Disparate voices in the cattle industry have joined forces to push for greater market transparency and accountability in beef pricing.

Leaders of American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Livestock Marketing Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA and the United States Cattlemen’s Association met in Phoenix earlier this month to discuss challenges involved in marketing of finished cattle, wide spreads between prices paid to producers and retail beef prices, and what actions could be taken to address those issues. 

The meeting’s primary focus was on packer capacity and concentration, cattle price transparency and discovery, and market oversight by federal agencies. 

The group last week an­nounced a road map of priorities, which they agreed to take back their members. 

Those include:

• Expediting the renewal of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Livestock Mandatory Reporting, including formula base prices subject to the same reporting requirements as negotiated cash trade and the creation of a contract library.

• Demanding the Department of Justice (DOJ) issue a public investigation status report and, as warranted, conduct joint DOJ and USDA oversight of packer activity moving forward; and encourage investment in, and development of, new independent, local and regional packers.



On a mission

“I’ve been president of American Farm Bureau for five years, and in no time in those five years have all six of these organizations met together,” noted AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “So I was excited about us getting together and talking about what we could do in the future to help our cattle feeders and our cow-calf producers, and to make sure that they get treated fairly and have access to transparent marketing systems.

“I surely hope that we’ll have not just one more meeting, but many meetings of those groups. We want to continue the dialogue to pursue a fair and transparent livestock marketing system. 

“And we also, as individual groups with members that set policy, want to make sure that we take our discussion back to our respective organizations so that we can continue to work for our farmers and ranchers across America.”



Demanding answers

Separately, lawmakers from Iowa and other major cattle states delivered a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for an update on a federal investigation into the nation’s four largest meat processors.

“Cattle producers, especially small feeders, are again experiencing difficult conditions that are threatening their ability to stay in business. With a tight supply chain, any changes in processing capacity can have a dramatic impact on cattle prices, preventing producers from capturing margin from boxed beef rallies,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“It is critically important that producers have fair and transparent markets for the commodities they produce. We urge the DOJ Antitrust Division to continue vigilance and, where possible, provide updates of findings,”.

The letter was signed by Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, as well as Iowa Reps. Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. 

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) drafted a separate letter to Garland and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking the DOJ and the USDA to initiate concurrent investigations of meat packers.