Cattle Producers Asked, the USCA Set Forth to Deliver

By Dr. Brooke Miller - National Cattlemen's Association

The following are the opinions of Dr. Brooke Miller, president of the United States Cattlemen's Association.

When I chose to serve as president of the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), it wasn’t for the parties and free lunches. In fact, if you were considering applying for a leadership role for the glamour of it all, I regret to inform you that there is very little time to bask in the spotlight. Some organizations work like that, but not USCA. You pay your way and put in the time on your own dime. 

So why do it? The short answer is, I want to make a difference in an industry that I love. Farmers and ranchers are among the hardest working and most resourceful people I know - we spend long hours and take financial risks to feed this great nation and the world. And by God, we should be fairly compensated for the value we create on a daily basis. The rewarding moments come when you connect Congress with the countryside on key issues impacting the U.S. cattle producer’s bottom line.

When I came on as president, I had no way of knowing we’d be dealing with the largest market disruption in recent history resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 exposed inherent flaws in the U.S. meatpacking industry, flaws that we’ve been sounding the alarm on for years. With the support of Members of Congress and the executive branch, we went to work to improve the cattle market.

Nearly a year later, we now have a piece of legislation with the potential to make sweeping changes within the cattle marketplace. 

On March 3, Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021. Other cosponsors of the bill include Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Mike Braun (R-IN). This legislation seeks to accomplish two main goals: ensuring regionally sufficient negotiated cash trade, and equipping producers with more information to aid marketing decisions.

This is a dynamic piece of legislation for a dynamic industry. It goes above and beyond setting a minimum negotiated cash trade level – it also creates a cattle contract library and addresses confidentiality concerns within LMR. No longer will the packers be able to keep their sweetheart deals secret. Predictably, they oppose the bill – meaning it must offer a real solution to improving price discovery. 

I am proud of the USCA Marketing and Competition Committee for not just pointing out the problems but also working to identify and coming up with solutions that are contained within this bill.

In the last three major livestock-focused hearings hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, USCA Marketing Committee members testified in support of policies that would increase transparency and true price discovery in the marketplace – all of which would increase our share of the consumer dollar and improve the bottom line of cattle producers and feeders.

At one of those hearings in September 2019, it was Senator Fischer who asked the tough and pertinent questions of the livestock groups that sat before her in the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing room. We know from talking to her and her staff – she sought a solution from the countryside, and we tip our hats to her for doing just that.

We will make marketing and competition reform happen by reaching across the aisle - working not just with Democrats and Republicans, but also other state and national cattlemen’s associations.  If you are discouraged about politics or the current state of affairs in Washington – get involved and you’ll see that your efforts can truly make a difference. Negative news falls on deaf ears when you are working with the best folks around: producers of high quality, nutrient dense, American-made healthy BEEF!