A bipartisan group of senators, including Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, last week announced plans to introduce a bill designed to improve cattle market transparency and price discovery.

The measure, called the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, is designed to improve the cattle market by:

• Establishing regional thresholds for negotiated cattle sales. 

• Creating a library of cattle marketing contracts.

• Prohibiting the use of confidentiality to justify a lack of reporting cattle sales, and

• Requiring more timely reporting of cattle carcass weights and the number of cattle delivered for slaughter.

“This bill takes several steps to improve cattle price transparency and will improve market conditions for independent producers across the country,” said Grassley, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I think it’s a big step forward in finding a solution to this issue. I do believe the bill will help stop erosion for the cattle market for producers.”

Farm Bureau support

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) expressed support for the proposed measure. 

“Iowa cattle producers welcome this proposal that will help alleviate the discrepancies and concerns in the cattle market that have long plagued the industry,” the organization said in a statement. “Actions that facilitate increased market transparency and a more equitable share of profit for farmers is necessary and welcomed news.”

Improving opportunities

IFBF, in coordination with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other groups, has worked for more than a year on improving cattle market opportunities and addressing the unusually wide margins between prices paid to farmers and prices consumers pay for beef. 

Through Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy process, Iowa Farm Bureau delegates developed a wide range of policy recommendations designed to improve cattle markets by increasing the share of negotiated sales in fed cattle markets and other measures. 

Nearly all the IFBF recommendations were adopted by AFBF at its policy session in early 2021, and many are included in the proposed Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act.

AFBF and other groups have also demanded that the Department of Justice issue a status report on its investigation on cattle pricing that was launched after the disruptions from a 2019 fire at a large Kansas beef processing plant and the pandemic. 

In addition, the national groups are working to encourage the investment in and the development of independent regional beef processors to improve the overall market for cattle.

Grassley, speaking on a conference call with agricultural media, expressed cautious optimism that the new bill would find support in the Senate. 

The chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, has expressed interest in the cattle marketing bill, he said.

“We have had very promising discussions with Chairwoman Stabenow. I think she understands how strongly we feel about this issue,” Grassley said.