WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee held a full hearing on the state of the livestock industry, specifically addressing concerns regarding anticompetitive behavior in the cattle marketplace. U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, raised the concerns Iowa cattle producers have brought to his attention — including the urgent need to provide much-needed certainty in the industry by identifying and implementing policy solutions.
“One of the key concerns from cattle producers in my district is a lack of transparency in pricing. Since coming to Congress, I’ve advocated for efforts to ensure true price discovery that allows cattle producers sufficient leverage in cash negotiations,” Rep. Feenstra said during Thursday’s hearing.
The Biden administration recently published a statement saying they were “encouraged to see bipartisan legislation by U.S. Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont, Debra Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and others that seek to improve price discovery in the cattle markets.”
After Grassley spoke to the committee and urged members to immediately pursue legislative solutions, Feenstra asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack if he would commit to helping with this bipartisan legislation.
“There’s no question that we need more information. There are fewer and fewer negotiated sales, which obviously have an impact on alternative marketing arrangements, and there can be potential for manipulation. We’re more than happy to provide help and assistance,” Vilsack responded in part, later saying, “This is not easy to do, but it’s important to be aware of the need for greater transparency.”
Feenstra also questioned Vilsack on the administration’s timeline for Packers and Stockyards rulemaking announced as part of President Biden’s executive order on promoting competition in the American economy. Vilsack informed the committee that he is hopeful an initial proposal will be released by the end of this year.
Feenstra’s said the freshman congressman has met with independent cattle producers across the state who expressed frustration and concern that they are losing money while meatpackers continue making large profits.
Back in May, Feenstra joined his colleagues in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to examine anticompetitive behavior by the four largest meatpackers. He began calling for a full Ag Committee hearing on this issue, and shortly after, live cattle prices dropped below hog prices for the first time in over 20 years. After also hearing from producers losing up to $150 a head, he ramped up pressure for a hearing during a Livestock and Foreign Agriculture subcommittee meeting.