Senator’s legislation will provide much-needed relief to independent cattle ranchers as prices drop amid COVID-19 pandemic
(U.S. Senate) – Following a unprecedented drop in cattle prices as a result of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continued market consolidation, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is introducing bipartisan legislation that would provide much-needed relief to Montana cattle producers.
Tester’s bipartisan rancher relief bill will use federal funds to bring security to small-scale cow/calf and independent operators by setting up a price support program that pays the difference between the Economic Research Service’s projected prices and the actual sale price of livestock. This program would cap at sales of 10,000 head, preventing major feeders from disproportionately benefiting over independent producers.
“Because of this crisis, beef prices are floundering and our family-operated ranches are struggling to meet their bottom lines,” said Tester. “If we don’t act quickly to stabilize cattle markets we’re going to see more and more corporate consolidation in agriculture as independent producers are no longer able to compete. This bill will help provide Montana ranchers the security they need to get through the year—and this pandemic—with the tools to stay in business.”
As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has been working around the clock to ensure that Montana’s family ranchers and farmers are not left in the dust during the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this week, he demanded that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to do everything in his power to stabilize beef markets. Last week, he also secured a commitment from Perdue to fight against price-fixing from large-scale meat packers that is hurting Montana ranchers.
In May of 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture put out its 2020 cattle price forecasts using the 5-Area average price for live cattle projections, and the Oklahoma City prices for feeder cattle projections. These predictions came out to $121 per hundred weight for live cattle and $150 per hundred weight for feeder cattle, and will be used to compensate cow/calf operators under Tester’s legislation.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, beef markets saw the steepest price decline in forty years, with most prices dropping roughly $30 per hundredweight.