At Senate Agriculture Committee, Tester Testifies in Support of His Bipartisan Anti-Consolidation Legislation
Senator’s Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act considered in Committee
As a part of his continued fight to defend family farmers and ranchers from rigged prices as a result of anti-competitive behavior by corporate agriculture conglomerates, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today testified in support of two of his bipartisan bills to tackle consolidation in agriculture: the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act.
“Ag production has gotten far more consolidated than when I took over the farm 44 years ago in 1978,” Tester said. “And it’s not one party’s responsibility, the fact is that both parties’ have watched this happen and we’ve done nothing. Today, we have an opportunity to do something. Why? Because we’ve seen a mass exodus off the land. Rural America is drying up. On the other side of the equation we see consumers are being treated unfairly in the marketplace, because there’s no competition. Today we can address both of those issues with these bills.”
Tester’s Meat Packing Special Investigator Act, which is co-led by Republican Senators Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rounds (R-S.D.), would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This office will have a team of investigators, with subpoena power, dedicated to preventing and addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforcing our nation’s antitrust laws.
Tester’s Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which is co-led by Senators Fischer (R-Neb.), Grassley (R-Iowa), and Wyden (D-Ore.), sets regional mandatory minimum thresholds for negotiated purchases of fed cattle by large meatpackers. It also includes a number of transparency measures, including the creation of a cattle contract library, requirements that packers report carcass weight more quickly and that they report the number of cattle scheduled for slaughter each day for the next 14 days.
“Today’s market place is more consolidated today than it was in 1921 when this body passed the Packers and Stockyards Act. Rural America is drying up because we can’t get fair prices at the farm gate,” Tester continued. “Capitalism isn’t working in this particular instance because of concentration and consolidation in the industry. Consumers are paying higher prices because without competition, they’re set without regard to what people can afford. We need some sunlight and we need some sideboards…I can guarantee you one thing: if we walk out of here today and we don’t pass these bills, we will see the same result that we’ve seen for the last 100 years. And in the end our food security is put at risk.”
He concluded: “Please do the right thing for the sake of folks like me who want to pass the farm on to the kids.”
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 and consumers. Earlier this year, Tester introduced his Agriculture Right to Repair Act to finally guarantee farmers the right to repair their own equipment and end current restrictions on the repair market. Last year, he 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, and his bipartisan New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, which allows meat and poultry products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.