Controversial cattle markets legislation must now await a lame-duck Congress, and even then, its fate is uncertain.
The Senate Ag Committee easily passed the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act with bipartisan support in June, but chief sponsor Chuck Grassley failed to get a floor vote before midterm elections.
Grassley; “While time is our biggest enemy in passing the bill, I know that we have the votes. The fact is independent cattle producers from across Iowa continue to face anti-competitive practices by the big four meat packers.”
Grassley’s bill with Nebraska’s Deb Fisher and Montana’s Jon Tester sets up a regional system of negotiated pricing to help independent producers compete with packers setting prices by contract. That has much of the cattle industry trying to kill his bill in favor of USDA efforts to reform the existing anti-trust system.
National Cattlemen’s CEO Colin Woodall; “We want the government to stay out of cattle markets. But, at the same time, when it comes to the Packers and Stockyards Act, as it exists today, we think it does a good job. It just needs to be fully enforced.”
Grassley claims the big feedlots are making big money with the big four while small independent producers are getting squeezed. But a tight senate calendar and now a lame-duck Congress could leave the competition question unresolved.