Senators introduce bill to amend livestock marketing rules

Senate legislation modernizes what is covered by Packers & Stockyards Act, similar to what House Agriculture Committee passed last week.

Sens. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) introduced legislation to amend a 95-year-old law to address technological advances now being used in livestock sales.

The senators’ bill (S. 3350) would amend the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921 to ensure that the law’s protections are extended to online or video livestock auctions and to ensure modern electronic banking options.

“The Packers & Stockyards Act was written to protect the integrity of livestock sales and to promote competition. This legislation is intended to make certain that this law remains an effective tool for livestock producers by recognizing the benefits of modern technology,” Cochran said.

“Plain and simple, the old laws on the books are all hat and no cattle. Every year when I buy my steer and hog to feed my family, I think about the folks who are buying and selling 1,000 head. These hardworking producers deserve a sensible process that keeps up with their changing industry,” Tester said. “This is a commonsense bill that will strengthen Montana’s livestock industry and ensure that it continues trucking into the future.”

The Senate legislation would clarify that Packers & Stockyards Act provisions apply to online or video auctions. This change would ensure that producer protections provided at fixed-facility livestock markets are extended to those who buy or sell through online or video auctions.

Second, the Cochran-Tester bill would authorize modern electronic payment methods, including credit and debit cards or the Automated Clearing House payment system. The law currently only authorizes the use of checks or wire transfers to settle livestock sales.

S. 3350 has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Similar legislation (H.R. 5883), introduced by Rep. David Rouzer (R., N.C.), was approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week.

Changes to the Packers & Standards Act are supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Assn., Livestock Marketing Assn., National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., National Farmers Union, National Livestock Producers Assn. and United States Cattlemen’s Assn.

Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Tester both serve on the Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee.

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