Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a lifelong farmer and senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, participated in a markup on two bills to restore fairness and competition in the cattle marketplace: the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which Grassley helped introduce last November, and the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act, which Grassley helped introduce last June. Both bills advanced in committee today with bipartisan support.
“With the passage of these two important bills, my years-long beef with Big Cattle is one step closer to being settled. Iowa cattle producers have struggled to receive a fair price for years – long before inflation hit a 40-year high. It’s past time for Congress to stand with independent cattle producers and put an end to the cozy relationship between large meat packers and big cattle feedlots,” Grassley said.
The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act
Today’s successful vote was a significant breakthrough in Grassley’s decades-long fight to improve price discovery and transparency in the cattle market, which dates back to his Transparency for Independent Livestock Producers Act in 2002 and the merger of Tyson and IBP in 2001.
The big four meat packers often enter into hidden contracts with large cattle feedlots, making it more difficult for smaller, independent producers to get a fair shake or even identify a fair price in the market and making it easier for packers to increase their profits. For example, while independent cattle producers have seen market prices fall or remain stagnant, Tyson Foods – one of the big four meat packers – reported that they raised prices for beef 23.8 percent during the first three months of this year. JBS, another one of the big four meat packers, recently settled a $52 million beef price-fixing lawsuit.
In May of 2020, Grassley introduced a bipartisan proposal to increase transparency in cattle pricing. Throughout the months that followed, Grassley spoke on the Senate floor to advocate for his legislation, drawing attention to the nefarious activity of the nation’s big four meat packers.
After working extensively with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Grassley joined Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in introducing the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act last November. They continued working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make technical changes that ensure the USDA can effectively implement the bill – introducing an updated version last month. The committee held a hearing on the bill in late April.
Learn more about the passage of the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act HERE.
The Meat Packing Special Investigator Act
The big four meatpacking companies currently dominate the market, controlling 85 percent of the daily slaughter. Grassley has repeatedly leveraged his position as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee to press top executives in the meatpacking industry on their anticompetitive practices.
In April of 2020, Grassley called on the Departments of Justice and Agriculture to launch an investigation into potential market manipulation and other illegal activity by large meatpacking companies, which was later echoed by the Trump administration. Two months later, he urged the USDA to release its report from its investigation into beef pricing margins following the fire at Tyson’s plant in Holcomb, Kansas.
In June of 2021, Grassley joined Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to introduce the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act to address anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries. Their proposal seeks to create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division. A month after they introduced this bill and brought attention to the issue, the USDA announced a significant investment to address anticompetitive practices in the livestock industry.