Tester’s Bipartisan Bills to Protect Ranchers, Lower Food Costs for Consumers Clear Senate Committee
Senator’s legislation would increase competition in ag markets, crack down on consolidation in industry
After a sustained push from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the Senate Agriculture Committee today advanced two of his bipartisan bills, the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, to combat consolidation in the meat industry, protect family farmers and ranchers, lower prices for consumers, and ensure America’s food security.
“Americans are paying too much at the meat counter in their local grocery store while multi-national corporations make record profits at their expense,” said Tester. “Anticompetitive behavior by the large meatpackers have raised prices on consumers and pushed family ranchers out of business, so getting these bills out of Committee is a critical step toward making sure capitalism works like it’s supposed to work. Now we need to put these bills on the Senate floor, because we have to hold massive multi-national corporations accountable as they continue to price gouge consumers while ripping off our family ranchers.”
Tester’s Meat Packing Special Investigator Act with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The new USDA special investigator 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. They will coordinate and act in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and create a new bridge between the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the continuation of the food supply and increase our national security. With a team of dedicated staff, the USDA will now have the ability to investigate the tough issues facing producers and hold bad actors accountable.
Tester’s Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act with Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Grassley, and Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) would:
- Require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish 5-7 regions encompassing the entire continental U.S. and then establish minimum levels of fed cattle purchases made through approved pricing mechanisms. Approved pricing mechanisms are fed cattle purchases made through negotiated cash, negotiated grid, at a stockyard, and through trading systems that multiple buyers and sellers regularly can make and accept bids. These pricing mechanisms will ensure robust price discovery.
- Establish a maximum penalty for covered packers of $90,000 for mandatory minimum violations. Covered packers are defined as those packers that during the immediately preceding five years have slaughtered five percent or more of the number of fed cattle nationally.
- The bill also includes provisions to create a publicly available cattle contract library, mandating box beef reporting to ensure transparency, expediting the reporting of cattle carcass weights, and requiring a packer to report the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days. The contract library would be permanently authorized and specify key details about the contents that must be included in the library like the duration of the contract and provisions in the contract that may impact price such as schedules, premiums and discounts, and transportation arrangements.
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.
Information about the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act can be found HERE.
Information about the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act can be found HERE.