Dueling Senate bills look to fix cattle market


By Michael Cox, Special to the Montrose Daily Press (CO)

Apr 1, 2021


When the pandemic hit last year about this time, retail meat prices went through the roof. But the cattle producers were paid as little as 10% of the retail prices of almost all cuts of meat.


Inequity in the marketplace is always a ripe target for well-meaning politicians. This situation has them coming from all directions. The result is that two US Senate bills have been introduced that aim to put transparency into the meat supply chain. Each comes at it from a different angle.


The Cattle Market Transparency Act authored by a bipartisan team, Senators Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was the first to appear a year ago. Recently, Fischer was quoted as saying about her bill: “I am reintroducing this bill with bipartisan support. It will help facilitate price discovery and provide cattle producers with the information they need to make informed marketing decisions. I am committed to working across the aisle to advance the bill forward in this Congress.”


Meanwhile, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) have put forth a bill that varies from the Transparency Act. It is often referred to as the “50-14” bill because it includes regulation of a 14-day window for the delivery of cattle.


“The bill is to foster efficient markets while increasing competition and transparency among meat packers who purchase livestock directly from independent producers,” Grassley said.


“The lack of transparency in cattle pricing isn’t a new problem. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the need for additional price transparency measures to ensure producers are getting a fair price for the hard work of raising cattle.”


The response to the two bills, each of which seeks to “fix” the broken cattle market, is a division among the ranks of producers. Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association told the Montrose Daily Press on Tuesday that his group leans toward the Transparency Act saying that it has the best options for allowing cattlemen to get the data they need...