Details released on updated cattle market bill with regions, mandated cash trade

A bipartisan group of senators has revamped a piece of legislation that they hope will ensure more price transparency in the cattle markets.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley tells Brownfield the latest version keeps regional cash trade requirements but adds more regions across the U.S. to include all cattle producers. “To make it national is a move in the right direction.”

Under the updated Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, USDA will conduct a rulemaking process to determine 5-7 regions that will cover the continental U.S. and reasonably reflect similar fed cattle purchases.

Tanner Beymer, senior director of government affairs, with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says even with the updates, NCBA’s members can’t support the bill. “Unfortunately, things like government mandates on the methods that cattle producers choose to use to market cattle is not something that our members have expressed interest in. As a matter of fact, they have been very clear up to this point about the fact that they are opposed to that prescription.”

He tells Brownfield NCBA will remain focused on improving opportunities for producers across the board. “Improving processing capacity at the regional/small level and getting some additional reporting through the LMR system.”

Grassley says he’s “confident” that there are enough votes to move the bill out of the Senate Ag Committee, into markup and will be asking for a hearing. “There’s never been this much momentum for industry change both at the grass roots and in the Congress.”

And, he says, Congress needs to work with urgency to pass the legislation even if there is push back. ““But the groups that disagree, they simply want us to study, and study, and study.  You know, kick the can down the road. We have waited long enough.”

The bill would also:

  • Requires USDA to establish 5-7 regions covering the continental United States and that reasonably reflect similar fed cattle purchases.
  • Designates a set of approved pricing mechanisms for covered packers that contribute to price discovery and transparency. These include fed cattle purchases through negotiated cash, negotiated grid, at stockyards, and through trading systems where multiple buyers and sellers can make and accept bids.
  • Requires USDA to set minimum levels of purchases through approved pricing mechanisms that covered packers – those controlling five percent or more of fed cattle slaughter – must make.
  • Mandates that each regional mandatory minimum be not less than the average of that region’s negotiated trade for the two year period of 2020-2021. Additionally, sets a maximum threshold for any region at 50 percent.
  • Requires USDA to conduct an initial review of mandatory minimums after two years.
  • Allows USDA to work with the cattle and beef industry to periodically review and modify regional minimums after a public notice and comment period.

The bill was first introduced in November and is co-sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. 

Brownfield’s Meghan Grebner contributed to this story.

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