GREAT FALLS — The Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and the Cattle Price Discovery & Transparency Act are currently making their way through the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senators Jon Tester, Chuck Grassley, and Mike Rounds coordinated efforts to prevent the monopolization of the meat processing industry and protect the livelihood of local farmers and ranchers.
The two bills will work together to drive transparency in the industry and level the playing field for meat processing companies big and small.
“If we put more transparency on the industry that will allow many of our small packers to be able to grow and sell in the marketplace, thus it will be an advantage to our cow calf guys, it will be an advantage to our small and medium sized feeders, and it’ll be an advantage to the consumer,” said Tester.
In 1921, Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act to address concerns about anticompetitive activities in the meat processing industry. The P&S Act allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect farmers, ranchers, and consumers from unfair and controlling practices.
However, anticompetitive behavior in the meat processing industry is still hurting both consumers and producers. In fact, the industry is more confined today than ever before, with four companies operating over 82% of all beef-processing operations in the country.
“Get rid of all the little mom and pop shops or stores, then prices are just gonna go up, they don’t have anyone to kind of keep the bigger guys in check," said Daniel Gumemberg, an employee at Cascade Wholesale Meats.
The Meat Packing Special Investigator Act will create “the Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division.
The office will have subpoena power and use available resources to investigate violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act by meat packers. The bill will also grant the office authority to bring civil or administrative action against a meat packer.
The office will also work with the Department of Homeland Security to maintain food supply and to protect agricultural infrastructure and national security. The USDA will be able to investigate issues producers face in order to better protect them and the consumer by lowering prices.
The more competition, the better the product and price for the consumer. These bills will work together to fight anticompetitive behavior from larger corporations, lowering costs for consumers. This is critical in today’s economy as rising costs continue to plague American families.
“That increased competition is gonna make it so there’s more buyers out there for those calves when they hit the sale barns and through private contracts and I think that’s gonna help make it so it’s worth true cost of production for the cow calf guys,” Tester said.
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