House Ag Committee considering another cattle market bill

The House Agriculture Committee is considering further legislation to balance the market between cattle producers and packers.

Butcher Block Act sponsor Abigail Spanberger of Virginia says there is a lack of enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

“We are coming up on the two-year anniversary of the DOJ launching an investigation, but we haven’t gotten any substantive updates or answers,” Spanberger said. “Meanwhile, America is losing a staggering 40 family cattle farms a day.”

She said her proposed legislation would ensure the Packers and Stockyards Act is enforced by increasing collaboration between USDA, Department of Justice, and other regulatory partners. The bill would create a special investigator at USDA.

While Spanberger said those not breaking the law should be in favor of the legislation, ranking member Glenn “G.T.” Thompson said the bill is duplicative with USDA already having a division dedicated to enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act. Thompson compares the bill to what he calls harassment attempts from the Biden administration on meat packers.

“Blaming them for everything from the spread of COVID, quite frankly, to the skyrocketing inflation of food prices,” he said. “And as [Representative] Costa (of California) said, there are many issues out there that have contributed to the increase in food prices that people are experiencing.”

Spanberger said the USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement division is 40 percent understaffed.

Representative Austin Scott of Georgia calls the bill a scapegoat for failed policy that will lead to higher industry and grocery store costs.

“This is just going to hurt, this is just going to lead to more consolidation in the industry because only the biggest of the big are going to be able to survive,” he said.

The bill is being held for further discussion.

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