On March 2, Sen. Deb Fischer, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021.
Fischer told the Star-Herald that the main goal of this bipartisan bill is to provide more transparency on regional cattle industry information to producers. She especially wanted to focus on the regional aspect, because cattle markets differ from state to state.
“The main outcome we hope to achieve is to be able to have more information available on cash markets on a regional basis,” she said, “… So that cattle producers can make informed decisions on what the market’s doing.”
The bill has two main goals according to a summary on Fischer’s website: to establish “regional mandatory minimums of negotiated cash trades to achieve price discovery in cattle marketing regions” and to add “new reporting requirements” and address “confidentiality guidelines in Livestock Mandatory Reporting.”
According to the summary, one of the problems many producers are facing is the decline in cash sales. However, different regions are experiencing the decline at different rates, which is why Fischer said addressing the issue regionally is vital to making the legislation effective.
Cash sales are being replaced more and more by “alternative marketing arrangements,” (AMAs), the summary says. AMAs differ from cash sales because in many of them, the final price is determined after a contract is established, whereas in cash sales or negotiated purchases, the price is determined by buyer and seller interaction the day of the sale.
Fischer’s bill would require the establishment of regional mandatory minimum levels of negotiated trade, which is meant to help provide price transparency while still taking into account the difference in agricultural practices between regions.
The bill will also set up a cattle contract library developed and maintained by the USDA that logs information on regional cattle markets, including the type of each existing contract offered by each packer and a description of the provisions in said contracts.
Additionally, the bill would require packers to report a daily schedule for the following 14 days of the number of cattle to be delivered for slaughter. The USDA would have to report this information on a daily basis.
Fischer said the bill is meant to be a step in the right direction to improve all segments of agriculture.
“I’m not going after the packers. I’m not going after any segment here, but we succeed as ag producers … if more information’s available and the more transparent it is,” she said. “And we succeed as a state, because of the importance of agriculture to the state of Nebraska — and livestock is the largest percentage of that — if we can have success across the board. So, the more information you have, the better decisions you can make.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation said the bill aligns with its own legislation passed at the AFBF’s Convention in January, according to a statement published March 5 on its website. AFBF president Zippy Duvall’s statement in a press release on Fischer’s website further illustrated the AFBF’s satisfaction with the bill.
“America’s ranchers don’t control the prices they are paid for their products, and those raising livestock have legitimate questions about pricing,” he said. “When the pandemic hit, meat prices at grocery stores went up while the prices paid to farmers fell through the floor. This legislation will ensure farmers and ranchers have fair access to markets and are fully informed on pricing so they can continue to put food on the table in homes across the country.”
Fischer said she looks forward to progressing the bill through Congress not only to help farmers and ranchers across the country, but specifically those in Nebraska.
“We are continuing to work hard and hope to get something done here in the next couple of years, but it’s one I’m very excited about, because I think people forget the importance of ag to the state. One in four jobs are dependent upon it,” she said. “We tend to forget that we want all segments of the economy to grow, but especially our economic engine.”