The Senate Ag Committee easily passed despite strong industry opposition, long-debated cattle pricing and meat antitrust enforcement bills.
The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act and the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, including a new cattle contract library, passed on near-unanimous voice votes.
Senate Ag made technical changes to the Special Investigator Act the House would have to consider to a more sweeping bill it passed.
Top Ag Republican John Boozman voted against the Senate bills as either legally costly to small producers and duplicative of existing USDA functions, or discouraging industry investment in high-quality beef. “If the incentive for those investments is taken away, and the focus becomes producing the most pounds for the lowest cost, I think our ranch families, the industry and our rural communities will all suffer.”
Citing the Cattle Price Discovery bill’s forced negotiated pricing to help independent producers compete with the big four packers who set prices through cattle contracts.
But even Senators from states with strong differences over that bill, backed it. Colorado’s Michael Bennett offered a successful amendment. “My amendment would strengthen price transparency by implementing a USDA recommendation to realign the Mandatory Livestock Reporting regions. That would allow Colorado, finally, to see more granular data about things like price reporting, which leads to price transparency for players of all sizes. My amendment also helps South Dakota and Illinois with the same issue.”
Kansas Senator Roger Marshall and Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville offered and withdrew their amendment to kill the marketing mandate. South Dakota’s John Thune withdrew his amendment to reinstate Country of Origin Labeling, an issue he insisted wouldn’t go away despite a WTO ruling against it.