Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has introduced a bill with a bipartisan group of senators that would force meatpackers to buy at least half of their weekly beef supply on the open market.
The vast majority of cattle sales today are private sales. Grassley met with independent farmers this week who can’t gauge the fair market price for their cattle.
“I met in Jones County, Iowa with 150 cattlemen that were very irate about the dominance of these four big packers having 80% of the slaughter and 80% of each daily slaughter is either pre-contracted or by the company-owned cattle,” Grassley said, “so the independent producer can’t get a market.”
During taping of this week’s “Iowa Press” which airs tonight on Iowa PBS, Grassley said lawmakers need to intervene, because the cattle market isn’t working.
“We’ve got to pass this legislation so the independent producer can negotiate a price and know when he can deliver,” Grassley said.
Grassley began talking with senate colleagues about this issue in 2002, but Grassley said he abandoned the effort in 2007 when he could not muster the votes to get a bill passed in the U.S. Senate.
“And then a year ago, the cattle people came back to me from Iowa came back to me and said: ‘Would you resurrect your bill?’ I thought: ‘Ye gods, we’re going to go through the same thing again and not get any support?’ You’d be surprised the number of people that signed up for my bill almost immediately,” Grassley said. “We have good, bipartisan support now and I think it’s got no problem getting out of the agriculture committee.”
According to the U.S.D.A., Iowa ranks fourth among the states in the number of cattle destined for slaughter at a meatpacker.