top of page

Beef Magazine Jul 30, 2020

Beef producers hammer out compromise policy on addressing price discovery

In a marathon session, members of the NCBA Live Cattle Marketing Committee agreed, disagreed and finally compromised to move the market forward.

It was long. It was contentious, sometimes heated and passionate. But in the end, it resulted in a compromise that gives the beef business a way forward to tackle the tough issue of price discovery for fed cattle.

Like me, nobody had any illusions going into NCBA’s Live Cattle Marketing Committee at the cattle industry Summer Meeting in Denver. A confluence of events had brought matters to a head: Market disruptions from the Tyson fire; market disruptions, plant processing problems and shutdowns due to COVID-19; the market investigations by the government; the re-introduction of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s mandatory negotiated cash bill and unrest in the country.

All the angst and disappointment in the cattle market culminated in Denver. Should the beef industry investigate a regulatory/legislative fix to price discovery or would a voluntary approach be better? To its credit, though, NCBA went to great lengths to make sure this issue was fully aired and debated. The question was whether or not all this gathering momentum could be harnessed to propel progress.

All this suggested a long, complex, heartfelt and passionate committee session. It did not disappoint. Fully 100 cattlemen and cattlewomen with voting cards were present in the main committee room, with another 80 in the overflow room and over a dozen affiliates connected via the internet to monitor the session, make comments and register votes.

Through it all, the members kept a gentlemanly and gentlewomanly demeanor. The chairman, Stephen Sunderman from Nebraska, made sure everyone had their turn to speak and a professional parliamentarian minded the procedure. Which was a wise choice, because it was a parliamentarian’s dream.

Not only did dozens of well-known names speak up and conduct adroit parliamentary moves to advance their causes, people from all types and sizes of operations from around the country got a chance to voice their opinions, introduce amendments and vote. I can’t remember when a NCBA committee meeting produced over a half-dozen roll call votes. But this one did, with votes on amendments, amendments to amendments and finally resolutions themselves.

Nobody disagreed on the overarching issue—that more robust price discovery is needed in the fed cattle market. The debate centered on how best to make that happen.

In the process, over some five hours of debate and with amendments, resolutions from both sides of the debate came to resemble each other. Both agreed in terms of acknowledgment of the industry situation, intent to utilize the research and data available, the quest for more transparency faster, and the agreement that some steps needed to be taken sooner rather than later.

Legislative fix?

The contention really boiled down to one word—legislation. Many individuals and groups had given up on the hope that voluntary action could or would do anything to increase the percentage of negotiated cash marketing of fed cattle. Some folks acknowledged the dangers in getting government involved but felt they had no choice to preserve the long-term survivability of their operations. Others seemed confident that the industry could remain in control of legislation in Congress and get what they wanted without interference. Their resolution called for NCBA to pursue legislative or regulatory action...


bottom of page