Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021 Advances
By: Sydney Sheffield
A new bill introduced and approved by the House Agriculture Committee would offer transparency in the discrepancy between what cattle producers receive and what consumers are paying for beef. The Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021 would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 and establish a library of contracts for the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to report terms to alternative marketing agreements between packers and producers.
The bipartisan bill was introduced by Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and is designed to provide cattlemen with the market data needed to make more informed marketing decisions and exert greater leverage in negotiations with major meatpackers. Experts and stakeholders recommended the creation of a cattle library after significant market volatility. Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a pork contract library.
“Producers have been asking for increased transparency and leverage in the cattle market for years, the Cattle Contract Library Act will provide granular data in near real-time, ensuring producers understand the value of marketing agreements,” said Johnson in a press release. “Data drives marketing decisions and a contract library will provide much-needed leverage for independent producers.”
The Act would require USDA to publish weekly or monthly reports indicating the number of fed cattle committed under contract for delivery to packers within the 6- and 12-month periods following the date of the report, the number of contracts with an open commitment along with any limitations on the number of cattle to be delivered, and the total maximum number of fed cattle to be delivered within the 6- and 12-month period by region and contract type.
The bill was supported not only by both political parties, but also those in the cattle industry. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Vice President Scott Vanderwal stated, “In meetings with ranchers and feeders across the state, there is agreement that we need cattle market transparency, including reporting details of all cattle marketing arrangements. The Cattle Contract Library is common sense and I hope we can get it quickly moved out of committee and passed in the House.”
"After more than a year of upheaval, facing everything from extreme drought to supply chain disruptions, many cattle producers have been backed against a wall. We need to act urgently to provide them with relief," said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Jerry Bohn. "There is no single, silver bullet solution to the wide variety of needs among our diverse membership, but lawmakers can start by focusing on viable solutions that have broad-base support across the industry. The cattle contract library is one such solution, and it will help our producers command more leverage in negotiations with the packers. We appreciate the work of Congressman Johnson and Congressman Cuellar to move the ball forward on this urgent issue."
Read the bill here.