WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the business meeting to consider S. 4030, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2022, and S.3870, the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act of 2022.
Good morning. I first would like to highlight the provisions of S. 4030, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2022.
The enhanced reporting on cattle slaughter, carcass weights, and cutout yield will all provide useful information to the entire industry. I think savvy individuals will be able to utilize this information and make better decisions for their operations.
Also, numerous industry stakeholders agree that a cattle contract library would be beneficial.
Senator Hoeven was forward thinking enough to include funding for such a library in the 2022 agriculture appropriations bill. Should S. 4030 be enacted, this will provide the necessary authorization for the library.
I appreciate the sponsors proposing these items, and if it was not for Section 7, the section that creates the mandatory minimums, I would support this legislation.
As I listened to the witnesses who testified in support of the legislation before us, it became clear to me that these bills were born out of frustration.
Many of those frustrations I share.
At the core, I believe every person involved in production agriculture is concerned about the future of their rural communities and their way of life—and rightly so.
Many feel that things are slipping away and that they have not been given a fair shake.
Their communities have changed and are no longer the way they once were.
The only solution I know of, is to foster a system where producer economic viability is the focus, thereby ensuring that farms and ranches stay in families and this vital way of life continues.
The question I have is whether the proposals before us this morning are solutions to those problems.
What I fear are the unintended consequences.
The cattle industry has made tremendous strides in meeting consumer demand since the 1990s.
Investments in genetics and breeding decisions and specialized marketing have brought real returns to ranch families that have chosen to take those steps.
These investments have kept families ranching while producing high quality beef demanded by consumers.
If the incentive for those investments is taken away and the focus becomes producing the most pounds for the lowest cost, I think the industry, our ranch families, and our rural communities all will suffer.
If we insert the federal government into day-to-day business decisions, repealing that heavy hand of the government is nearly impossible.
Regarding, S. 3870, the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act of 2022, I also have some concerns.
This legislation would subject nearly 1,000 meat and poultry processing facilities to review by the special investigator.
Of those 1,000, approximately 20 are fed cattle facilities owned by the large packers.
The large packers have legal departments and regulatory compliance experts on staff.
Not so for the smaller processors.
Are we creating an additional burden on small businesses?
Government lawyers don’t bill by the hour, but the lawyers it will take to represent these small businesses do, and they will solely be responsible for these costs.
We already have a Packers and Stockyards Division. If funding is the issue, let’s address that. If staffing is the issue, let’s address that.
But creating a new office to focus on something USDA can already do doesn’t seem like the best course of action in my mind.
Madame Chairwoman, I ask for inclusion in the record of several letters I’ve received expressing opposition to one or both of these bills. The Nevada delegation, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and 21 state Farm Bureau groups have sent letters on these bills, all expressing concern, and I ask unanimous consent that they be included in today’s hearing record.
Lastly, I would like to thank Chairwoman Stabenow for ensuring that the committee consider these proposals under a regular order process. It has been respectful and has allowed us to gather information, hear from experts, and arrive at our own decisions. I greatly appreciate her commitment to ensuring an orderly and thorough vetting of the legislation.