Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a longtime farmer and member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry today praised a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) review of market disruptions in the cattle industry, and called on Congress to enact price transparency measures to improve fairness for consumers and independent producers. The report examined the market impact of an August 2019 fire at a Tyson’s processing facility and the disruptions from closed processing facilities during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The cattle market industry is broken. Years of rampant consolidation by meatpackers has led to unfair access for producers and easily-disrupted meat supply for consumers. The ongoing pandemic has only intensified this reality. During my 99-county meetings, Iowans regularly decry these unfair and uncompetitive market realities. Thankfully, the Trump Administration has created a roadmap that can return transparency and fairness to the cattle market.
“As USDA continues to investigate market manipulation and unfair practices, today’s report lays out steps we can take to fix this marketplace. Congress has a responsibility to heed the advice of this report and take action to restore cattle price transparency when we reauthorize Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting requirements.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to see President Trump and Secretary Perdue take this issue seriously, when so many others before them ignored it. We must continue to investigate anticompetitive actions by corporate packers who value profits over the economic livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and rural America. In the meantime, the considerations outlined in this report are a good place to start. I will continue to be a voice for independent producers who, for generations, have raised quality meat for the country and world,” Grassley said.
Grassley has long raised concerns about consolidation in the meatpacking industry and pressed USDA to protect independent producers. After years of consolidation, four major companies, Tyson, Cargill National Beef and JBS, collectively control more than 80 percent of the market, intensifying the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry and risking permanent harm to America’s beef producers. Grassley recently called on the Justice Department and USDA to investigate possible anticompetitive behavior in the beef industry and praised President Trump’s engagement on the issue.
In May, Grassley introduced bipartisan legislation (S.3693) that fosters efficient markets and increases competition and transparency among packers that purchase cattle. Senator Grassley first introduced this bill in 2002 and reintroduced every Congress until 2009. The bill will require a minimum 50 percent of a packer’s weekly volume of beef slaughter to come as a result of purchases made on the open market or spot market.
In June, Grassley sent a letter to Secretary Perdue relaying the frustration and skepticism from farmers about the lack of enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, and called for the report on the Holcomb, Kansas, fire to be released by August 9, 2020, or he would seek an audit of the USDA’s enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Division.