As cattle producers hope for more price transparency, lawmakers face deadline pressure
Brad Kooima, a cattle feeder and commodity broker from northwest Iowa’s Sioux County, says he could go weeks without receiving a bid for his market-ready cattle from one of the country’s four large meatpackers that control the majority of the beef slaughter.
“They get bigger every day, they have to get fed every day. They get sick, okay,” Kooima said. “And not being able to get a bid for four or five, six weeks at a time, while someone else just because they’ve got a relationship, they’re fine, you know, they’re getting along fine. But the independent guy isn’t getting along fine.”
Beef prices are rising at the grocery store, but Iowa cattle producers aren’t getting what they feel their cattle are worth from meatpackers. They’re counting on bipartisan bills in Congress to help them get more leverage.
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley met with Kooima and other members of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association at their headquarters in Ames on Monday to talk about where things are at with the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, a compromise bipartisan bill he recently introduced along with Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and several colleagues. Iowa’s House delegation has introduced a similar billto give cattle producers more leverage. The legislation would require meatpackers to report how many cattle they’ll be receiving for slaughter every day for the next two weeks, which could help producers decide where to sell their cattle.
The bill would also create a library that shows the different deals meatpackers are giving producers for their cattle. Producers wouldn’t be able to see who the buyers and sellers are, but they’d see different rates so they can negotiate prices with packers and compete with each other.
“When these contracts are negotiated, we don’t want to know who negotiated the price or the contract with the packer for that day,” Grassley said. “But for those that want to contract ahead of time, that information is available in what we call a library.”
Kooima said the library sounds fair.
“It’s about transparency,” Kooima said. “We should be able to know that.”
But lawmakers face some deadline pressure with the bill. They’re racing to get the legislation into the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, which needs to be reauthorized before it sunsets on Dec. 3.