Tester Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Improve Fairness, Transparency in Cattle Market

Senator’s legislation will create minimums for spot price sales and require clear reporting of marketing contracts

As a part of his continued effort to improve fairness and transparency in the ag industry, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week announced his bipartisan Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act to ensure that Montana’s ranchers are getting a fair shake in a highly consolidated cattle market.

“Montana ranchers raise the best beef in the world, and more market transparency and fairer prices are essential to fighting consolidation and keeping smaller operations strong,” said Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer. “Increasing spot transactions will give producers more control and better information when they sell their livestock, which is critical to helping them meet their bottom line. That’s how we keep markets fair and ensure Montana’s producers remain competitive.”

Along with Tester, the bill is led by Senators Grassley (R-Iowa), Fischer (R-Neb.), and Wyden (D-Ore.).

The bill has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and National Farmers Union.

The legislation 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 (LMR) 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.

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and more competitive practices for Montana producers. He recently introduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act, which would ensure that only beef raised in the United States is labeled as a product of the USA. He also recently introduced his bipartisan Meatpacking Special Investigator Act which will create a new dedicated office within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division, addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries. In response to this year’s extreme weather he has also secured USDA relief for Montana producers through the authorization of haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, LFP funding, and ELAP funding.