The Agriculture Department announced today that, in an effort to promote transparency and competitive markets, it will be releasing two new USDA Market News reports providing additional insight into cattle trades. 

The reports — the National Daily Direct Formula Base Cattle Report and the National Weekly Cattle Net Price Distribution Report — will rely on Livestock Mandatory Reporting data and be issued by USDA Market News, which is overseen by the department’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

“During the past five years, stresses and disruptions caused by concentration in livestock markets have hurt producers, workers, and consumers, and highlighted vulnerabilities in America’s food system supply chain resiliency,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release. “Current negotiated cash cattle trade is approximately 30% less than it was in 2005, while formula transactions have increased at the same rate. Our new reports on formula transactions will bring needed clarity to the marketplace.”

Republican senators Roger Marshall from Kansas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa supported USDA's decision to add the reports. Grassley said in a tweet that he's been calling for market transparency "to help shine light on prices paid to help independent producers up against Big Packers."  

“I’ve had several conversations with the USDA asking for more meaningful information within the formula reporting bucket so Kansas cattle producers can make informed business decisions,” Marshall said in a release. “I applaud USDA for making this information available to the public, and will continue to work with department leadership to help make markets more transparent.”

The news also was applauded by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which sent a letter on July 13 requesting AMS “immediately examine” whether AMS could publish additional information on live cattle transactions, particularly since the agency already reports a net price distribution for hogs.

“USCA appreciates the swift review and prompt follow-up of USDA Agricultural Marketing Service leadership and staff in response to USCA's letter,” USCA President Brooke Miller said in a statement. 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also supported USDA’s action. The announcement "is a significant step toward increasing transparency in the cattle markets,” Ethan Lane, NCBA vice president of government affairs, said in a release. “As Livestock Mandatory Reporting awaits congressional reauthorization, it is encouraging to see the administration taking proactive steps to broaden the scope of this critical information tool." 

The daily report will start being issued next Monday and will look at the foundational prices used in cattle market formulas, grids and contracts. The first issue of the weekly report will be published next Tuesday and will show the volume of cattle purchased at different levels of pricing within those formulas, grids and contracts.

Vilsack also said USDA planned to conduct outreach sessions with producers to better understand how the data collected could “inform real-world marketing decisions at the farm, ranch, feedlot, and other points in the supply chain.”

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