U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2020. The legislation would restore transparency and accountability in the cattle market by establishing regional negotiated cash minimums and equipping producers with more market information.
“The past few years have been very difficult for producers, due to tough conditions and big market disruptions such as the Holcomb plant fire and the outbreak of COVID-19. My legislation seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the cattle market. It will ensure there are a sufficient number of cash transactions to facilitate price discovery, and equip producers with more price information to assist them with their marketing decisions,” said Senator Fischer.
This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded its investigation into potential market manipulation in the cattle industry following a fire at a Tyson Foods plant in Holcomb, Kansas, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Following that investigation, Senator Fischer committed to introducing legislation to resolve ongoing challenges in the cattle market. The Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2020 will:
- Establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash trades to enable price discovery in cattle marketing regions. It requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish regionally sufficient levels of negotiated cash trade, seek public comment on those levels, then implement.
- Require USDA to create and maintain a library of marketing contracts between packers and producers, and require packers to supply this information to USDA.
- Make clear that all information should be reported in a manner that ensures confidentiality, and note, “Nothing in this section permits the Secretary, or any officer or employee of the Secretary, to withhold from the public the information [required to be reported under LMR].”
- Mandate that a packer report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days. This requirement already exists for the swine industry.
In response to the announcement of the bill, Ken Herz, President of Nebraska Cattlemen, released the following statement:
“Cattle market transparency – specifically, fed cattle market price discovery – has been a headline issue for Nebraska Cattlemen members over the majority of the past decade. Items in Senator Fischer’s bill such as the cattle contract library and clarification of USDA-LMR confidentiality guidelines to avoid non-reporting of USDA-LMR collected data on a regional and national basis will aid in increasing cattle market transparency for all producers. Additionally, directing USDA-AMS to establish regionally negotiated cash plus negotiated grid marketing volume minimum thresholds will enhance price discovery goals and commitments for the betterment of all cattle producers. We sincerely thank Senator Fisher for her work on this important issue to Nebraska Cattlemen members.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association Board Member Lee Reichmuth issued the following statement on the bill:
“As a Nebraska cattle producer, I echo the same sentiments expressed by Senator Fischer on the impacts to our livelihood of increased packer competition, decreased competition, and a declining cash market. This bill builds off the recommendations provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its Boxed Beef and Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report and discussions producers across the U.S. are having in response to historically low cattle prices and a dysfunctional marketplace. “USCA has led on this conversation, through our work on Capitol Hill and bringing folks together in the countryside via events like the 2020 Winter Thaw. The USCA Marketing and Competition Committee is currently reviewing the legislation in its entirety and will report its findings in the days ahead.”
Steve Nelson, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, released the following statement:
“On behalf of our farm and ranch members I want to thank Senator Fischer for her dedication and commitment to Nebraska beef producers. Senator Fischer’s Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2020 is a positive step forward in identifying actions to address concerns and challenges surrounding cattle markets. Many of the areas identified in Senator Fischer’s legislation match up with recommendations offered by the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Cattle Markets Task Force. We look forward to working with Senator Fischer to enact change in cattle markets that will lead to positive outcomes for our state’s beef producers.”