PRICE Act introduced
On Oct. 1, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Price Reform in Cattle Economics (PRICE) Act, a bill providing greater price reporting and transparency and comprehensive risk management solutions while also supporting producer-owned cooperative processing opportunities and adding updates to the Packer and Stockyards Act.
“Anybody in the agriculture industry understands how difficult the last few years have been for producers,” Johnson says during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Oct. 3 Beltway Beef podcast, where he discusses his proposed legislation.
“We had two consecutive black swan events – the fire at the Holcomb, Kan. beef plant and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which showed people on Capitol Hill how sensitive our markets can be and that Congress needs to do a better job of giving producers a real, fair opportunity,” he continues.
Johnson notes the PRICE Act combines 12 different legislative ideas from himself and several other members of Congress in an effort to package them into one bill.
Maintaining food safety
The PRICE Act, according to Johnson, would maintain a robust food safety inspection system, keeping Americans’ confidence in food safety for both state and federally inspected facilities, while putting small processors on a level playing field through overtime inspections and opening up new direct-to consumer options for state-inspected meat.
“We have a number of states with well-developed, sophisticated state inspection programs, but now, the U.S. doesn’t allow state-inspected facilities to sell across state lines directly to consumers,” Johnson states. “This approach does not undermine food safety or our ability to have good trade relationships with other countries. It strikes the right regulatory balance by allowing small processors more opportunity in the marketplace.”
The PRICE Act would also create opportunity for producer-owned processing through a direct and guaranteed loan program to provide credit to new and expanded processing facilities, as well as address barriers to entry in the small processor space authorizing a grant program to ease the cost of federal, state or local food safety through regulation, feasibility studies and training.
“The most common concern among producers in South Dakota, and I’m sure others in cow country feel the same way, is there is too much concentration in the marketplace,” he explains. “It is no secret four companies control 85 percent of the market, and I think one way we can change this is by creating an environment where we can get some more small and regional processing facilities stood up.”
“Of course, there are a lot of barriers to do this, but the PRICE Act will address these,” he adds.
Johnson continues, “I am not going to sugarcoat it, it is really difficult for small processors to get a share of the marketplace and survive difficult times. But, if we can give them resources to create a strong business plan, backed by solid data and they are well capitalized, they will have more of an opportunity.”
Additionally, the PRICE Act would authorize U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to publish feasibility studies into opportunities for new and expanded livestock and meat processing facilities, create transparency in the fed-cattle market through a Beef Cattle Contract Library overseen by Packers and Stockyards, direct USDA to provide technical assistance to small processes for best practices using a pandemic and direct USDA to provide Congress cost-benefit and feasibility of various proposals to enhance price discovery through mandatory reporting.
The act would also require a comprehensive look at foreign investment in U.S. agriculture through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) review as well as allow access to the Conservation Reserve Program and prevent plant cover crop forage in times of supply chain disruption.
“I think the PRICE Act has an opportunity to gain momentum in letting our urban colleagues understand how important it is we made some progress in cow country,” he states.
The PRICE Act is co-sponsored by Mike Conaway (R-TX), a ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, as well as Reps. Darren Soto (D-FL), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), David Rouzer (R-NC), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Jason Smith (R-MO), Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN).
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.