Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley on Tuesday accused his own party's staff on the Senate Ag Committee of working with meat processors to scuttle a cattle market reform bill he and fellow committee Republican Deb Fischer have championed. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Grassley said Republican committee aides are working “at the behest” of the North American Meat Institute as they solicit economic feedback on the potential impacts of the bill.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Grassley, Fischer, as well as Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Ron Wyden of Oregon, would create regional cash trade requirements for cattle purchasing, establish a beef cattle contract library, and make a handful of other reforms.

On Sunday, John Newton, chief economist for the Republican staff of the Senate Ag Committee, said several land grant economists were working on an analysis of the bill. One such economist, Colorado State’s Stephen Koontz, said Monday the bill would cost producers about $50 per head.

Patrick Creamer, a spokesman for the committee's top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, said the economic analyses should help committee members make a more informed decision on the bill.

“Ranking Member Boozman appreciates that Senators Grassley and Fischer have proposed a solution for this complex issue,” Creamer said in an email to Agri-Pulse. “He simply wants to learn more about the impacts this approach would have on the industry and has asked some of the most well respected livestock economists in the country to help inform us. We would welcome any analysis as we work together to address this issue.”

The North American Meat Institute told Agri-Pulse it "is on the record against the Grassley-Fischer mandate as are others in the beef industry who share our concerns about its costly consequences for cattle producers, feeders, packers and ultimately, consumers. There have been numerous, independent economic analyses about the mandates harm to the entire industry, but proponents of the bill have not offered any economic analysis supporting the bill.”

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For his part, Grassley said the economic insights are less important than the direct feedback he’s received from producers.

“It doesn't matter what these economists say,” Grassley said. “We're responding to the problems that the Iowa cattle feeders are having.”

Grassley and Fischer have also picked up momentum from the White House as President Joe Biden has twice now issued public comments noting his appreciation for the bill. The administration, however, has stopped short of an endorsement, something Grassley says he would like to see.

“I would like to have the White House actually say that they endorse our bill, and I want them to tell Senator (Debbie) Stabenow they want this bill to move as part of the livestock marketing bill,” Grassley said. Sen. Stabenow, D-Mich., chairs the Ag Committee.

Philip Brasher contributed to this report.

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