September 28, 2023

Interpretive Summary: The Livestock Consolidation Research Act introduced

The Livestock Consolidation Research Act introduced 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

A new bill that would direct the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to research how consolidation of livestock producers impacts the industry and consumers, has been introduced by United States House Representatives Randy Feenstra (R-IA) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). A companion version of The Livestock Consolidation Research Act was introduced into the Senate by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). 

“Growing up, my family was in the meat business, so supporting small livestock producers will always be a priority for me,” said Representative Slotkin. “As large corporations have captured more and more of the livestock industry, family-owned farms have been feeling the pressure. And as we saw during the pandemic, meatpacking consolidation leaves our food security and national security vulnerable if a producer goes down – not to mention increasing prices for working families. This legislation will make sure we’re taking a hard look at the impact of consolidation, so we can ensure farmers, ranchers, and consumers aren’t left unprotected.”

The proposed research would encompass the beef, dairy, pork, and poultry industries, including broilers, eggs, and turkeys. The research would have to release results no later than one year after the Census of Agriculture is made publicly available and must include the changes in the size and location of ranches, farms, processing facilities, and packers throughout the United States. It must also include the impact of the changes on farmers, ranchers, and downstream consumers, such as financial impacts, market entry impacts, access to resources and inputs, processing facilities, and dietary impacts.

“Competition is vital to a functioning and fair economy. In my conversations with producers — especially Iowa cattlemen — there is frustration that the current marketplace, with such few players, can harm and push out family farms and small producers,” said Representative Feenstra. “I’m excited to work with Rep. Slotkin to introduce the Livestock Consolidation Research Act to study the impact on our family farms, communities, and businesses of consolidation throughout the meat supply chain. This legislation will help us understand what is truly happening in the industry and root out any discriminatory practices.”

The purpose of the study results is to inform on consolidation’s financial impacts, market entry impact, and its effects on access to resources. The Livestock Consolidation Research Act is endorsed by several agricultural organizations, such as the National Farmers Union, Michigan Farmers Union, and Iowa Farmers Union. 

Michigan Farmers Union President Bob Thompson said, “A small number of very large companies dominate livestock markets, leading to lower prices paid to farmers for their hard work, and saddling consumers with a bigger bill at the grocery store. This problem is urgent and demands action now, but we should also improve research about the challenges we face. Thank you Reps. Slotkin and Feenstra for introducing a bill that will help us better understand the deleterious impacts of corporate consolidation on family farmers and ranchers, so we can build fairer and more competitive livestock markets in the future.”

Read the bipartisan bill here