By Rep. Dusty Johnson
October 22, 2021
More than 10,000 bills get introduced in Congress each year. Most of them, even good ones, don’t see legislative action. It’s even more challenging to pass a bill when you aren’t the political party in power. Despite the long odds, I was able to pass an important cattle industry bill out of committee this week.
Since I came to Washington, I’ve been fighting to implement reforms to the cattle market. For years, our cattle producers have dealt with the ups and down of a volatile market – but beyond price they have struggled to even get a bid.
In 2019, a fire at a packing plant wreaked havoc on the cattle industry. Demand plummeted and along with that went prices. We saw a similar fall out in 2020 during COVID-19 when large processors throughout the country struggled to keep their lines active with ongoing outbreaks. The ongoing crack in the supply chain caused farm-state Members of Congress to demand answers – why could the market be so drastically impacted when one plant goes down?
There are a few reasons for this… For one, there’s too much concentration among a few large packing operations, and two, producers are often in the dark about what price they should be getting for their product due to a lack of data.
In July 2020 after years of requests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the long-awaited Boxed Beef & Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report. The report had several concerning findings. One recommendation to alleviate market vulnerabilities was the creation of a cattle contract library.
I took the advice of producers and USDA and introduced the Cattle Contract Library Act to improve transparency and provide more leverage to cattle producers. This is not a silver bullet and work remains, but it’s a step forward we should not waste time pursuing.
This week – I got one step closer to delivering a long-sought victory for producers. My bill was marked up in the House Agriculture Committee and passed with unanimous support on both sides.
Like I said, getting support for a standalone bill in the Minority isn’t easy and it’s even harder to get one passed on the House floor. This is the first cattle market transparency bill to pass out of the Democrat-led Agriculture Committee since the July 2020 report was released.
I’m grateful to ranchers for their critical input and for coming to a consensus and I’m glad the committee answered this request. I’m going to fight like hell to get this bill passed out of the House.