Cattle market, special investigator bills pass Senate Ag Committee

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Legislative Watch: Addresses cattle pricing, anticompetitive practices; 26 Attorneys General file brief challenging Prop 12; Flores named to House Ag Committee.

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act and the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act to address transparency in cattle pricing and address complaints of anticompetitive practices.

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IL) and Jon Tester (D-MT) would mandate minimum levels of fed cattle purchases made through approved pricing mechanisms, including cash trade, in each of the five to seven reporting regions established by USDA. In addition, it creates a cattle contract library housed at USDA. Sponsors argued the bill would ensure transparency in cattle pricing and cut down on contract sales. Opponents stated that economists have indicated the bill will cost cow-calf producers as much as $50-$85 per head and will limit how producers can market their cattle. 

The bill's supporters include the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the National Farmers Union. Opponents of the bill include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and North American Meat Institute.

Proponents of the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act argued it is needed to investigate complaints of anticompetitive behavior under the Packers and Stockyards Act, and it would create greater concentration in the beef packing industry. 

Opponents argued it will duplicate already existing regulatory enforcement authority. USDA's Packers and Stockyards Division currently investigates allegations of impropriety and brings administrative cases and levies civil penalties when warranted. P&S works with the Department of Justice in taking various cases to court. 

Supreme Court to consider Prop. 12
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the National Pork Producers and the American Farm Bureau Federation's case for overturning California's Proposition 12 on Oct. 11. Prop. 12 would ban the sale of pork, including out of state, from hogs that do not meet California's production standards. 

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, the NPPC and AFBF argue Prop. 12 violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The brief states that Prop. 12 "will require massive and costly changes across the entire $26-billion-a-year industry. And it inescapably projects California's policy choices into every other state, a number of which expressly permit their farms to house sows in ways inconsistent with Proposition 12."  

NPPC and AFBF received a major boost last Friday in their efforts when the U.S. Solicitor General filed a brief challenging Prop. 12 saying, California has "no legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of animals located outside the state." Recently, a group of Senators had urged the administration to support Prop. 12.

The North American Meat Institute also filed a brief arguing that producers outside of California would be forced to either abandon the California market or spend millions of dollars on their facilities to meet the California standards.

Attorneys General from 26 states filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse the previous rulings. 

Previously, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against NPPC and AFBF. 

Flores named to House Ag Committee
Newly elected Mayra Flores (R-TX) has been appointed to the House Agriculture Committee. She is a graduate of South Texas College.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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