A new federal bill to help smaller livestock owners and small meat processors was introduced to Congress on Oct. 1. A bipartisan group introduced the Price Reform in Cattle Economics Act. Earlier this year, the USDA released the "Box Beef & Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report," that identified a number of systemic issues in the cattle market and issued recommendations to address them.

A bipartisan group of representatives, including U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, introduced the PRICE Act in response to the findings of this report.

"We have a situation where we have four packaging plants controlling 90% of beef processing," said Rep. Marshall. "The ongoing pandemic has exposed several weaknesses in our current cattle marketing and processing systems, causing financial hardship for cattle owners in Kansas and across the U.S."

USDA-FSIS assisted with drafting this bill.The PRICE Act maintains state level inspection requirements for products sold over the internet for limited intrastate commerce.

In this act, small and medium sized processing plants will qualify for expansion loans. These loans cannot be given to foreign owned entities or plants that process more than 5% of the harvest.

"Our nation’s cattle producers are facing unprecedented market challenges due to supply chain disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as last year’s fire at the Holcomb, Kans. beef plant," Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said in a release.

Although these actions will not happen overnight, Rogers said this legislation will help ease the processing bottleneck at smaller processing plants by helping to provide increased capacity across the state.

"Our number one priority is food safety," Rogers said. "The PRICE Act will create greater price reporting and transparency, allow smaller processors to grow and take on additional processing capabilities as well as make much needed reforms to the Packers and Stockyards Act."