Tester Takes to Senate Floor to Ring the Alarm about Agriculture Consolidation, Urge Congressional Action

Senator’s legislation will increase competition and transparency in agriculture markets, giving fairer prices to producers and consumers

Concluding a week of whirlwind activity building bipartisan momentum to tackle agriculture consolidation, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today took to the Senate floor to make the case to his colleagues for immediate congressional action to defend farmers, ranchers, and consumers from rigged prices as a result of anti-competitive behavior by corporate agriculture companies.

Tester urged his Senate colleagues to immediately bring his bipartisan Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act up for a vote.

“The question is why did we lose 345,000 farms in the last 30 years, many of them generational farms?” said Tester. “It’s because folks can’t make the numbers work anymore. And the main culprit is consolidation in the corporate ag world. No competition means you don’t get fair prices.”

“…I can guarantee you one thing for sure: If you look at where we have been and predict where we are going, if we do nothing [to combat consolidation in corporate agriculture], there will be very, very, very few people living in rural America,” Tester continued. “Family farm agriculture will be dead in this country. And if we lose family farm agriculture, this country will change for the worse in a major way.”

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.

“So I’m going to tell you what: folks serve in this body because they want to do right by the next generation,” Tester concluded. “They want to make sure our kids and our grandkids have the same opportunity that we had. They want to make sure this country remains the greatest country on earth…I hope you put your feet in the shoes of those people involved in agriculture, and I hope you put your feet in the shoes of the consumer. Because if we do these bills, we will be putting the country back on the right track for food security in the longterm.”

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.