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R-CALF Appreciates New Bill Addressing Dysfunctional Markets
South Dakota Ag Connection - 09/29/2020

Late last week, Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2020 in response to packer concentration and the lack of competition in U.S. cattle markets, an ultra-thin price discovery market for fed cattle, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) non-disclosure of pricing information in regions with too few fed cattle buyers.

Fischer's bill follows the introduction of a bipartisan bill introduced in mid-May by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), and subsequent introduction of a companion bill in the U.S. House by Representative Cindy Axne (R-IA). The earlier Senate bill (S. 3693) and earlier House bill (H.R. 7501) were efforts to administer triage to the cattle market by restoring robust competition in the ultra-thin fed cattle cash market. The bills would accomplish this by requiring the largest beef packers to purchase at least 50% of their cattle needs from the fed cattle cash market and to slaughter those cattle within 14 days.

The earlier introduced bills, however, were never scheduled for a hearing by the U.S. Senate agriculture committee and have languished for months without any action while the dysfunctional cattle market persisted - a market marked by historically high prices for beef while cattle prices remain seriously depressed.

"We are pleased that Congress is taking the dysfunctional cattle market seriously as evidenced by the bill introduced today by Senator Fischer," commented R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

Fischer's bill differs from the earlier Senate and House bills by proposing that minimum purchase volumes in the fed cattle cash market be established not on a national level by Congress; but rather, on a regional level to be established sometime in the future by the USDA.

In addition, the Fischer bill goes beyond addressing the ultra-thin cash market by borrowing a concept first raised in the 2010 proposed rule that R-CALF USA supported and that would have required packers to submit a sample copy of each unique type of cattle purchasing contract or agreement to the USDA. The Fischer bill adopts this concept through its requirement that packers submit their various contracts to the USDA, which would then maintain a library of those submitted contracts.

The Fischer bill also addresses the USDA's current non-disclosure of pricing information in states and regions where the USDA believes there are too few buyers. It does this by requiring the USDA to disclose to the public all pricing information that it collects under the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act.

Another provision of the Fischer bill will mandate that packers report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.

"We appreciate and welcome Senator Fischer's bill and hope that even more bills will be introduced so our industry can choose from among the very best solutions to restore robust competition to our shrinking U.S. cattle industry," Bullard said adding, "And one of those new bills must include the requirement that all beef sold in the U.S. be labeled with its country of origin."


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