Let it be National Beef Month – The Hamburg Reporter


Opinion of Senator Grassely

Q: What is your relationship with the meat industry in the United States?

A: For years, I have been on top of anti-competitive practices in the breeding industry. Our independent producers are the most sought after in today’s market. Only four meat packers control 85 percent of cattle slaughter. They often enter into hidden contracts with large feedlots. Thus, when small independent producers have fed cattle ready to market, they become a residual supplier for slaughterhouses. The current system allows packers to fatten their profits at the expense of small-scale beef producers and American consumers.

Consider one of the meat giants, Tyson Foods, recently reported a 48% increase in profits over last year. Another, JBS recently settled a $52 million beef price-fixing lawsuit.

The situation is tense and I am fighting tooth and nail to ensure price discovery and transparency in these marketing arrangements in order to give independent cattle producers a fair jolt so they can get a fair price for their high quality.

My bipartisan bills, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act and the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, are gaining traction in the US Senate. Lawmakers from Georgia to New York and New Mexico are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation I drafted with Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana and Ron Wyden of Oregon to combat anticompetitive practices in the beef industry. I know what we are up against.

Packers have a strong influence in Washington, D.C. They first butchered a mandatory price reporting bill that I worked on years ago with Senator Tom Daschle of neighboring South Dakota. Eventually we prevailed and the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act has been in effect since 1999 and everyone now recognizes that it is useful.

Now the packers want to put my enhanced livestock marketing reforms on the chopping block. It’s an uphill battle, but we have momentum on our side and I will continue to raise the voice of Iowa cattle ranchers. I thank Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator John Boozman for holding a hearing to review our bill at the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Concentration in the packaging industry controls the meat supply chain that brings beef, pork and poultry to kitchen tables across America. While consumers benefit from efficiency, they also expect quality products at affordable prices.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a 2019 fire that destroyed a beef packing plant in Kansas revealed vulnerabilities in the food supply chain. These disruptions served as a wake-up call for increased competition and the need to restore a level playing field to help ensure fair prices at all levels, from farm to fork.

For two decades we have seen vertical integration intensify and take control of how livestock are raised, marketed and processed in America. Alternative marketing deals have gutted negotiated cash purchases and undermined a generational way of life and family farming in America. At the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing in April, the USDA confirmed that Iowa producers provide “very high” quality livestock. Iowa producers should reap the benefits for producing high-quality beef, not get raked in by packers.

As a senior U.S. senator from Iowa, you can bet I’ll continue to work hard to get my bipartisan reforms to the finish line so Iowa cattlemen can get a fair price for their beef. High quality. Family farmers receive pennies on the dollar for what American families spend on groceries. The middle packers are putting pressure on the independent livestock producer and the American consumer.

Q: How important is the beef industry to Iowa?

A: Iowa has a proud heritage of livestock, conservation and land stewardship. From cattle feeders to cow-calf ranchers and dairy farmers, Iowa farm families are producing high-quality, corn-fed marbled beef that is salivating across the country and around the world, especially in the US. grilling season is approaching. In February, the University of Nebraska released a report that showed 94% of cattle in the Iowa-Minnesota region had grades above 80%.

This makes the cattle slaughtered in our state the best quality in the country. According to a 2017 study by Iowa State University (ISU), Iowa has the seventh-largest cattle inventory in the United States and ranks fourth in the nation for cattle and calves fed.

Our bountiful grain harvest, including dried distiller’s grain from ethanol production, ensures that Iowa beef adds value to the state’s economy and the vitality of our rural communities.

According to the ISU study, our state has more than 28,000 cattle operations, including more than 19,000 farms with beef cows, more than 6,000 feedlots and 1,340 dairy farms. In 2016, Iowa’s beef industry generated economic activity estimated at $6.3 billion. The lack of processing capacity in Iowa that began decades ago was exacerbated when COVID-19 disrupted food supply chains and sidelined members of the workforce. Efforts are underway in our state to add beef processing capacity. This is good news that will help address market distortions and disruptions, boost farm incomes and increase competition.

I will continue to work at the policy tables to ensure that our cattle farmers can continue to raise high-quality beef for generations to come that American families can enjoy at their kitchen tables at affordable prices.


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