authorizing a cattle contract library.
Like last year, US Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are leading the bill.
“Iowa cattle producers have struggled to receive a fair price for years – long before the massive market distortions cattle producers have endured most recently,” Grassley said. “It’s past time for Congress to stand with independent cattle producers and put an end to the cozy relationship between large meat packers and big cattle feedlots.”
Tester lauded the bill and how it positively affected cattlemen in Montana.
“As a third generation farmer, I know people in Washington don’t understand the challenges Montana ranchers face,” Tester said. “Right now, just four big packers control north of 80% of the beef industry, and that means those four companies can get together tomorrow and decide what they’re charging consumers and paying producers. I know this isn’t right and will take on these massive corporations and anyone back in Washington to make sure Montana families and ranchers get what they need.”
The legislation would establish a maximum penalty of $90,000 for covered packers for mandatory minimum violations. Covered packers include those that have slaughtered 5% or more of the number of fed cattle nationally during the preceding five years.
Other areas of the bill would also create a publicly available library of marketing contracts. Box beef reporting would happen to ensure transparency and expedite the reporting of cattle carcass weights and require a packer to report the number of cattle scheduled for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.
On Jan. 31, the USDA launched its pilot Cattle Contracts Library.
Other additions to the bill include the Secretary of Agriculture establishing 5-7 regions encompassing the entire continental United States and then establishing minimum levels of fed cattle purchases made through approved pricing mechanisms.
“Approved pricing mechanisms are fed cattle purchases made through negotiated cash, negotiated grid, at a stockyard, and through trading systems that multiple buyers and sellers regularly can make and accept bids,” a one-page summary of the bill stated. “These pricing mechanisms will ensure robust price discovery and are transparent.”