Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called on Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to hold a hearing on the bill that he and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., have introduced to force changes in cattle pricing, and also said President Donald Trump should muzzle White House aide Peter Navarro, whose comments have caused chaos in the financial markets.
“The concern I hear from Iowa farmers the last couple months is that the coronavirus has put them on the edge of bankruptcy,” Grassley told rural reporters in his weekly call on Tuesday. “Beef producers are having trouble getting a bid on their cattle,” he added.
Grassley said his bill, which would require that a minimum of 50% of a meat packer’s weekly volume of beef slaughter be purchased on the open or spot market, should have a hearing and either be passed out of committee on its own or be added to a bill to reauthorize mandatory livestock price reporting.
But Grassley added that Roberts opposes his bill. Grassley said he believes there is a majority on the committee who would vote in favor of his bill, but that he fears there will be efforts to reauthorize mandatory livestock price reporting through an omnibus bill so there will be opportunity to add his bill as an amendment.
“I am looking for every opportunity to get this done. These farmers are hurting,” Grassley said. “There is no reason this should be controversial at all. We’ve just got to get it moving.
“The opposition is from the big packers,” he added.
A spokesperson for Roberts did not respond to a request for comment.
Grassley also said that Trump “ought to put a bunch of cotton” in the mouth of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, adding the president could “put a sock” in Navarro’s mouth to keep him “from speaking publicly.”
Grassley made the comments after Navarro told Fox News on Monday that the trade deal with China was “over.” Navarro later walked back his remarks and Trump tweeted, “The China Trade Deal is fully intact. Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!”
Grassley said the China phase one deal “won’t fall through because it’s critical for the farmers and Trump knows it.”
Senators Write USDA to Provide Relief to Small Meat Processors
Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have led a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today asking him to streamline regulations “to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”
The letter was endorsed by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.
“The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association supports increased competition in the meatpacking sector by increasing the opportunities for independent processors to succeed,” said Kenny Graner, a North Dakota rancher and USCA past president. “Until we address these arbitrary barriers to entry for new competitors, we will continue to see a meatpacking industry dominated by a handful of foreign-owned companies.”
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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