The PRICE is Right

October 2, 2020
Weekly Column

Throughout my first two years in Congress, I’ve heard from cattle producers struggling with a volatile market and unpredictable pricing. It’s no secret to our producers – the 2019 Holcomb fire and COVID-19 disrupted the cattle market and exposed cracks in our supply chain. 

Last year, after urging from Agriculture state members like myself, Senator Thune, and Senator Rounds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced an investigation into the cattle market. Part of that investigative report was released over the summer. 

Although the report did not find any violations, it identified a number of policy approaches to address market weaknesses. Many of USDA’s suggestions to improve the market directly related to policy issues I began working on when I was first sworn into office. I introduced the Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief Act and the Livestock Risk Management and Education Act, and I was pleased to see these bills identified as suggested fixes by USDA in its recent report.  

USDA’s report revealed one thing: Congress has work to do in the cattle market. 

Systemic issues require a systematic change, which is why this week I introduced the PRICE Act, a sweeping cattle reform bill. The PRICE Act is a big bill, and it addresses a number of fixes USDA identified in its report. It will increase price transparency for our producers, improve risk management, and support new and existing meat processers. 

The PRICE Act would also create financing opportunities to encourage producer-owned, cooperative processing. It also creates an authority to allow USDA, states and other organizations to provide assistance in the hefty up-front cost of opening up shop. Allowing more producers to capture more value. It creates transparency by amending the Packers and Stockyards Act to create a cattle contract library, allowing producers to see what terms packers are offering. 

Cattle country is not fully recovered from the impacts of COVID-19 – and I believe my bill is the answer to many of the issues our ranchers have faced for years. 

Scott VanderWal, the President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau was right when he said, “No one solution is perfect, but a combination of commonsense free-market changes can help.” 

I’m grateful the PRICE Act gained the support of over a dozen bipartisan House members and several national agriculture groups. There are diverse opinions on the silver bullet for the cattle market, but it takes consensus to get change through Congress. 

Politicians often grasp for the silver bullet – the quick easy fix. Just as there is no one way to raise cattle, there are many ways to craft policy for a more competitive market. Our producers are united behind the desire for a fair market, and that’s what this bill aims to deliver. Now Congress needs to deliver for cattle country.