Bill introduced by Rep. Johnson aims to reform cattle industry

The PRICE Act bill aims to bring transparency and clarity to the beef business.
The PRICE Act bill aims to bring transparency and clarity to the beef business.(LM Otero | AP)
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 1:47 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - A new bill to reform the cattle industry has been introduced by Rep. Dusty Johnson.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the beef industry saw a discrepancy in what major packers and processors paid for the cattle versus what they charged the consumer.

The PRICE Act bill aims to bring transparency and clarity to the beef business, which has suffered “unprecedented market challenges due to supply chain disruptions because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Agriculture Committee Member Mike Conaway, one of the voices on the PRICE Act.

“I mean, I do think right now, part of what is so difficult for our producers is they don’t have a lot of good data out there,” said Rep. Johnson. “I mean there is a certain amount of data available related to cash transactions, people go to a sale barn and buy-in real-time cattle, but increasingly cattle are purchased on beef contracts, I want to take those beef contracts and put them in a publicly available library at the USD, that’s going to give our producers more information so they have an understanding of what’s really happening in the market place.”

Another key factor to the bill is giving smaller operations a fighting chance in the industry.

“I mean, we do know that there are too few packers, only four, that control 85% of the market,” said Johnson. “My favorite part of the Price Act is that it gives small packers, small processors an opportunity to sell across state lines directly to consumers, that gives them more of an opportunity to be a part of this market place, we need em, and I hope we can get this passed.”

The move is in response to huge losses for the producers in the cattle industry, which the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association estimates to reach roughly $13 billion. For Rep. Johnson, the bill is more than just a way to start a conversation, but a march towards change.

“Realistically the prospect for passages in November/December are pretty limited; we don’t have a lot of legislative days left, but I want to build the moment we have here between now and the end of the year, so in the 117 congress that starts in January we’re going to be positioned to keep this thing moving, this is too important for us not to make progress.”

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