Thompson Delivers Opening Statement at Full Committee Hearing on Cattle Markets

Thompson Delivers Opening Statement at Full Committee Hearing on Cattle Markets
April 27, 2022
Contact: Taylor McCarty
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to say I am pleased we are having this hearing today, but frankly, I am very disappointed in the way this has come together.

As I have said on numerous occasions, we need to focus on preparing for the next Farm Bill. While I acknowledge there has been modest progress on that front, we are inexplicably veering off course today.

Issues surrounding the cattle markets are certainly important, and I think that importance is exemplified by the time this Committee has already spent exploring and debating them.

We’ve had a productive closed-door roundtable on the matter and an insightful subcommittee hearing where we heard from a slate of esteemed economists.

Not to mention a 5-hour full committee hearing where Senator Grassley was given a platform to promote his legislative proposal, Secretary Vilsack weighed in with his views, and we heard from a diverse array of livestock stakeholders and a packer representative.

That work culminated in the bipartisan, and ultimately, bicameral passage of legislation to ensure the continued availability of crucial Livestock Mandatory Reporting data and the establishment of a cattle contract library to provide an additional layer of market transparency.

As cattle prices continue on a steady trajectory, and we await USDA’s implementation of the contract library pilot, I have to wonder why today’s hearing was so urgent. So urgent that I wasn’t even consulted in scheduling it.

Rather I was told it was happening as letters were sent to the packer CEOs, and the threat of subpoenas began to fly. That’s just not the way this Committee should conduct its business.

I have said it before, and I think it bears repeating—if there has been collusion, manipulation, or other wrongdoing by packers, then the law should be enforced under the existing authorities at USDA and DOJ.

Absent such findings, it’s time to stop demonizing the packing industry out of political convenience.

Like the rest of us, the packers are dealing with, not causing, the record-levels of inflation that are plaguing our economy with skyrocketing input costs across the board—not to mention severe labor shortages and continued transportation and supply chain challenges.

Despite these enormous obstacles, the packers continue to provide an invaluable service and do so with incredible efficiency.

Yet, at every turn, this Administration has obsessively pointed the finger at the packing industry, blaming them almost single-handedly for rising food costs. They’ve done so via blog posts, contrived public events, and press briefings­­—all without any acknowledgment of the culpability of their own reckless spending and heavy-handed regulatory agenda.

I fear that today’s hearing is nothing more than a highly orchestrated attempt to continue that desperate, baseless narrative.

If we were genuinely trying to better understand beef pricing dynamics, you’d think we might benefit from having the heads of the packing companies’ beef units testify today.

I know several of the companies suggested that alternative and their suggestions were repeatedly denied.

Perhaps a trusted economist or seasoned market analyst would be key to the conversation? Despite a bipartisan request from several of our Members, I understand that idea was also rejected.

Mr. Chairman, I hope I am wrong, but this hearing reeks of political point-scoring and an effort to justify drastic, unvetted, or controversial legislative action. The hearing title alone suggests the decks were stacked long ago in favor of a predetermined outcome.

The Senate Agriculture hearing yesterday served as yet another reminder of the lack of agreement on proposed cattle market mandates.

It also brought to light serious questions about the purpose, intended scope, and need for ‘Special Investigator’ legislation.

Despite my concerns with today’s hearing, I want to extend my sincerest thanks to our witnesses—producers and packing industry leaders alike—for taking the time to be with us.

I intend to make the best of this situation and look forward to a productive and insightful discussion.

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