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Iowa Senators, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Support Independent Cattle Producers, Improve Market Transparency

WASHINGTON – Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and several colleagues today introduced legislation to return fairness to the cattle marketplace dominated by four major meat packers. Last week, the authors announced the framework of this legislation.
“While retail meat prices continue to rise, many of Iowa’s independent cattle producers who participate in the negotiated cash market are facing challenges and taking losses because they unfairly shoulder the burden of price discovery for cattle producers in other states and regions,” Ernst said. “I’m proud to support Senator Grassley and his bipartisan effort to create a more transparent, fair process and allow our independent, hardworking cattle producers in Iowa and across the country to get the best and most competitive prices for the high quality cattle they raise.”
“I frequently hear from Iowa’s independent cattle producers about their struggle to get a fair price for their cattle while the nation’s four largest packers operate in the shadows. I pushed for hearings in the Senate’s Agriculture and Judiciary committees to shine a light on the market unfairness and now have partnered with a bipartisan group of senators to develop a solution. Our proposal takes several steps to improve cattle price transparency and will make much-needed market reforms to help independent producers in Iowa and across the country,” Grassley said. “This bipartisan bill is the best opportunity we have to make real reform in the cattle market this year and I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to get this across the finish line.”
The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act is authored by Grassley along with Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and is also supported by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).  
The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act will:
  1. Establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trades based on each region’s 18-month average trade to enable price discovery in cattle marketing regions. In order to establish regionally sufficient levels of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trade, the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Chief Economist, would seek public comment on those levels, set the minimums, and then implement them. No regional minimum level can be more than three times that of the lowest regional minimum, and no regional minimum can be lower than the 18-month average trade at the time the bill is enacted.
  2. Require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create and maintain a publicly available library of marketing contracts between packers and producers in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  3. Prohibit the USDA from using confidentiality as a justification for not reporting and make clear that USDA must report all Livestock Mandatory Reporting information, and they must do so in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  4. Require more timely reporting of cattle carcass weights as well as requiring a packer to report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.