Cattle bill heads for a Senate vote


Garrett Downs, POLITICO



BEEF BILLS ADVANCE: A pair of bills aimed at reducing consolidated power in the cattle market will get a vote in the Senate Ag Committee on Wednesday.


The bills, which are being pushed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), would mandate more cash trading in the cattle market and establish a new office in the USDA to investigate antitrust complaints in the meat sector.


Both measures are likely to clear the committee, but face an uncertain future on the full Senate floor, as we reported last week.


Big beef’s beef: Though the bills have a fair amount of bipartisan support, they are opposed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association – an influential lobby working on behalf of the cattle industry.


NCBA “expressed strong disappointment” after the House passed the special investigator bill last week and urged all senators to oppose it, calling the measure “political posturing.”


The association is also opposed to the cash-trade mandate, testifying against it before the Senate Ag Committee in April.


Refresh: The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act seeks to split the country into five to seven sectors and mandate a minimum level of cattle purchases through approved pricing mechanisms, mainly in the cash trade market, as well as create a nationwide cattle contract library. It seeks to ensure transparency in cattle pricing and cut down on contract sales that proponents say squeeze farmers.


The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act would create a new office in the USDA to investigate complaints of anticompetitive behavior in the livestock industry under the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act. The House passed its version, led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), last week.


Boozman not standing in the way: Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), the ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, opposes the measures.


But he chose not to block a markup of the two bills, telling reporters that “each individual senator, depending on their state, are going to have to decide how to [vote].”


The outlook ...




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