Sen. Chuck Grassley continued to push his fellow GOP chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold a hearing on cattle legislation introduced by Grassley and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
Grassley spoke about cattle markets on a weekly call with agricultural reporters on Tuesday. The senator noted the normal spread between live cattle and boxed beef if $21 per cwt from 2016-18. At the height in May, the spread reached $279 per cwt, the highest since reporting began in 2001.
"This is clearly an unsustainable model for beef production," said Grassley, R-Iowa.
The senator pointed out the USDA report called for Congress to address some of the challenges facing the cattle markets, including a possible mandate for a percentage of negotiated cash trade.
"I see this as an endorsement of the Grassley-Tester bill," Grassley said.
The bill, co-sponsored Tester, D-Mont., seeks to mandate at least 50% negotiated cash trade at packing plants and buying the cattle within 14 days of slaughter rather than buying and holding the cattle for longer periods. The senator said Congress must take steps to address the cattle markets and stop further industry consolidation.
Grassley said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts' staff "is geared up" to "go out and fight the bill." Grassley said he has gotten conversations back to him between USDA and Roberts' staff. "They did not get the Department of Agriculture to denounce my bill, so you can see what we're up against."
To get the bill passed, Grassley said it will take "just a massive uproar from the grassroots of the Midwest, where this has got the most support."
Following up on that, DTN asked about the possible renewal of the Livestock Mandatory (Price) Reporting bill, which is up for renewal at the end of September. So far, the agriculture committees for the two chambers have not held hearings on renewal of the bill, or possible changes to it. Grassley said the LMR should not be passed without an attempt to get the Grassley-Tester language as part of the bill.
"We need just an uprising in the grassroots in support of all of this," he said.
Grassley spoke in more detail about the bill and cattle markets on the Senate floor as well, in which he called on the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold a hearing.
Senators Introduce Food Supply Chain Protection Act
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to respond to some of the strains that COVID-19 put on the agricultural supply chain.
The bill, which has 13 other co-sponsors, would help food banks and pantries increase their capacity to deal with growing local demand. The bill also would provide grants to help ensure more excess food is purchased and provided to those food banks, as well as schools and other non-profits. Other funds for loans, grants and loan guarantees would go to businesses to upgrade machinery, cold storage and buy personal protection equipment as well as test kits and cleaning equipment. Those funds would go to farmers and small to medium-sized food processors.
Among the groups backing the bill are the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Milk Producers Federation and the United Farm Workers Union.
Bustos, Fudge, Kuster, Pingree: USDA Not Helping Small Farmers
Democratic Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Annie Kuster of New Hampshire and Chellie Pingree of Maine led a group of 19 House Democrats in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, charging that USDA has failed to help small farms, farmers of color, beginning, minority and veteran farmers, and others through its implementation of direct payments to farmers and ranchers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
“It has become abundantly clear that direct payments to producers have largely overlooked small farms, and those that are owned by beginning, veteran, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The need amongst these stakeholders is significant,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you know, farmers of color have long faced documented discrimination from USDA programs, and little has changed to slow the decline of the number of black farmers and their acreage from where they were a century ago.”
In the letter, the lawmakers asked Perdue to provide answers to 16 questions.
-Legislators' letter to Perdue
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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