Tester Statement on USDA Update on Tyson Beef and Coronavirus Pandemic Investigation

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) report on its ongoing boxed beef and fed cattle price spread investigation following the closure of the Tyson beef packing plant in Holcomb, Kansas and the coronavirus pandemic:

“The investigation so far clearly shows that Congress needs to take action in order to make sure the market is working and that consumers and folks working in production ag are protected. Congress should immediately move to take up my legislation with Senator Grassley that would ensure a proportion of cattle transactions happen on the spot market, so we can level the playing field for Montana ranchers.”

Tester and Grassley’s spot pricing legislation is a plank of Tester’s Rancher Relief Plan, which aims to provide certainty to Montana’s small and medium sized cow calf operators. The bill would require large-scale meat packers to increase the proportion of negotiable transactions that are cash, or ‘spot,’ to 50 percent of their total cattle purchases. This would improve accuracy of formula pricing—which currently accounts for a significant portion of transactions—and increase transparency for producers and feeders.

The other bipartisan initiatives in Tester’s Rancher Relief Plan include:

  1. Increasing interstate commerce and diversifying meat production in Montana and neighboring states;
  2. And the first bipartisan Senate push for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling since Congress repealed it in 2015.

In recent months, Tester has led the fight to provide certainty for Montana ranchers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Tester demanded that Attorney General William Barr, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, open an investigation into reports of price fixing in the cattle market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, after Montana’s ranchers recently saw the steepest price decline for cattle in forty years, Tester pushed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to take immediate action to stabilize beef markets.