A Senate Ag Committee cattle market reform hearing proved again just how divided the industry is over how to deal with packer concentration, and in some cases, how afraid some producers are to say.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley claimed momentum for his Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act ahead of the Senate Ag hearing, including co-sponsorship from half of Ag members, but conceded; “It does not include the Ranking Member, but, so, it’d be equal number of Democrats and Republicans.”
As for Ranking Member John Boozman, he points to a study critical of the bill’s regional pricing mandates versus packer contracting through Alternative Marketing Arrangements. “The cost of this shift away from the AMAs will cost producers between 23 million and 249 million dollars, annually, depending on how the Secretary of Agriculture decides to implement the law, over the 5-years analyzed by Texas A & M.”
But Co-sponsor with Grassley of the reform bill, Nebraska’s Deb Fisher revealed some of her cattlemen were afraid to testify. Fisher; “I wish we could have had a Nebraska producer here, but as is noted in their letter, quote, “none of our producer members we encouraged to testify, were willing to put themselves out front, for fear of possible retribution by other market participants—an unfortunate reality of today’s cattle industry.”
USDA Senior Advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets Andy Green says the department’s ready to implement whatever Congress passes, including a separate Meat and Poultry Special Investigator. Green; “We believe that measured and flexible tools to address the erosion of transparency, price discovery and cattle producers’ leverage in the cattle market, would benefit all who rely on these markets. Additionally, a new position and office at USDA, with enhanced authorities, would if appropriately resourced, serve as a focal point for accountability.”
None of which satisfied Shawn Tiffany, President-Elect of the Kansas Livestock Association. “I’m opposed to these bills and ask the committee not advance either. The vast majority of cattle producers oppose government mandating a minimum level of negotiated trade.”
Pointing out, both NCBA and the American Farm Bureau have adopted policy opposing marketing mandates.