The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday advanced by voice vote a bill, H.R. 5609 (117), that would establish a contract library for cattle producers.
What's in the bill: The legislation, which was formally introduced on Tuesday, would require the agriculture secretary to establish and maintain a library or catalog of each type of contract offered by meat packers to producers for the purchase of fed cattle, including any schedules of premiums or discounts associated with the contract.
The measure would require that all collected information, from type of contract to base price and transportation arraignments, be made publicly available.
What they're saying: The bipartisan bill, led by Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), was applauded by some lawmakers as a positive first step in increasing transparency and competition in cattle markets.
“A contract library would help cattle producers better understand the value of their product and ensure they are not taken advantage of by large corporate processors,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who added that more needs to be done.
Some industry leaders agreed it was a good start, while expressing hope for additional steps.
“We believe it will help provide additional transparency to the fed cattle market," said Iowa Cattlemen's Association President Dick Godfrey. "However, we must not lose sight of a comprehensive solution, which also includes a requirement for packers to competitively participate in the cash market.”
While the National Cattlemen's Beef Association also came out in support of the bill, the North American Meat Institute was less enthusiastic.
“More time is needed to consider how the bill will affect livestock producers, feedlot operators and packers and processors,” said Julie Anna Potts, the Meat Institute's president and CEO. “And due to the limited time allowed to consider the legislation, we ask the House to pause and include packers in the conversation, since the packers would bear the burden of complying with this new government mandate.”
What’s next: The measures now head to the House floor. Timing for a floor vote is unknown.