A House Republican says as Congress considers actions to boost transparency in the beef cattle industry, lawmakers should work to address areas where beef producers are in agreement. 

Speaking on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., addressed some of the legislation that has been put forward to address cattle price discovery concerns, including his own legislation to create a beef cattle contract library. The House has passed that legislation, something he said the Senate should consider as well.

“This is a marathon. If we don't ever take that first step, we're never going to cross the finish line,” he said. “We really need the Senate to be willing to take this first step with us and then let's talk about what the second step looks like”

Johnson noted “there are lots of good things” in the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which was introduced by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jon Tester, D-Mont. The Senate Agriculture Committee convened a hearing to study the bill on Tuesday. 

However, Johnson added that there are policies that “are not consistent with the areas of consensus coming out of the Phoenix meeting.” Referring to a closed-door meeting that took place between producers representing the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, and the Livestock Marketing Association.

“We have made slower progress on beef market, cattle market policies in the past because we haven't been able to unify the livestock industry — we’ve been fighting with one another," he said. "That's why it's so important to focus on those consensus areas that came out of the Phoenix meeting.”

Among other things, that legislation would create cash trade mandates for different regions throughout the country. 

Industry groups have been split on the legislation and reiterated their different opinions in this week's cattle market hearings and during a Newsmakers panel. 

Ethan Lane, NCBA's vice president of government affairs, and Mark Dopp, chief operating officer for the North American Meat Institute, both emphasized their concern with the legislation and its institution of regional cash trade mandates.

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“It was abundantly clear from the hearings on both the Senate and House sides that the only point of contention is this lingering mandate discussion,” Lane said.

“Government interference and government mandates are never a good idea,” Dopp added. “It's telling producers how they have to market their cattle and basically it's picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”

However, USCA Executive Vice President Lia Biondo disputed the idea of government mandates causing problems in the marketplace.  

“We're not picking winners and losers. This isn't a new regulation. This is simply putting sideboards on an existing regulation, which is mandatory price reporting program,” she said.

Without the mandate, she argued, the cattle industry could become more dependent on packers like the hog and chicken industries.

“We know that there's research out there that a thinning cash marketplace causes issues in the cattle marketplace, it leads to a vertically integrated industry.”

The full discussion on cattle markets, and thoughts from Johnson, Lane, Dopp, and Biondo can be found in this week's Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, which also includes Johnson's thoughts on the upcoming farm bill, biofuels policy and the future of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.  

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